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PEAK Grantmaking

7 Steps to Rapid-Response Grantmaking

Sponsored by Fluxx

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on grantmaking. In a matter of months (and just weeks for some), funders began to pivot and employ rapid-response grantmaking tactics in order to quickly support their grantees’ urgent and growing needs.

In a recent webinar, Fluxx and Grantbook partnered to explore this topic and share how funders can rethink grantmaking strategy to incorporate rapid-response grants and make practical changes to streamline their funding process and make it easier on grantees. The presentation also features the Surdna Foundation, who shared how they quickly adjusted their giving by employing seven rapid-response grantmaking tactics.

The Surdna Foundation Story 

The Surdna Foundation is a New York City-based family foundation that, for over five generations, has focused on a mission of fostering sustainable communities in the United States. In April, the Foundation allocated $4.6 million in rapid-response funding to support their grantees in providing relief for communities of color who are being disproportionately hard-hit by the pandemic.

To make this possible, the Surdna team made key changes to their granting process: no required proposals or reports for the grantee, only the most basic due diligence, and rapid-fire approval and payment processes. They also prioritized amending current grants, as opposed to requiring grantees to file a new proposal for funding. Program officers could then recommend up to $250,000 in additional funds per active grant, with the recommendation being expedited straight to Surdna’s president for signature approval.

These streamlined adjustments were easy to configure in Fluxx Grantmaker, Surdna’s grants management system, and in record time the Foundation was able to approve new requests in a day!

Surdna’s Grantees: The true winners

The Surdna Foundation’s rapid-response grantmaking efforts had an immediate impact on their community. Within a month and a half, Surdna was able to process 71 new grants (a total of $1,644,600 in funds), and add 20 amendments to existing grants – providing grantees with that all-too-necessary cushion during this time of need.

On average it took the team 1.98 days to process rapid-response grants – as opposed to the typical three-month cycle from request to payment.  

These moments of crisis, while frantic and exhausting, provide some of the best opportunities for learning. COVID has prompted the Surdna Foundation to rethink their existing policies and explore what components of these rapid-response tactics should be incorporated into their processes permanently. To learn more about how the Surdna Foundation adjusted its granting methods to address this crisis, watch our webinar.

Like Surdna, use these seven rapid-response recommendations to help adjust how you grant:  

  1. Prioritize a fast registration/LOI process: Use an easy eligibility quiz to quickly determine who meets funding requirements. Save everyone time by focusing on only core information for applicants.
  2. Design a simple grantee portal: Provide grantees with a dedicated information page and be sure to reserve a section of the grantee portal for emergency applications so that they can easily be found and tracked.
  3. Save everyone time and streamline your application forms: Be sure to only include key questions that will expedite a yes or no approval. Use colors, markers, or bold font to clearly identify any information that is required.
  4. Make all application workflows clear and direct: This process can be as easy as creating new workflow buttons to move a record quickly to the right party.
  5. Keep grantees informed with automated email alerts: Lessen follow up by automatically informing grantees about their submission and application status.
  6. Adjust grantee reporting requirements: Keep your reporting requirements simple and make sure that you collect data in form fields – not via attachments.
  7. Keep staff engaged by enabling them to do their work: Ensure that your staff is trained on your system. Speed up the onboarding process with configurable dashboard views and filters that make it easy for them to find what they need.

The Surdna Foundation is a testament to how these steps can lead to efficient processes that most importantly, quickly serve grantees when they need it most. They can also help you think about your grantmaking practices habits and what you might want to change in this time  of crisis, and beyond.

To learn more about how to efficiently implement rapid-response grantmaking tactics at your organization, read our guide.