Philanthropy’s response to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming. According to Candid, more than $11 billion in grants has been issued for disaster relief, disease control, and support services, among many other emergency efforts.
PEAK Grantmaking members have generously shared information and advice about getting funds to grantees as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many funders have reviewed their practices regarding flexibility for applications and awards, and have reappraised their use of technology – specifically in regard to electronic signatures and payments – to support these streamlining efforts. Here are some of the strategies PEAK members have been exploring, discussing, and implementing.
The Application Process
For grant applications, avoid burdensome and potentially-biased processes. We encourage you to consider the following alternatives:
- Accepting applications by email or online portal
- Collecting only information that is truly required for decision making
- Employing short-format applications that include just a brief narrative section
Read more about auditing your application process in our member-exclusive guide, How to Rightsize the Grantmaking Process and Implement Flexible Practices.
How to Handle Agreements
There are additional opportunities to review and revamp measures to get funds to grantees expediently. Once grantmaking decisions have been made, approach agreements with streamlining in mind:
- Accepting electronic signatures
- Eliminating signed agreements altogether
- Positioning acceptance of grant funds as agreement to grant terms
Many PEAK members have spoken up about their use of e-signature products such as DocuSign and Adobe Sign. Be mindful of process changes, training, and system integration requirements associated with adopting these products. You may also want to investigate how other services from these vendors might complement administrative processes.
While many grantmakers are still issuing paper checks to their grantees – either directly or through their financial institution – we have heard from PEAK members that disbursing funds electronically is a growing trend. Electronic funds transfer in the form of ACH (automated clearing house) and wire are two prominent methods of sharing funds quickly. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but these services are worth considering for the speed and convenience with which funds can reach grantees. Of course, a full investigation of the impact of implementing such a system will reveal considerations for internal controls, systems compatibility, document management, and training.
Is It Safe?
While technology may simplify your work, it is imperative to examine the security of the systems and processes your foundation uses for grantmaking. Every step of the process is potentially vulnerable to tampering, so awareness of the risks and mitigating those you can will help protect your information and that of your grantees. Consider:
- Your grants management system, including overall access and the availability of financial information within it
- Email encryption on both sides of communications
- Password-protected documents
- Testing payment systems prior to disbursement
- Verbal confirmation of sensitive information
Examining each step in your process – from application to disbursement – to identify efficiencies will help you better serve grantees and improve your grantmaking, especially in situations that demand immediate attention.
For a detailed primer on managing your grantmaking response in challenging times, including sample templates for award letters and ACH and wire transfer forms, download our member-exclusive guide, How to Streamline Your Award and Electronic Payment Processes in Times of Crisis.