Relieve the Burden
There are many ways that funders can reduce the burden that grantseeking places on grantees. By minimizing the amount of time, effort, and money that nonprofits spend getting and administering grants, funders increase the amount of time, effort, and money devoted to mission-based activities for both grantmakers and grantseekers.
To relieve the burden on grantees, grantmakers might:
- Stop outsourcing basic administration. Funders can eliminate requirements such as multiple copies of application and reporting documents. They can phase out forms that cannot be completed on a computer and try to minimize requirements that do not contribute to the substance of the request and are tedious and time-consuming for the applicant.
- Take advantage of technology. Grantmakers can accept applications and reports electronically, whether through an online submission system or via email. Funders should conduct usability testing to make sure that their online grantmaking systems work smoothly, upload files without crashing, and allow grantees to cut and paste, save, print, and return to applications or reports in progress.
- Use an alternate source (such as GuideStar’s Charity Check, IRS Publication 78, or the IRS Business Master File) to verify the public charity status of potential grantees instead of requiring a copy of the IRS Letter of Determination.
- When possible, accept common applications/reports and grantee’s existing materials, particularly budgets. This will eliminate the foundation-specific “slicing and dicing” that is both time-consuming and a source of budget errors for nonprofits. If foundations feel that their own budget form is essential, they should check to be sure that their requirements are reasonable and can be readily provided by their nonprofit partners.
- Streamline processes for seeking project timeline extensions and budget modifications. Grant-seekers and grantmakers alike often spend significant amounts of time making and processing requests that are almost always granted (such as requests to extend project timelines and modify budget categories).
- Consider a two-part grantmaking process that includes a short letter of inquiry or concept paper. Nonprofits expressed that this was a useful time-saving step for them, as long as the letter of inquiry was brief and not a proposal in and of itself. Funders also commented that adding a letter of inquiry reduced their administrative burden and resulted in better, more appropriate final proposals.
- Pay for specific evaluation measures if they are required. When grantmakers require specific evaluation measures, but do not pay for them, they are essentially outsourcing their evaluation program. Grantmakers can avoid this by making sure that evaluative measures will be useful to the grant recipient, and by accompanying the requirement with additional funding and technical assistance if it seems the program assessment may tax the grantee’s resources.
- Click here for a summary of comments shared on-line and in Project Streamline conversations on this principle.
- Is a common grant application a good idea?Philanthropy blogger Sean Stannard-Stockton suggests that two-part grantmaking process with a short letter of inquiry or concept paper might be the better option. More here
- When does outsourcing make sense?The Tactical Philanthropy blog thinks that grantmakers “outsourcing the burden” is not a question of lowering administrative costs, but performing due diligence towards grant seekers by choosing their charitable “investment” wisely. More here.
- Common online information, not a common application.To fix the problem of the enormous variability in requirements, the Tactical Philanthropy blog suggests an online comprehensive source of nonprofit information, shifting the initiative to grantmakers to actively seek out organizations that fit their requirements. More here.
Project Streamline will share stories, ideas, and examples of how grantmakers have successfully (and unsuccessfully) Relieved the Burden of the grantmaking process.
- Consider how the Winter Park Health Foundation has structured its grantmaking to focus first on identifying grantees and then determining the appropriate due diligence to make the grant.
- Find out how the Ms. Foundation developed a rapid response grants program for Hurricane Katrina that resulted in a streamlined approach to all of its grantmaking
- Read about the Dekko Foundation continually looks for ways to reduce red tape and speed up decision making
- Consider how you might follow the lead of other grantmakers who are simplifying operating support reporting requirements.
Project Streamline’s ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of grant application, monitoring, and reporting practices on both grantmakers and grantseekers. It will be developing and sharing concrete ways that grantmakers can streamline their practices here.
• Guide to Streamlining: Grant Budgets and Financial Reporting: This guide addresses a single—if not simple—question: How can funders minimize financial reporting requirements for nonprofit organizations, while still carrying out proper financial due diligence?
• Guide to Streamlining: Online Applications and Reporting: This guide offers a set of recommended practices and principles to improve and streamline the process of online grantmaking.