2013-05-23 what's next

What’s Next for Streamlining?

Have you had a chance to read Practices That Matter, Project Streamline’s newest report?  You can find it and all sorts of other goodies—including an interactive quiz and “Making More Time for Mission” a snappy report summary—on the Project Streamline website.  You can also stay connected to Project Streamline’s news and get your application lumps and bumps diagnosed with Dr. Streamline and the Project Streamline Blog.

But once all of excitement and hoopla from this new report are finished, the work of streamlining will go on!  What’s next for Project Streamline?

Based on what matters most to grantseekers, our understanding of what keeps grantmakers from implementing streamlining, and the context of other pressures on grantmakers, we plan four primary areas of focus going forward:

Better Define Streamlining

We may have believed that the field is saturated after four years of discussing streamlining.  We now know that this isn’t the case.  Awareness of the specific practices (and tools) promoted by Project Streamline remains modest, and streamlining is too often equated with going online.  Streamlining needs a clear, powerful, and well-understood definition.

HOW?

    • Offer webinars, workshops and conference sessions across the country (Want one?  Let us know.)
    • Develop practical materials to help streamlining champions make the case for reducing the grantmaking burden most effectively.

Focus Attention on Good Practice

Many of the silliest practices (requiring typewriter, requiring multiple copies, unnecessarily frequent reporting) are almost extinct, but not quite. Others, like not user-testing one’s online system, are very much alive. Project Streamline will take a hard line on silly practices, while focusing attention on the practices that make the biggest difference to grant seekers.

HOW?

    • Update our Guide to Streamlining Series, including the Guide to Budgets and Financial Reporting and Online Applications and Reporting guide, and work with partner organizations to update and enhance information about online systems and vendors that meet streamlining criteria.
    • Share samples of  budget guidelines that demonstrate flexibility and user-friendliness and of streamlined funding guidelines, eligibility quizzes, and letters of inquiry.
    • Continue to share stories about the difference that streamlining makes and draw attention to poor practice in a lighthearted way.

Make Seeking Feedback and Evaluating Systems Essential

Grantmakers often make decisions about their grantmaking practices without information from stakeholders or a complete understanding of their current practice.  Few seek anonymous and candid feedback about their application and reporting requirements and processes.  Project Streamline will strive to make seeking feedback and evaluating grantmaking systems a hallmark of an effective grantmaker.

HOW?

    • Update and promote the free Streamlining Self-Assessment Tool [no longer active] developed by CEP and Project Streamline.
    • Develop a grantseeker survey template for grantmakers to adapt and use (themselves or via a third-party service), focusing on gathering specific feedback on the issues that matter most.
    • Promote tools to understand current practice and its cost, including a net grant calculator.
    • Explore with Center for Effective Philanthropy adding streamlining module to the Grantee Perception Survey.

Embed Streamlining Message and Activities into Partner Work

The concepts of streamlining will only survive if they are embedded in the messages and materials that grantmakers receive from the field’s membership, research, and advocacy organizations. Project Streamline will work with partners to figure out ways to connect streamlining messages and activities with their work.

Do you have other ideas about where Project Streamline should focus its efforts?  We’d love to hear them!  Comment here or email us.

Jessica Bearman

Jessica Bearman works with foundations and other mission-based organizations, focusing on organization development, facilitation, and R&D to help them become more intentional, effective, and responsive to the communities that they serve. She is also known as Dr. Streamline. Follow her on Twitter @jbearwoman.