By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Back in 2010, WRAG convened our members to look at ways funders can adjust their application and reporting processes to reduce the administrative burden on grantseekers. This sector-wide effort, called Project Streamline, is intended to help funders right-size their applications and reports. This way nonprofits don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of staff time and resources applying for and reporting on grants relative to the size of the actual grant. Over the past three years, we’ve heard from a number of members about changes, big and small, that Project Streamline has inspired them to implement. Here’s one member’s story.
Julie Wagner, grants program manager at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, attended the streamlining program. The message resonated with her and her colleagues, who were already thinking about ways to streamline their processes due to the sheer volume of funding requests they receive each year.
With the Project Streamline recommendations in mind, CareFirst brought in a consultant to help the staff analyze their reporting process and determine how best to improve it. Up until this point, CareFirst left their reporting requirements somewhat open-ended. Consequently, from some grantees they would receive 100 page reports, and from others, just a few short paragraphs. Wading through long reports and following up on too-short ones took up a lot of staff time, and the lack of clear guidelines didn’t help the grantees reflect on their successes or challenges.
CareFirst developed a one-page form that meets their due diligence needs and makes the process simpler and more straight forward for grantees. The form asks for the purpose of the original grant, the specific objectives, and how the organization did in achieving those objectives. In addition, CareFirst implemented a tiered reporting structure in which large grants are reported on quarterly, medium grants semi-annually, and small grants annually.
Similarly, CareFirst went from having monthly phone calls with groups who receive large grants to having quarterly calls. Not only has this lessened the burden on both CareFirst and their grantees, it just makes more sense. Due to the nature of their work, some of the programs that CareFirst funds experience monthly fluctuations that belie a true understanding of progress toward the grant objectives. Positive change is much easier to show over a longer period of time.
CareFirst has committed to making the application and reporting process for their grantees as manageable as possible, and improving their procedures is a continual process. Here is another way funders have streamlined their grants processes. Have you implemented any of the Project Streamline recommendations? Let us know!