In an effort to increase our accessibility and ability to communicate on a timelier basis, we use Foundant, our Online Grants Management system. Among many benefits we think you’ll appreciate is your ability to control organizational contact information; to draft, save and submit online applications; and to upload documents and reports.
For our Community Grantmaking the Foundation only invites proposals after reviewing a letter of inquiry.
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Grants Made Simpler
It is so satisfying to be able to see (and help!) local agencies receive financial assistance to serve our communities. I believe I speak for our whole panel review team when I say I appreciated the streamlined documents for our reviews! The information provided was pertinent and concise, enabling us to make the hard decisions of which grants to approve.
— Sherry French, Grants Committee Member
As the Community Foundation raced to help nonprofits offset the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, we gained some valuable new insights into our grantmaking process. Those discoveries sparked improvements that we plan to make permanent.
For instance, we learned that awarding grants quickly, while also performing due diligence, takes less information than we’d thought. Answering just a few well-designed questions, nonprofits can tell us exactly what we need to know: why they want money, how they will run their programs or projects and how they’ll measure the results. This streamlined process worked so well with our COVID-19 grants, we plan to use it from here on in.
The second change concerns the Community Fund. Unfortunately, in each grant cycle, we can fund only about one quarter of the proposals we receive. To make life easier for our proposers and our grants review panels, we have introduced a new step in the application process.
An organization that seeks a grant from the Community Fund will first send us a letter of inquiry. Based on those letters, our grants panels will choose the most promising requests, and we’ll invite those nonprofits to submit full proposals.
“That way, organizations are not wasting their time putting together applications that are not likely to be funded,” said Tina Barber, program officer at the Community Foundation. This up-front winnowing will also let our grants panels focus their efforts on proposals that are more likely to succeed.
We also plan to simplify the post-grant reporting process. Rather than ask grantees to fill out a long questionnaire, we’ll pose just a few short questions. After all, to show that they’ve used the grant well, a recipient needs to explain just a few things: What went right with the project or program? What went wrong? What was serendipitous? What advice would you offer someone doing a similar project? These might not be exactly the questions we settle on, but in any case, we’ll make this last step in the grant cycle easier for nonprofits.
The Foundation will also continue another new practice we started in the COVID-19 era—paperless grant distribution. “When we closed the office, we started issuing electronic checks, and that has worked out wonderfully,” Barber said.
It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has produced a great deal of pain. But it’s also produced some important lessons. We appreciate this chance to improve the processes that help our donors invest in their communities.