Working at or leading a grant making foundation is a position of privilege. One way we can support our focus areas better, and thus the individuals affected by them, is to review what we ask of our grantees. We suggest having a reflective conversation annually and allowing this to be the sole topic, rather than adding this to an annual board meeting agenda. Below are some staple questions we have found are helpful to ask of our colleagues and board leadership:
Questions we ask ourselves about our grant requests:
- Have we asked grantees recently for honest feedback about the grant process? Is there a way we could create a safer environment to maintain communication that helps remove some of the power dynamic?
- Are grantees frequently submitting requests with the exact word counts? If so, maybe we need to eliminate them so that nonprofits aren’t spending time word-smithing their requests to fit in with arbitrary word counts.
- Does our board actually read what the nonprofit development officers are submitting or are program officers/assistants than transcribing them into briefer summaries for the board dockets? If so, could we change something in this process that better uses both the nonprofit development officer’s and the foundation’s program officer’s time more effectively?
- Have we turned to larger funder collaboratives or networks for community feedback and support? How do we measure up? What have our funder companions changed that they found helpful and how did they come about those decisions?
Questions we ask ourselves about our grant reports/evaluations:
- What percentage of their time do we want our grantees spending on reporting to all funders? How much of this percentage do we take up? Would this take someone intimately involved with the program more than an hour to complete? If so, does that seem acceptable to us?
- Is there a less burdensome way we could get the same information from our nonprofit partners without tasking them to do the work and then narrate it? Would a phone call or a visit be more informative or more taxing?
- What are our colleagues at similar sized foundations doing? Perhaps we could work together on grant reporting so that nonprofits that typically receive funds from both (or all) of us aren’t recreating the wheel each time?
- Can we create an easier reporting system for grantees that we have a relationship with (versus ones that we don’t)? Should we (re)consider the Common Grant Application?
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