A new report by Grants Managers Network and the Project Streamline collaborative reveals that after five years of promoting effective ways to improve grant requirements, many nonprofits continue to feel burdened.
More than 700 grantmakers and grantseekers participated in a survey that revealed a continuing gap between grantmakers — who say they have streamlined — and grantseekers — who continue to find processes too unwieldy. Here’s a quick summary of the findings from the new report, Practices That Matter.
Project Streamline Principles Widely Recognized
Project Streamline’s principles are widely recognized in the grantmaking community. Almost all grantmakers say they have made or are planning streamlining changes. Here’s what else they said:
- 93% are familiar with the impact of grantmaking practice on nonprofits,
- 90% are familiar with the principles of clear and straightforward grantmaking communications,
- 87% are aware that taking a fresh look at application and reporting requirements is recommended,
- 86% realize that reducing the burden on grantseekers is important,
- 81% are familiar with “right-sizing” — where application and reporting requirements are in proportion to the grant size and type.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time for changes in individual practice to become true culture change. So, nonprofits still spend too much time meeting requirements that are poorly designed, redundant, inappropriately scaled or simply mystifying.
Continuing Issues for Grantmakers
The research showed some grantmaker progress and brought to light issues that remain.
1: Take a fresh look at information requirements.
- More than 80% of grantmakers say they have revised application or reporting requirements to ask for only what they use in decision-making. But grantmakers still don’t like to accept information that’s not specifically developed for them.
- In fact, 84% of grantseekers say grantmakers rarely or never accept common applications, and 62% rarely or never encounter a funder who accepts standard or no reports.
2: Right-size expectations.
- Grantmakers say they are paying attention to the relationship between requirements and grant size and type; 55% say they have revised applications and 59% have revised reporting requirements to be appropriate to grant size.
- But 72% of grantseekers say applications for small grants are rarely or never proportionate to the level of funding. The same number say they have rarely or never encountered a simplified application for repeat grants.
3: Reduce the burden.
- 91% of grantmakers now use an online system or accept applications via email. With the shift toward electronic submission, 84% no longer require multiple copies of materials.
- But going online doesn’t equal streamlining. Poorly designed and untested systems remain a big source of grantseeker aggravation. Grantseekers cite system issues including:
- forms in which data cannot be cut and pasted but must be input one item at a time,
- forms with stringent character limits,
- forms that don’t allow users to review all questions in advance, save work, or go back to previous responses,
- and myriad other bugs.
- Furthermore, 50% of grantseekers say paper systems are still prevalent among funders.
4: Provide clear and straightforward communications.
- 91% of grantmakers say they have revised communication to make it clearer and more straightforward; 84% have made messages consistent across all platforms.
- But getting clear guidance and reaching a person continue to be barriers for grantseekers, who report confusing, inconsistent and insufficient communication. Grantseekers say online systems too often stand in for direct communication, which builds an unintended barrier to relationship.
Read the entire Practices That Matter report. You can also take an interactive quiz to find out how “streamlining savvy” you are, download Making More Time for Mission, an overview of the report, and more.
How do you think grantmakers in Minnesota stack up against these national statistics? Let us know your experience.
- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate