An interesting article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted the work of Project Streamline, a collaborative effort to improve grant application and reporting processes. I often find myself empathizing with clients and other partners in the nonprofit community: time is one of our most precious resources, and we never seem to have enough of it. The grant process can be one of the most time-consuming activities facing nonprofit fundraising professionals today.
While funders have every right to set criteria for funding consideration and reporting requirements, there would ideally be a balance between the effort spent on the application and the amount of the award. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the norm, especially when it comes to smaller grants.
Project Streamline, a collaborative initiative between grant makers and grant seekers and managed by the Grant Managers Network, works to improve grant application and reporting. It is based on the simple premise that the often tedious application and reporting processes undermine the efficacy of a nonprofit, forcing it to spend too much time seeking funding and reporting – to the extent that it ultimately interferes with their mission-based work. A study conducted by Project Streamline revealed that despite efforts to remove inefficiencies, grant seeking is still a very burdensome process.
Project Streamline conducted surveys and interviews with 460 grant makers and 300 nonprofit grant seekers. Despite 77% of funders saying they have taken steps to “streamline” their giving process, fundraisers bemoaned that they have not experienced widespread change. Additional key findings echoed this sentiment.
Nearly all (91%) of grant makers said they modified their websites, printed materials and other communications to make the process more manageable for grantees. Conversely, the grantees expressed that they still face challenges in getting clear guidance and arranging a conversation with an employee of the foundation.
A substantial number (91%) of funders have shifted to online applications or are now accepting proposals via email. Grant applicants, though, state that poorly designed and untested online systems remain one the biggest sources of frustration.
Change is difficult and oftentimes slow, and we have very little control over how/when/if funders modify their grant application processes. There are certain steps, however, that organizations can take internally to help make the most of the grant making process.