by Natalia Schoorl
Each quarter the PF team chooses a question to include as part of our Funder Feedback survey. For those not familiar with Funder Feedback, it is a short anonymous survey that we send after meeting with a person (prospective grantee, current grantee, past grantee, another funder, or another partner) to provide a channel for feedback.
We ask the person to rate us on respectfulness (were we respectful), consistency (did we do what we said we would do), and value (how valuable were my contributions to our interaction). At the end there is space to write in any other comments, where the person can elaborate on any of their ratings or answer the quarterly question. Last year we had dropped off in closing the loop, but are back up and running with our blog posts where we will be posting our findings.
In Q4 of 2018 we asked: “If you were in charge of a Bay Area foundation’s grantmaking, how would you spend it to better the lives of people experiencing poverty?” We had seven responses, with the top feedback suggesting that we “[ask] that question to the people most affected by poverty” and that the question can only be answered if funders “spend the time to understand the real needs of the community and nonprofits serving them.”
Currently, we rely on our relationships with grantees and encourage them to share with us critical needs and areas of hope they hear directly from those they serve. From time to time, we connect directly with community. For example we listened to East Palo Alto residents’ hopes and challenges and created an animated film to share their stories in November 2017. We haven't figured out a way to sustain this yet and realize the gap between funders and communities is still wide. We welcome ideas of how to close this gap more.
Other respondents mentioned they’d like to see Bay Area funders deploy more resources to specific issue areas, such as education, youth, and emotional support services. And yet other respondents highlighted the need for a change in how funders operate, for example:
create easier grant processes
collaborate more among funders and grantees
find and fund local organizations
invest in organizations over longer periods of time
and invest in areas that are normally underfunded (e.g. operations, staff, consultants and infrastructure).
On this last point, one thing the PF has been experimenting with is funding capacity building and mental health needs for the frontline staff of grantees in our Local and Regional Portfolio.
Related to improving grant processes, a recent post by GrantAdvisor breaks down the potential time lost navigating funders’ online grants management systems and we’ve written in the past about the value of time. Is the time an org spends on an application or reporting appropriate for the grant size? Are there redundant questions? Are you only asking for information you are actually using? Can you collaborate with other funders to leverage diligence or reporting? Instead of asking an org to fill out the same application year to year, could your organization consider giving multi-year grants?
We recently streamlined our diligence process for our largest grants to ensure that the information we are asking for and the time we spend with our grantee directly informs the decision and ultimately doesn’t take more of an organization’s time than necessary. We estimate that these process changes have reduced time spent by grantees by at least 50%. The PF is not perfect and we know that our own processes need to be updated from time to time, and that’s one reason why grantee feedback is so vital.
This question is important to us, so the team decided to keep this question for Q1 of 2019. If you are a San Francisco Bay Area community member and want to contribute your thoughts on this question please leave a comment below.