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AFP Seeks Volunteers to Help Streamline Grant Making Processes

(Aug. 18, 2008) Are you drowning in grant-application paperwork and distracted from your organization's purpose? Project Streamline aims to make the process easier and more effective, and AFP is seeking interested volunteers to provide feedback on a new study and help develop next steps.

Most grant makers take their responsibilities to support nonprofit and other public-serving organizations seriously and spend considerable time thinking about how they can be most effective. Stories of highly productive and mutually satisfying partnerships between organizations and their funders abound. Yet the grant-making process is rife with inefficiencies, and these inefficiencies mean that many development professionals are wasting time and money that could be devoted to accomplishing missions.

Project Streamline is a collaboration among eight prominent organizations representing grant makers and grant seekers. AFP is a key partner in this work that includes the Grants Managers Network, the Association of Small Foundations, the Council on Foundations, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, the Foundation Center, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and the National Council of Nonprofit Associations.

A recently released report, Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose, examines the impact of grant-application and reporting requirements and makes recommendations for how these practices can be streamlined.

The report offers four core principles and a range of ways that grant makers can adopt those principles into practice to relieve the burden on nonprofits. The principles are:

  1. Begin from zero. "In a zero-based approach to information gathering, grant makers begin with a rigorous assessment of what kind of information they really need to make decisions," according to the study.
  2. Have right-size grant expectations. Grant makers should consider whether the effort that grant seekers expend to get a grant is proportionate to the size of the grant, the type of grant and the existing relationship with the grantee.
  3. Relieve the grantee burden. "By minimizing the amount of time, effort and money that nonprofits spend getting and administering grants, funders increase the amount of time, effort and money devoted to mission-based activities."
  4. Ensure that communications and grant-making processes are clear and straightforward.

The study also suggests actions that philanthropic associations can take to support the improvement of foundation grant-application and reporting practices.

Generating Feedback and Next Steps

Over the next year, Project Streamline will sponsor in-depth conversations among grant makers and grant seekers to elicit feedback about the study's findings and recommendations. Ultimately, this feedback will be used to develop a final set of principles and the resources to support their adoption in the field.

AFP plans to sponsor two one-hour webinars in the near future to provide feedback on the recommended core principles and to help determine Project Streamline’s next steps. During the webinars we will:

  • 1) review the recommended principles and discuss how adopting the principles would affect grant seekers
  • 2) discuss additional suggestions for streamlining the grant-application and reporting processes from the grant seeker’s perspective
  • 3) discuss ways that the grant-seeking community can assist in streamlining the application and reporting process

If you’re interested in participating in a webinar, please contact Cathlene Williams at cwilliams@afpnet.org or call 703-519-8469. You also may make comments about the project here.

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