What Applicants Have to Say
Survey of Small Grant Program Applicants/October 2010
The Weingart Foundation’s Small Grant Program (representative of one-year grants of $25,000 or less), offers an important resource to Southern California nonprofits by making philanthropic dollars available to organizations that may be too small to qualify for the Foundation’s Regular Grant Program. These modest-sized grants serve as “stepping stones” to build nonprofit capacity. They also provide important dollars to fill gaps for nonprofits with no-strings-attached dollars that are increasingly difficult to access.
In 2009, the Foundation streamlined the Small Grant Program by waiving the Letter of Inquiry and replacing the rolling application process with annual proposal deadlines. Additionally, the Foundation asked Learning Partnerships to survey successful grantees and unsuccessful applicants with regard to program revisions. Completed surveys were returned by 100 successful grantees (84% response rate), and by 62 unsuccessful applicants (67% response rate).
Clarity, Time Spent, Response and Respect
A primary feedback topic focused on clarity of the application process. Sixty percent of successful grantees and more than 20% of unsuccessful applicants cited the process as “very clear.” An even larger number of unsuccessful applicants (approximately 65%) perceived the process as “quite clear,” and only a few respondents indicated the process to be “not so clear” or “somewhat clear.” Overall, the majority of survey participants cited the process as either “quite clear” or “very clear,” regardless of whether their applications were successful.
Grantees also shared their perspectives on the time and effort spent on their applications in relation to the size of grant applied for. Ninety-five percent of successful grantees cited their experience as appropriate. Significantly, 92% of unsuccessful applicants also believed the amount of effort was appropriate.
The timeliness of the Foundation’s response was also received positively; 99% of grantees and 92% of unsuccessful applicants reported the Foundation responded to their applications in a timely manner. Both successful and unsuccessful applicants gave Foundation staff extremely positive ratings for the timeliness of its response to their proposals. Seven percent of unsuccessful applicants indicated not knowing whether the response had been timely, leaving only one applicant believing the Foundation’s response was not timely.
Questions to unsuccessful applicants focused on addressing perceptions of how respectfully they were treated and the fairness of the process. Despite receiving a denial to their funding requests, most applicants felt the process was both respectful and fair. Three-quarters of respondents felt the process was "very respectful”; 22 percent thought it was “somewhat respectful”, and two respondents cited the process as “not so respectful” and “not respectful.”
Notably, the majority of denied applicants cited a positive experience despite their outcomes, which may be attributed to their reports of significant contact with Foundation staff. Two-thirds of applicants had contact with a Foundation staff member about the application. Of these, more than 40% had contact lasting over 15 minutes.
Comparing the New and Old Small Grant Programs
A central question for this study was whether the new application process was an improvement over the prior process. By a small margin, more grantees reported hard deadlines as an improvement over rolling deadlines. Unsuccessful applicants were more likely to report the new process to be “about the same” as rolling deadlines. While some unsuccessful applicants (1 to 3 respondents) reported the new process to be “worse” on all or most dimensions, both successful and unsuccessful applicants said the one-step application process is an improvement.
Perceptions: Current and Future Economic Viability
"It is vitally important to be able to fund operations, particularly during this particular economic climate. Donors have been very generous but the support for 'running the business' is greatly appreciated and relieves some of the stress."
- Comment from Grantee
Grantees and unsuccessful applicants also had the opportunity to respond to optional questions addressing their perceptions of current and future economic viability. Respondents in both groups said they believe the 2011 fiscal year will be equally or more financially demanding than the 2010 fiscal year, with forty-three percent of survey respondents believing that it will be more challenging and 52% equally challenging. Despite these challenges, 87% of respondents anticipate having at least a break-even budget for fiscal year 2011.
Overall, changes to the Small Grant Program were well received, with the majority of respondents indicating the new procedures to be an improvement over the previous process. Grantees were also positive about the Foundation’s application and review process, as well as the accessibility of the Foundation’s staff.
More importantly, the survey provides an important vehicle to receive feedback from the nonprofit community, underscoring the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to stay in touch with our grantees – an effort that includes our online feedback mechanism (WRfeedback@gmail.com), focus groups and ongoing surveys. All information provided to the Foundation by grantees is used to continuously inform our grantmaking, and improve our practices going forward. To view the full Report, click here.