In March 2022 we asked nfpResearch to carry out an anonymous perceptions survey of both successful and unsuccessful grant applicants.
We timed the survey to inform our broader strategy review, which was finalised by early 2023.
We are very grateful to everyone who completed the survey - thank you! Further information is available in the full report by nfpResearch. What follows is a short summary of our internal reflections on the report, and how it has affected our work.
We were very pleased to learn that we are generally seen to be a flexible and trusting funder, with a straightforward application process, and a valued commitment to unrestricted funding – all things we will maintain. Some responses provided helpful pointers for improvement, both for immediate actions, and for the strategy review.
• Barriers to funding - 1 in 5 applicants (smaller organisations in particular) say they experienced barriers to funding, whether due to our criteria or the organisation’s own internal staff capacity. We are looking at how to reduce barriers, for example by ensuring our application process is as accessible as possible.
• Application process - while this was rated highly, and the time taken to complete was around half the benchmark of other funders who have undertaken a similar survey, it is still a large time burden for applicants, and we are implementing some more changes to make the process as straightforward as possible.
• Criteria for decision making - some feedback said we were not always clear on this. We will be more open about the things we consider when shortlisting applications, and this is now published on our website. We have also done some work on what kind of information is useful to include in an application, while ensuring the process remains light touch and flexible.
• Pre application advice - while applicants can contact us prior to applying (by phone or email), providing pre-application calls does not fall within our normal process, largely due to our own staff capacity. We do always respond when people get in touch, and we hope that the above changes, to provide greater clarity on decision making will help people with their application.
• Multi-year funding - we understand that multi-year core funding is best practice and provides stability. This was reflected consistently in responses to the survey. We have begun to provide multi-year grants and are committed to increasing their proportion going forward.
• Relationship and communications - feedback highlighted that some applicants would like increased contact with the team. We are thinking how best to do this, given limited capacity. As an initial step we’ve put the grant manager’s name and contact details in the offer letter to successful applicants, to encourage communication as and when this is wanted. Also, we are hoping to increase learning visits where possible.
• Feedback to unsuccessful applicants - we offer feedback calls, and this was largely valued. But almost 1 in 4 unsuccessful applicants were unclear why their application was rejected. We are working to ensure a consistent approach to providing tailored feedback that is as useful as possible. High demand can mean that even eligible applications can be unsuccessful, and the combination of high application numbers and limited staff capacity means it is not generally possible for us to consider more than one application every 12 months.
• Funder Plus and convening - 68% of participants felt it would be useful for us to develop funder plus work. Others noted that we should be mindful of how this would add value. We know there are many funders already working in this space and so we will proceed cautiously. We would like to support grant-holders where useful in a tailored and responsive way, being led by their needs, and would take a similar approach to convening. We are happy to facilitate introductions within our networks, as a helpful way to add value in the short term.
• How best to support networking and convening going forwards with our small staff team will be considered in our strategy review.
So, as indicated above, we have taken some immediate steps in response to the survey. We will continue to reflect on the feedback and how we can improve. We are dedicated to creating as little burden on our partners as possible, and we value building trusting relationships.
Again, we would like to thank those of you who participated for your feedback. Feel free to send us an email or contact us – about anything written above, or anything else. If you would prefer to do so anonymously, please use this form. We will add this link to our website to ensure there is always a route to send anonymous feedback.