A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Streamlining Our Grant Process

By Gail Vento, Lana Vento Charitable Trust

streamliningLana Vento Charitable Trust (LVCT) recently tailored its grant process to fit a local theater’s organizational capacity and reflect the size of its grant. Read about the steps it took to minimize the theater’s paperwork and maximize its time spent on programs.

For the past 7 years, Lana Vento Charitable Trust (LVCT) awarded Pistarckle Theater program-specific grants. Pistarckle is a small nonprofit theater that provides educational programs to youths in addition to running a regular performance program. It is a relatively small organization with an operating and program budget of $330K.

Initially Pistarckle was asked to submit a complete grant application, but, during the grant evaluation process, it became evident that Pistarckle is truly a grassroots program with few staff, none dedicated to grantwriting.

LVCT saw the need to minimize the theater’s time spent gathering paperwork and maximize its time spent on programs. In an effort to do so, and only after establishing a healthy grantmaking relationship, our application process was streamlined in the following ways.

  • Information that may not change year to year is requested only if different from the previous year. A note to this effect is inserted next to these application questions.
  • LVCT made an effort to do site visits. Site visits have proven invaluable, because they provide a time to meet the people behind the organization and see grant dollars at work.
  • The director of LVCT drops off the grant check in person, which provides additional face-to-face time.
  • Subsequently, LVCT has required only the minimum amount of paperwork necessary for due diligence—namely, a report on the previous grant and a proposal for the new grant request. The proposal is a narrative that describes how the funding will be used and includes a budget for both the program and organization.
  • Many of the other documents necessary for due diligence are obtained via the Internet. For example, the current IRS status can is checked online as well as the latest Form 990.

It should also be noted that, for small organizations, LVCT does not require audited financial statements. Instead we request current budgets and program budgets. In addition, as noted above, financial and other relevant information is obtained online from the Form 990.

Even though the grant application process has been trimmed accordingly, a letter of agreement is always drafted and signed by both parties. This document is of utmost importance because it manages expectations.

Related resources

Gail Vento is executive director of the Lana Vento Charitable Trust. Gail holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a B.A. in environmental geology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Much of her time is dedicated to volunteering at local nonprofits.

Comments

  1. >>The director of LVCT drops off the grant check in person, which provides additional face-to-face time.

    I am interested in this point. Our foundation conducted a grantee survey (covering many topics) and we found that delivering grant checks in person was interpreted as allowing grantees another chance to bow and scrape. We have changed our process so that we mail the check instead.

    Has anyone else had this situation?

  2. I truly applaud Gail Vento’s appreciation of reducing the processing and paperwork for small organizations – esp. when the info does exist elsewhere. As a small nonprofit, we put everything on our website,and try to provide links for easy sharing too.

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