At Last! Rate Your Grant-Seeking Experience at GrantAdvisor.org: The Yelp for Reviewing Foundations
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Be the first on your block to review a foundation at GrantAdvisor.org. The brand-new platform promises to be an essential breakthrough tool for foundation fundraising in the United States. Here is an example of the helpful guidance on a particular foundation that one might find on the site:
Reviewer 328 – Grant Applicant – applied in 2015
The program staff are very smart, strategic and committed to social change. There was a lot of discussion and revision before we were asked to submit via the online application process. Two challenges: they don’t list much staff information on the website, so it’s hard to see how they’re structured and what people’s roles are. Also, staff expressed interest in a project and then stopped responding after a few emails. Ghosting isn’t cool in any context.
One of the boldest, most timely, and most badly needed nonprofit infrastructure projects we’ve seen recently has opened its virtual doors. GrantAdvisor.org allows grant seekers to publicly review the foundations to which they apply.
Constructed by Jon Pratt (executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits), Jan Masaoka (CEO of GreatNonprofits), and Perla Ni (Chief Executive Officer of the California Association of Nonprofits), the project is the next generation of philanthropic transparency, essentially allowing nonprofits to advise one another on whether an application is worth their while even as they provide direct, open feedback to the foundation about how nonprofits experience them. Here is their description of the way GrantAdvisor.org functions:
The project is still in pilot mode, but in the past month, more than 450 reviews have been written and submitted. Already, 76 foundations have appointed key contacts to provide responses to each review.
Reviewer 985 – Grant Applicant – applied in 2017
There are very smart people working at this organization who are willing to help. Their channels of communication are open—don’t be afraid to ask what you want to know, and be open about the challenges your organization faces.
A quick scan reveals little moaning and gnashing of teeth; in fact, the comments are helpful in that they provide clues to the cultures and pacing and quirks of each foundation. They advise, for instance, when you can expect an extended courtship, what foundations are particularly exacting about what and how to respond, and when you may wish to keep your expectations low.
I don’t know about you but that sounds like pure gold to me. To be successful, though, they’ll need your participation. Vu Le, the mind behind the blog Nonprofit: Absolutely Fabulous, is one of the site’s “advisors and allies,” and from his site, here’s a list of what they’re asking for:
- Nonprofit colleagues: Please go to GrantAdvisor.org and write reviews today if you have worked with foundations. We designed the form to be simple and user-friendly and not take up too much time, knowing how busy you all are. Please share this blog post or GrantAdvisor.org and encourage your networks to write reviews. The more reviews we have on this site, the more useful it will be for all of us.
- Foundation colleagues: You may be feeling a little hesitant, but I hope you’ll embrace this tool as a way to get genuine and helpful feedback. Please peruse the site, then send out an email to your grantees asking them to review you on GrantAdvisor. If you encourage them to do it, it’ll make it easier for grantees to do so, and the more reviews you have, the better and more accurate the aggregated feedback will be for you. Also, assign a Key Contact whose job is to regularly check reviews, respond to them, and bring back information to your leadership team. Also, ask other funders to check it out.
- Associations of Funders: Many of you have been helping funders to examine power dynamics and be more intentional about getting feedback. Thank you for continuing to do that. Please encourage your funding partners to look into GrantAdvisor as a tool for getting unvarnished truth.
- Donors, volunteers, consultants, and other leaders in the sector: Please check out GrantAdvisor and ask the organizations and foundations you work with to get involved. If you’ve worked with foundations before, write reviews.
GrantAdvisor is still in its pilot phase, so there may likely be a glitch here and there. Please test it out and contact admin with any feedback you have about how to make the site better and more helpful to everyone in the field.
Most grant seekers can provide valuable insights from their stories about interactions with foundations. Maybe you applied six times, and only on the seventh were you funded, with a long and happy subsequent relationship. Maybe the funder has a reporting requirement that makes their grants expensive to manage, or a capacity-building program that’s especially good or troublesome. You wouldn’t want to risk not knowing these things about a funding partner, but an enterprising leader would ordinarily have to glean them through many peer-to-peer conversations. Through use of this new platform, these things will now be at our fingertips.
So, we all need to thank the team of Pratt, Masaoka, and Ni for their vision and persistence on this remarkably useful innovation. Our hats are off to you!
Now, go and write a review.
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Ruth is Editor in Chief of the Nonprofit Quarterly. Her background includes forty-five years of experience in nonprofits, primarily in organizations that mix grassroots community work with policy change. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Ruth spent a decade at the Boston Foundation, developing and implementing capacity building programs and advocating for grantmaking attention to constituent involvement.