The Foundation Project - a new initiative for common reporting & acquittal forms

This post written by David Hardie, Project Manager of the Foundation Project from November 2011 to April 2012.

An issue attracting increasing attention amongst grantmakers is how their application and reporting processes impact on grantseekers. In recent years, high profile initiatives such as the US Project Streamline have highlighted how grantmakers can develop more efficient processes. Now a group of Australian Trusts and Foundations have come together to see what they can do to reduce the administrative burden on grantseekers.

The Foundation Project is an initiative sponsored by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation on behalf of the following organisations:

• Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

• The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund

• Perpetual

• The Ian Potter Foundation

• The RE Ross Trust

• Philanthropy Australia

• Queensland University of Technology – Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.

The purpose of the project is to support the work of the Australian not for profit sector by examining opportunities for coordinating the application and reporting processes for small grants (<$25,000) of philanthropic organisations.

 

The key outputs from The Foundation Project are a set of core principles for grant application and reporting information and a common application form and acquittal report for small grants.

I led the project from November 2011 to April 2012 and really enjoyed being part of a real life example of collaboration in philanthropy. One of my favourite aspects of the project was how a number of our leading Trusts and Foundations came together to take a look at their own processes and use their extensive collective knowledge to develop some new grantmaking tools.

The initial focus of the project was to see what could be learnt from related initiatives such as Project Streamline. The current grant application and reporting processes of the participating Trusts and Foundations were also analysed and this identified many common attributes in current small grants application and reporting processes. It also highlighted the opportunity that exists to develop common forms for small grants, as well as the barriers to their widespread adoption.  Also identified was the need to establish a set of core principles to guide ongoing decisions on the information required for grants application and reporting. We felt that it was important that a set of principles was developed to provide ongoing guidance for grantmakers on how, why and what information should be requested from grantseekers.

The participating Trusts and Foundations endorsed the following core principles for grant application and reporting information:

Philanthropy acknowledges that its contribution to the community is primarily through the work of the not for profit sector and we will strive to minimise the administrative burden of grantmaking on not for profit and related organisations. Accordingly:

• Information will be requested only if it will be used

• The effort expended in application and reporting processes will be proportional to the size and risk of the grant

• Duplicate information requests will be minimised

• Terminology will be defined and standardised in order to limit the variability in information requested

• Joint reporting will be established for projects that are collaboratively co-funded.

These principles then informed the subsequent development of the common small grants application form and common small grants acquittal report. The forms were reviewed by community sector organisations, fundraising consultancies and other philanthropic organisations prior to their endorsement by the project team.

The common forms can be found here: http://www.philanthropy.org.au/how-to-give/grant-maker-tools/

It’s important to remember that the development of the forms is a step in an ongoing process. There will never be a perfect form and we’re very keen for grantmakers to pilot the common forms and provide feedback on how they are being used by grantseekers and grantmaking staff.  We also hope that new players in philanthropy will benefit from this work. We think that what we’ve developed will be of real value to a variety of grantmakers, especially those new grantmakers who are yet to establish their own grantmaking systems.   

The project team intends to periodically review the impact of the principles and the common forms.  Further enhancements to the common forms should be anticipated as they are piloted from April to September 2012 and as their ongoing impact is assessed.

Grantmakers are encouraged to trial the common forms and to provide feedback on them to Philanthropy Australia. Master copies of the forms will continue to be available on the Philanthropy Australia website.   

The Summary Report for the Foundation Project can be found here (PDF format). A more detailed project research paper has also been prepared as a Queensland University of Technology – Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies Working Paper and will shortly be available on the QUT ACPNS website.

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David Hardie is a 2010 graduate of the QUT Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies). He was the recipient of the 2010 Myer Foundation Internship and was the Project Manager of the Foundation Project from November 2011 to April 2012.

Apr. 24, 2012

 Tags: research & information, recommended reading, knowledgebank, guest post

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