Grantee perception study - what we've learned so far

Last autumn we conducted two surveys of our grantees and declined applicants to get feedback on their experience of applying to the Trust, and about the support offered to those who receive funding. We were keen to learn what we were doing well and where we needed to improve. This is an important piece of work to the Trust in our efforts to be as effective as possible in tackling poverty and inequality in London.

To do this work we commissioned support from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which has extensive experience in this area and a database of over 40,000 respondents and 300 funders worldwide for us to compare ourselves with. You can view the full report here.

The surveys were conducted during exceptional times, when everyone was under unprecedented pressure to deal with the impact of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we had an excellent response rate of 64% from our grantees, and a slightly lower but still strong response rate from declined applicants at 38%. Read the key findings from the report here.

What are we doing well?

There were several areas where we received positive scores and comments. In particular, we received high scores for our impact on poverty and inequality, our understanding of the context in which grantees’ work and the needs of their beneficiaries. Importantly, grantees scored us higher than typical funders on our dedication to combatting racism and demonstration of an explicit commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and communicating this clearly. It was also heartening to read that over half of grantees had discussed diversity issues with their boards as a result of engagement with the Trust.

We also scored highly for our work to encourage organisations to become more accountable to people with first-hand experience of the issues they address. Over 60% of grantees reported that they had been able to create more meaningful opportunities to shape their campaigns with first-hand experiences. This is progress, and together with an increased proportion of our funding going to community led organisations, will continue to be a major focus of our current strategy and something we will build on.

Where do we need to improve?

There were a number of areas where we didn’t score as highly as we would have hoped. These included: the formality of some of our processes, lack of feedback for declined applicants, waiting too long for decisions, asking too much information in the application form and how approachable we are if things do not go as planned. Some also felt too much pressure to modify applications in order to be more likely to receive funding and others wanted more contact with us.

We received some useful suggestions about where we needed to improve and, following a discussion with our Trustees, we are already implementing changes, with more being planned.

Area for improvement Actions
Accessibility • We have set up twice weekly half-day sessions where applicants can book an appointment via our website to speak to a Grants Manager about their proposal. The sessions will be increased to 10 per week leading up to a funding deadline.
• We will discuss and agree the level of contact desirable for each grantee when we inform them of their grant.
Communications • We have reviewed all our communications with applicants and grantees to ensure that our language is friendly and approachable.
• We will be clear on timescales for decision-making in our communications.
• We will provide more detailed feedback to declined applicants wherever possible.
• We plan to organise Meet the Funder events from time to time to communicate our priorities and processes. This will give applicants an opportunity to ask questions and find out more about how to apply for funding.
• We have reviewed our Connected Communities programme to communicate what we want to fund more clearly. Our updated guidelines will be available from 1st July 2021.
Processes • We have commissioned an agency to undertake a comprehensive service design review of all our processes, focusing on a human centred approach. This will include more user testing to better understand the experience of engaging with the Trust.
• In the meantime, we have shortened the first stage application form to reduce completion time. This will be available from 1 July 2021.
Flexibility • We will consider a range of models for our grant making going forward. These may include:
• Core grants
• Delegated grant-making
• Participatory grant-making.

This is just a snapshot of some of the key areas of improvement. The surveys have provided a wealth of information that we will continue to analyse and there will be other areas where we will make changes. We are also looking at how to embed regular feedback in our ways of working to support continuous improvement, and help us be a more responsive and effective funder.

Thank you to all those who participated!

22 June 2021