Grant Proposal Requirements Aren’t “Right-Sized”

Flaw #2 from the Project Streamline report:

We asked foundations whether their requirements varied depending on the size and type of grant requested. The majority (66 percent) don’t vary their requirements depending on the size of the grant given… Nearly three quarters (72.4 percent) also reported that they do not have a streamlined process for previously funded organizations, requiring long-time grantees to apply for repeat grants as though applying for the first time.

I generally use financial markets as a frame of reference when thinking about philanthropy. I think that while for-profit investing is not (in the least) a perfect analogy when talking about philanthropy, it can provide a useful frame for thinking about our field. But a friend of mine has argued to me that consumer behavior is a better frame of reference than investor behavior. That might be correct. So let’s think about the statement above from the standpoint of a consumer.

Do you spend more time thinking about and gathering information to prepare for a purchase of a new car or for a tube of toothpaste? It makes all the sense in the world to connect the amount of research you do with the size of your purchase (grant, investment, etc). And what about previously funded organizations? Don’t you have certain brands of products that you grab right off the shelf because you’ve bought it in the past and have already done your research? Humans are able to learn from experience. Imagine the inefficiency of going into a grocery store and looking over and evaluating every brand of every product you’re considering instead of spending your time evaluating what is new. You’d spend all your time deciding what to buy instead of benefiting from your purchases!