Assessing a funding application can be a tricky thing, and many hours can be put into making the right decision. Its relatively easy to say yes when it’s a proven group with proven programmes, but saying no can be difficult: indeed it’s often easier to say Yes But…
But there is a need to say NO. New Zealand now has over 50,000 Not for Profit organisations, many of which will be asking for funding, increasing demand. And, on the other hand, supply of funding reduces (see my previous blog there). So funders have two options: fund everyone but less, or go all out on the better organisations.
An assessment that an organisation is not so great may come from a whole range of concerns:
· Concerns about governance (too many family members involved in a group)
· Efficacy research inconclusive – or worse, ineffectual
· Organisation too small to be effective
· Organisation working beyond its capacity, or mandate
· Outreach organisation with no social media presence
· Start up not working with incumbents
· Tip offs from others that organisation has issues
· Organisation utilising illegal employment criteria
· Organisation pursuing model which hasn’t worked for others
· Groups looking to gold plate their facilities
A perfect funding decision requires perfect information. Of course this is well-nigh impossible, so decisions have to be made on the best available information. But there is where there is often an information void. This can result in poor allocation of resources.
Example? A friend on a national board decided to close certain clubs due to lack of use: so the club goes off and supports themselves through community funders. End result: national body undermined, and more resources into a couple of ineffective organisations not even supported from their national body.
Relying on the group to say how effective they are is like making a recruitment decision purely off a CV: often the best looking CVs are not the best people for the job. Nor are the sexiest organisations with the glitziest brands best positioned to help address some of the complex issues within our society. What can also be interesting is to understand who else has contributed to the organisation. In some cases this provides a “stamp of approval”.
Turning down a request for funds takes time. Time to read the application, google research, staff and board, and to have conversations with people whose opinions you respect. A full day to recommend a decline of an application costs around $360 (variable cost only). And that does not include the angst of making the wrong recommendation! This will be replicated across many different funders – although the costs will vary based on a funder’s process around application assessment.
In 2014 Canterbury funders funded 4,800 applications: now how many were declined? 25%? 10%? That’s a cost of anywhere between $173k and $432k in Canterbury alone.
Would it be quite useful to have a central database where funders could look to see who had declined a group for funding – and why? That information could really assist funders to make more decisive decisions more quickly. And at lower cost. Many of the gaming trusts do publish that information, and some even code as to why the application was refused. But that data is buried in pdfs in the corners of the internet. I am sure this could be done, if there was a will and desire to improve the decision making information. I reckon a simple open source database could be done quite simply if there was a will to do so. Result of this: funder resources could be better directed, resulting in more funding for good groups.
Would love to talk to you if you think this is quite interesting – and you have a will to make a difference.