Connect with Us  Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Email

Moving the Cheese

by Don Matteson, Chief Program Officer
2016-July 14

For those who don't follow the reference in the title, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Who Moved My Cheese?

We've been getting a lot of phone calls and emails lately asking when we'll post our 2017 Substance Abuse grant guidelines. This is no surprise, since we usually post those guidelines in June. The short answer is October.

Change is coming!
There's a longer answer to the question, too. We won't be posting separate guidelines for the Substance Abuse annual cycle or any other annual cycles. You see, we're changing up our grant process.

Before you get too concerned, we still plan on making grants in our four core areas: intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health, and substance use disorders. We also plan on continuing our existing technology and small grants. We'll be releasing a single set of guidelines in October that lay out the Foundation's interests and application requirements across all of our grant opportunities.

Guidelines aside, the changes focus on deadlines, timelines, and processes. We want to give applicants more opportunities to request funds, respond more quickly to those requests, and lower the barriers to applying for grants while offering applicants more support. Another reason for these changes has to do with our desire to build stronger relationships with the people and organizations doing the work in the communities we serve. We believe these changes will help us engage in more thoughtful conversations with those who apply for grants, while giving us more opportunity to learn from those who haven't (yet) applied.

No more annual cycles
For at least the past ten years, each of the Foundation's grant categories has had one application deadline each year (hence, annual cycle). If you had a great idea for a project that would fit say, our mental health annual cycle, you had one opportunity to submit it. If you missed the deadline or came up with your great idea the day after the deadline, you'd have to wait a full year before you could submit a grant request for it.

Our new process provides three opportunities to submit grant requests each year: in January, May, and September. We'll accept grant requests in any of our four categories (as well as for technology and small grants), and it is now easier to submit for projects that cross categories (e.g., a project that addresses the mental health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities).

No more waiting for Godot
In addition to providing more opportunities to submit requests, we aim to respond more quickly to grant applications. Under our existing system, it's typical to wait six months -- with lots of communication during the review process -- between clicking "submit" on an annual cycle grant request and learning that it has been funded (we're much quicker about telling people that a request is declined).

Our goal is to cut that time in half. We're making a number of internal process changes that will let us move more swiftly.

Getting a little help from your friends

The biggest change to our grantmaking should help address the primary concern raised by our grantees: the amount of time needed to complete the proposal and review process. Our existing application has lots of questions, some of which seem repetitive, and our review process usually requires lots of revisions and refinements after submission.

The new application will be streamlined to a handful of questions that will let grant applicants explain what they want to do, how they plan to do it, and what they'll need to do it in their own way. When we invite a full proposal, we'll also provide direction and feedback right away -- no more waiting until the first draft is submitted.

What's staying the same?
We aren't changing everything, of course.

  • Our geographic focus remains the same: Barnstable, Dukes, Essex, and Nantucket Counties in Massachusetts; Erie and Niagara Counties in New York.

  • We'll still have a two-phase process: preliminary submissions and full proposals.

  • We'll still be highly engaged with our applicants during the proposal process.

  • We'll continue to be more interested in learning alongside our grantees than in making sure everything adheres perfectly to the approved work plan.

These changes have been a long time coming. We've been thinking hard about how to modify our processes for a couple of years, but we think we've come up with something that will make it easier to request funds, support applicants through the review process, and build stronger relationships with them while maintaining the high quality we're used to seeing in our funded proposals.

Further bulletins as events warrant
We'll be communicating more about these changes in the coming months [blog posts], and our new guidelines will be posted in October. We'll be hosting local workshops in November, along with a webinar in December to go over the changes.

We hope you're as excited about these changes as we are. Please let us know what you think in the comments below or, if you prefer, get in touch with me directly at [email protected] or 716-906-8903.

Photo by Richard North
Flickr:  7696749722
Creative Commons 2.0 Licensed

comments powered by Disqus