How does your trust approach manage and monitor the progress of the grants given?
As smaller trusts with limited resources and capacity, a group of representatives of small trusts shared their approach to grant management and monitoring systems. Alan Martin, Yardley Great Trust, Laura Cowley, Wolves Community Trust and Steven Simpson, Harborne Parish Lands Charity kick started the discussion on their respective trust’s approaches and shared their experience and thoughts about how they are developing their approaches to grant management and monitoring now and for the future.
There is a range of approaches by smaller trusts to seeking applications with some using no structured application form to others keeping a structured form as simple as possible. There is a move to have forms available electronically to be downloaded and filled in, with some being able to receive the form online, or scanned, with others preferring to receive the completed forms by post.
Interestingly, there was a varied approach to assessment of applications, with some trusts encouraging trustees to visit applicants on their own or with their paid clerk. Issues such as lone working policy and balancing the demands of voluntary trusteeship with their time availability were discussed.
To address the potential of being overwhelmed with applications, several smaller trusts instigate a pre-telephone assessment before providing an application form.
Several trusts provided grants to individuals as well as organisations. Issues about verifying the circumstances of applicants were raised and what could be considered as good practice in the depth of information required. Several members used referral agencies (such as health visitors, advice agencies, neighbourhood officers) only to receive individual applications, so that some level of verification on their background and circumstances could be provided. Those that gave to individuals had noticed a drop in requests over the last 2 years. Anecdotal evidence given was the lack of capacity in referral agencies to put forward applications.
Members had grappled with the pros and cons of transfering their grant management to an online client Relationship Management (CRM) system, but were concerned about the economics justified in taking such a step. Though there are off the shelf CRM systems available, most are for higher volume grant making activity, and some are not sufficiently flexible to be customised to the particular needs of individual trusts.
Monitoring of grants to organisations was varied. Some expected one report at the end of the grant life, while others required reports on progress to trigger scheduled instalments. Most members undertook the scheduling manually in diary form rather than using any online system. Measuring progress and outputs and outcomes by smaller trusts were based on the applicant providing what they intended to achieve with the funds provided.
Some members were looking at using impact assessment tools such as social return on investment, others were using outputs achieved and if the grant has been spent against the budget provided. Many found it difficult with limited capacity to consider impact and value of the grant given, though all charities are expected to state public benefit.
Below are some links to some publications on looking at how trusts and foundations approach and measure impact of their funding.