So now your application deadline has passed, you’ve received approximately 1,000 applications (give or take a few) for funding from so many great organizations. Once you weed out those that don’t align with your current funding priorities, how do you continue the review and funding recommendation process? With site visits, of course!
As a grantor, consider the following tips for your next round of site visits:
1. Give good notice.
You should give your potential grantees notice that you’d like to schedule a site visit with them, at least 2-3 weeks in advance. Better yet, include language in your grant application and/or website that all applicants may have a site visit conducted with your staff and/or funding board. This notice should also include any documents you wish to talk through with the organization, such as their Form 990, audited financial statements, budget, or program information. Letting organizations know what documents you’d like to discuss gives them a chance not only to ready those pieces but also to think through who should attend the visit to be able to answer questions.
2. This is not an opportunity to “trip up” your potential grantee.
Many working in the service-side of the sector fear site visits because of the looming questions they may not be able to answer on the spot. Ask fair questions given who is available: if the finance officer is present, you may ask a question or two about the most recent audit or something you found curious in the Form 990. If program staff are present (and hopefully they are), you may ask particular questions about how a program works or how clients are referred to the program.
3. Don’t terrify your tour guides.
This may seem like a given, but it's a good reminder- smile and be welcoming! Sharing stories of your own organization and experiences in the sector can help to lighten the mood. Give your applicants room to talk and share their impact- they’re excited to have you there! If there a certain areas or questions you want addressed within the time of the visit, let the agency know at the top of the meeting that you’ll need 10-15 minutes at the end to discuss. You could even share what those questions are via email before the visit so that the organization can prepare answers and any supporting documents for you.
4. Give positive feedback (and negative if it was just that bad).
Agencies want to know that they’re on track and doing well, and a major point of feedback comes from shareholders and funders. After the visit, consider a follow-up email to the Point-of-Contact with a few things you and your team really enjoyed through the tour. If there was a bad experience (like a rude staff person), gently note that as well so that the staff may address concerns for the future. This is also the space that you can let your applicant know when they can expect to have a funding decision, should you feel comfortable sharing that info. And remember- you can’t thank your applicants enough! They’re the boots-on-the-ground organizations that are carrying out the mission and priorities of funders like you!
Simply put, it all comes down to communication. Both parties want to do the most good in the world possible; give each other the chance to do just that!