GMMC Grant Culling

Last night, af­ter chow­ing down on some great Cambodian food from the West Side Market, the Neighborhood Connections Grant-Making and Monitoring Committee met again for the first round of grant pro­pos­al analy­sis. Our sub-group had 39 pro­pos­als sub­mit­ted and 24 slots to fill, and it took us about three hours to get through them all. I learned quite a bit about the kind of grants that tend to be a suc­cess and how to iden­ti­fy bud­get­ing prob­lems, which can tell you at a glance if peo­ple are try­ing to line their own pock­ets [2 peo­ple af­fil­i­at­ed with the group and $3k in “per­son­nel costs”, for ex­am­ple];

Many of the grant pro­pos­als were for new pro­grams that would pro­vide ser­vices that al­ready ex­ist and are freely open to any­one, many of which are even avail­able at lo­cal li­brary branch­es. Some were com­mu­ni­ty based but not neigh­bor­hood based, a sub­tle dis­tinc­tion, but an im­por­tant one as far as the Neighborhood Connections pro­gram is con­cerned. Some grant pro­pos­als were from 501 3©s or oth­er busi­ness­es re­quest­ing mon­ey for projects that should be a nor­mal part of their op­er­at­ing cap­i­tal, and a few seemed to be look­ing for ven­ture cap­i­tal.

And then there were the pro­pos­als with no fis­cal agency, let­ters of sup­port, or de­cent project de­scrip­tions…

Throughout the process of read­ing through these grant pro­pos­als I re­al­ized that what many of these grass­roots ad hoc groups need is a way to net­work with each oth­er. I won­der if this is a prob­lem for many vol­un­teer-based or­ga­ni­za­tions. If it is, I won­der how much more ef­fec­tive some of their ac­tions would be if small groups of like mind­ed peo­ple, like the 5 or 6 dif­fer­ent groups that sub­mit­ted near­ly iden­ti­cal grant pro­pos­als, were able to get to­geth­er on their own and reach a crit­i­cal mass that way. I think that Neighborhood Connections might be a good place to start that net­work­ing, since the like-mind­ed peo­ple come to us. I know it isn’t even close to be­ing a part of the mis­sion of the GMMC, but it seems like it would be an ap­pro­pri­ate ad­di­tion.

If you no­tice, I didn’t talk about the many ex­cel­lent pro­pos­als we re­ceived. And we re­ceived many. This is in­ten­tion­al. Since we’re in­ter­view­ing them, I need to hold off and have some­thing to write about in the fu­ture. The three-hour in­ter­view ses­sions start a week from to­day.