A Skype Conversation Between Two Program Managers

Audrey Irvine-Broque

This month, we received over 110 Grow Grants and over 50 Young Leader Letters of Interest - our most grant requests in a single round ever. Our offices were bustling with calls, and Program Manager Laura Flagg and I spent a lot of time preparing for our participatory review process, which starts when our applications are submitted and will conclude this June after our in-person Grantmaking Committee retreat. In the name of transparency with our applicants, partners, and funders, we decided to take you “inside” the Grassroots Fund via a Skype conversation we had on the date that Grow grant applications were due:

Audrey, 10:54 AM

Okay. Hi! I'm going to start this conversation thing even though it feels kind of silly :) . How is your day going so far?

Laura, 10:56 AM

Haha good morning! Shockingly, it's been a slow morning. But the grants are starting to trickle in! How about you?

Audrey, 10:57 AM

I'm glad you've had a breather! We've been getting so many calls lol. I'm about to post our deadline reminder on social media. And I’m going to hop off in a bit to meet with my grantmaking planning committee.

Laura, 10:59 AM

Woot woot! Who ended up being on your planning committee? What are you all going to meet about today?

Audrey, 11:00 AM

I went with two young people working for organizations we know in VT and MA. One is a previous grantee working on affordable housing, and the other is training new farmers in Massachusetts. I’m really excited about both of them :)

Laura, 11:01 AM


Audrey, 11:03 AM

Yea! We need to schedule our joint planning committee call soon, too! Today I think I’m just passing over the decision about which of all our grant readers will make up our Grantmaking Committee to them. I told them to take into consideration regional and identity representation, but that’s it. And we decided to have an all 25 and under committee on our last call, which feels really good! I love decentralizing this part of our process to planning committee members.

For the sake of telling those who might not know what’s going on inside the Grassroots Fund this month - what is going to happen once all of the Grow applications are in today?

Laura, 11:10 AM

Once they're in, I'll be reviewing each one just to make sure everything has been answered and everything looks okay, and then we're going to start our reader process. We'll be providing a few training webinars for the readers, and once they sign a conflict of interest form we'll assign them ~10 grants each to read, review, and provide comments on.

Audrey, 11:46 AM

Woo! That took me a long time last week. Let me know if you want any help assigning applications on the back end :). Do we want to say anything about how we changed the application and rubric this year?

Laura, 11:51 AM

Sure! For this round, we realized that both the grant application and rubric weren't serving the applicant in the best way and that some of the questions were confusing and redundant because we were trying to fit both into our guiding values. So, we took a look at both and revamped the application and rubric, and used the guiding values as a "guide" (lol no pun intended), but not as headers or strict criteria. We're hoping that this cuts down on confusion for both the applicants and the readers. For applicants, we're hoping that they find the app more manageable, and for readers, we hope that they find the new rubric as helpful guidance for when they are reading and scoring. And for both, we're hoping that they find these edits to have created a more streamlined application and process!

Audrey 11:55 AM

Yeah, I really hope that it makes our reader’s jobs easier. But I'm already kind of blown away by how thoughtful my Letter of Interest reviewers have been - it makes me wonder how traditional philanthropy operates without this level of community input. Even though it's extra logistical work on our end.

Laura, 11:57 AM

Absolutely! It may be a little extra leg-work on our end, but we're getting a lot out of it as well. We're hearing different perspectives, finding different ways to look at the applications that come in, and in some cases have the voices of those that are directly in the community. I also have found that both the readers and applicants have gotten so much out of this process-- especially applicants that read for the round they are applying for! It really breaks down barriers for them so they can see and understand what happens once their application is submitted.

Audrey 12:00 PM

Agreed. I hope this blog post continues to help demystify the process for our applicants - and explain why we take so long getting back to them with a final decision. The whole participatory process takes time. And thank you for going along with my idea to create a blog post of our conversation.

Laura 12:03 PM

Of course! I’m excited to start the review process and as always, am looking forward to the Grantmaking Committee retreat, especially since we’ll be combining Young Leaders and Grow this year.

Audrey 12:05 PM

Yes! Same. Ok, I’m sure I’ll be skyping you again very soon :)