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Would YOU fund this organization?

A few years ago, when I was working with a foundation that gives grants to organizations working with children and families affected by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, I received the following report, exactly as it appears below, from a Zimbabwean grantee. (I have however removed any identifiers.)

In determining whether to give them a second small grant, aside from the original proposal and financial report, this was all I had to go on. They had not received a site visit from our organization and one was not soon anticipated.

I ask you to ponder only one question as you peruse the brief report for yourself—would you fund them again?

Let me know why or why not in the comments section or by tweeting @intldogooder #wouldyoufund. A synopsis of the foundation’s funding guidelines for renewal grants is included in the text box. (Click here if it’s not totally visible.)

Spoiler alert! You won’t find out whether I decided to fund them or not until my next post.

***

INTRODUCTION

Organization X is a registered Community based Organization that seeks to address the problem of HIV and AIDS in the X Community of X District. Through community participation, Organization X has managed to carry out the following programs by December.

PLANNED PROGRAMS FOR OPHAN AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN

Purchasing of Nutrition aid

Maintenance of OVCs [orphans and vulnerable children] homes

Home visits

Basic counseling

Synopsis of the foundation’s funding guidelines

Payment of school fees

Medication assistance

Material support

Skills training

ACHIEVEMENT OF PLANNED ACTIVITIES

Nutrition Aid

Nutrition aid that included mealie meal [corn/maize meal] and Kapenta [dried fish] was purchased and distributed to 130 OVCs. Caregivers for the OVC worked tirelessly to facilitate the distribution. The challenges to this program included transport since the activity was done during rain season and some areas were note easy to access because of poor roads. The food was useful to the children since the area is drought prone.

Maintenance of OVC Homes

Two child headed families were provided with shelter as two roomed flat houses were constructed. The building material such as bricks were provided by the community We had a challenge of shortage of thatching house [roofing material] so we decided to build two roomed for two child headed families.

Payment of school fees

Organization X paid school fees for 117 Orphan and Vulnerable Children. The number of children who need school fees keeps on increasing as most families were not open in fear of stigma and discrimination.

Material support

Blankets were purchased and distributed to 89 Orphan and Vulnerable Children and it was well timed as Zimbabwe had an extended winter season.

Skills Training

Five Orphan and vulnerable children were trained in basic hairdressing and were supplied with chemicals for starting income generating projects business in home hair dressing. They are doing fine as we continue monitor the activities.

Activities carried out by Organization X have much impact to the life of children because we managed to train children in basic skills in hairdressing and are doing their income generating activities and more children are indeed requesting for more programs of the same nature.

PROJECT STAFF

One Project officer by the name of X was recruited in order to meet the demand of the programs. The organization still has its Programs coordinator, Consultant, Finance and administration officer, three field officers and a community mobilizer.

CHALLENGES TO THE PROJECT

Transport

The roads in the area are so bad especially when it is during the rain season. Fuel shortage and inadequate transport has hindered implementation of activities.

Gender imbalance

The number of male OVCs is low when it comes to skills training, as most males prefer going to work in South Africa as illegal migrant.

If we were to conduct activities like skills training what we are going to do differently is to try and come out with packages that will attract more males counterpart to some of these activities. Exchange visits to other partners are to be done and support the income-generating activities by issuing starter grants and monitor them. Uniforms are to be issued in order for children to attend lessons being smart.

In future Organization X will try to make sure that more Orphans and Vulnerable Children receive skills training so that they start income generating activities projects that are sustainable, that is carpentry, wielding and building.

FUTURE PLANS

Maintenance of eight OVC homes

Provision of nutrition aid

Payment of school fees up to University level

Camping

Medical support

FEEDBACK FOR DONOR

The awards process is generally very fare and communication between the two organizations is quite good. Besides financial support for OVCs program, Donor X can help strengthen Organization X’s capacity by providing things like learning materials for children, office equipment and information on other researches from other organization. The information will add greater value to Organization X OVC activities.

BENEFICIARY PROFILE
Person X were provided with a flat roomed house.

CONCLUSION

Some of our activities are to carry to the next financial support since it is a continuos program. The economic situation has a negative impact to our projects, which forced us to carry forward activities since the inflation rate is ever increasingly.

***

So…tell me, would YOU fund them again?

Share what you would do if you were the grantmaker in the comments section or by tweeting @intldogooder #wouldyoufund. I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Stay tuned to how-matters.org to see what happened…

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24 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    From @cowzmilker on Twitter: I would request that Org X more clearly identify their overarching vision of a solution to the problem of OVC in work area.

  2. Andrea J. Rogers #
    2

    Hi Jennifer, my short answer is yes, I would have funded them. I did support small CBOS in Zimbabwe doing this kind of work. I might have funded 1/2 the grant and waited for a mini-report to release the 2nd disbursement. I liked that they were conscious about gender balance and livelihoods training.
    Look forward to your update post.
    Best, AJR

  3. 3

    Aisha Desince left a comment on LinkedIn: It is a call that depends on the donor, I would fund any organization that has shown progress, and speaks to my heart, if my spirit tells me that its a where my dollars should go then by all means I will but I am not a big corporate donor just a human with a heart of helping the poor, ill and underprivileged.

  4. 4

    I’m not sure I could fund again, given the lack of figures in this report. We have policies around these things, though, so we would be ensuring that the correct information was getting back to us, and that a field visit had happened (all our partners are visited at least once every 2 years).

    But I’m in communications, not development, so my opinion is mostly that of an informed layperson rather than a professional :)

  5. 5

    Great idea for a post! I often have a challenge discerning which orgs to encourage to apply. Spirit in Action’s microgrants are usually less than the budget that’s being proposed for the project – how can we fund part of a project and still ensure its success? If they cut down the project to match our $500-$3000 grant will it still be a complete project? I look forward to similar discussions in the future!

  6. 6

    On Twitter @erinantcliffe says: don’t know much about funding decisions. Is it supposed to be relief or dev’t? Do you have their budget? Accounted for it?

    And from @tsoceallaigh: Not without a clear timetable of what to expect at different stages. Maybe a small grant and then review.

  7. 7

    I have some questions for you: How much did they receive? What’s the “bang to buck” ratio? How much do they want? How do you work with the local NGOs with minimal grants/administration experience to provide reporting that is clear and meaningful? When a group absent that experience is providing what appears a meritorious program benefitting an underserved population, what other tools and techniques are available to the donor beyond a site visit? How important is building self-sustaining programs and local capacity to the donor’s grantmaking strategy?

  8. Bonnie Maxey #
    8

    My impression is yes. I like the school support component, trade training, nutrition component and understanding of gender imbalance. I wonder about the housing. Important to have the right materials for region. Ex: n N Mexico some short term teams construct houses that r nice, but not sturdy for winds, hurricane, floods.
    And the medical piece? Did I miss it?

  9. Sipiwe Kachidza Mapfumo #
    9

    I would fund this organization again. It is small project but I see alot of potential in it.
    1.Most importasnt is that it is giving these young kids an opportunity to develop a business entreneaurship and ways of sustaining thier lives.
    2. It will help more who would otherwise shy away from fear of stigmatization to come forward and get the assistance to make them financiallly independent by being self employed.

    I am aware of the problems faced by many child headed families and this is a fantastic way to get involved. School fees is a perpetual challenge to many families and worse to those with no adults around and making resources available for the kids to go to school is excellent. I certainly will support more funding for this organization.

  10. 10

    On Twitter @SevincRende says: Would fund-small scale only for 2nd round but ask: income generation schemes redux, coverage info, not number of beneficiaries & outcome monitoring, not output.

    @Cynan_sez: If you decide based purely on one final narrative submission, you’re not being a good donor/partner. Show me their preliminary assessmt, proposal, final financial report, MOU, at a minimum. Expectations key.

    @txtpablo: only partially or small scale, need to have more information (figures), and ask for an external #evaluation

    @viewfromthecave: If I had to make a decision on #wouldyoufund I would go with no. Need more information, seems like a basic proposal to me.

    @hadjibeye: Yes I would fund this organization, they seem to have elaborated on their operations.

    @EvasEdibles: Need numbers, metrics, etc.

    @georgedarroch: As HIV/AIDS or health donor, no. Orphans, displaced persons, I’d ask for more clarity on spending. Poverty, no.

    @davidweek: Not on the basis of the funder’s critera. But I’m in dev. This is charity, not dev. It looks like good charity.

    @LiviuCaliman: I’d be inclined to say yes as they seem to be doing a good work. I’d ask for a more precise report first, then arrange for a site visit.

    @emilytroutman: As a journalist, I can say, I wouldn’t write about it. 6 employees. How many int’l? To feed 130 kids? 5 kids taught to do hairdressing? That’s not a program, that’s a fluke. Monitoring? “They’re doing fine.” One of the org’s big contributions is paying school fees. That shouldn’t require full-time, in-country staff.

    @wanjirukr: Yes. I would fund and then prioritize a site visit as well as sending the requested research materials

    @dejand & @mbadnjar: surprised at a number of formal objections in the comments on the post…

  11. 11

    I can’t tell from what is written whether this organization demonstrates any of the funder’s criteria as outlined in the funding guidelines. I would re-evaluate what questions I am asking the organization to make sure the questions match my criteria. And then would go back to the organization and ask them to resubmit answers. Then perhaps it would be a lot easier to decide whether to continue funding them.

  12. Tom Grubisich #
    12

    Sometimes monitoring & evaluation can be carried to extremes. In this case, though, where there is prescribed technical training (i.e. hairdressing), I think the grantee seeking more funding should provide results more specific than “they [OVC children] are doing fine as we continue monitor the activities.”

    Too often the language about results is imprecise when there should be some degree of quantification.

    If the program helped develop value-based capacity — which can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a spreadsheet — there are ways to describe these results as well, and with a degree of precision that doesn’t require decimal points.

    If I were the grantor, I would ask the grantee to provide what’s missing. Maybe the issue is communication of the results, not the results themselves.

  13. 13

    I wouldn’t definitively rule them in or out, not in because not sufficient data of course, not out because working off submission quality alone would probably disadvantage local orgs who aren’t adept at this stuff and I don’t know the general quality of such in Zimbabwe. In PNG I would expect better from a local org that is serious about getting donor funding.

    One critical variable that makes me waver is how does it compare with the extent that other applications meet your requirements. You have to make a relative choice not an absolute one, yeah?

    As a program the thing I am most doubtful if is its fragmented nature, better to do fewer things well, and develop skills in those things, than attempt a whole lot of things – I note no results for basic counselling and medical assistance.

  14. 14

    I wouldn’t be in a position to make a decision without some idea of the size of grant being reported against here, as I have no clear idea of how much was invested against the listed outcomes.

    The org I work for has clear guidelines around what is required for a funding submission, and without the supporting documentation (budget, outline, reference to assessment data, etc.) this wouldn’t get funded. That’s not the same as saying that this proposal or the work done is any worse for not having these documents attached, only that it wouldn’t pass administrative muster. We all understand that more admin processes lead not to better development outcomes, only to box-ticking bureaucracies.

    I wish that all development projects were funded based exclusively on the nexus of need and the ability of the proposed project to meet them. We know this isn’t the case. See Cynan’s and J’s latest posts for a discussion around complexity, simplicity and development outcomes.

    On the basis of demonstrated past impact and proposed activities (including a lack of clear critical analysis of needs or of how the activities will impact on that context in anything other than a superficial manner) I wouldn’t feel that comfortable funding this proposal- but this is a cursory-glance of a document, and perhaps if I had seen the field work, understood the organization, and could attest to bang-for-buck, my opinion would change.

    JKL: @morealtitude included on twitter: Agreed limited exposure to donor systems/expectations a huge disadvantage for local CBOs with good ideas.

  15. Victoria Luckie #
    15

    Not on the basis of this document, as it does not fit any of your criteria. Would re-send criteria and ask for proof of how they meet each point including budgets / accounts / details of community involvement etc. Also if needed talk them through some examples of how to do this / ask some specific questions in simpler language to help them achieve this.

  16. Louise #
    16

    Interesting question. I’d have concerns about the level of staffing compared to the scale of the projects, it seems to me there’s a lot of staff but a small programme. Some of the activities are one-offs rather than ongoing which also means less work in terms of monitoring. There is no mention of the counselling element of the programme which would have provided a stronger thread to link up the education, training, housing, schooling etc. It’s also not a priority in the future plans section.
    Would i fund it? I don’t think so, the report has a haphazard feel with very unspecific terms of reference. I’m wary although I feel there is some value to their activities.

  17. 17

    @InnovateAfrica: Would need more info before deciding: background on funding relationship, objectives, etc. Suggest follow-up phone call with grantee to tease out more information.

    Denise on LinkedIn shares: The organisation may be undertaking important work however their report does not indicate that it is being undertaken in a manner consistent with your program guidelines. Some capacity development may assist them to better understand what your organisation is interested in. Some examples:

    Friends of the United Nations The Green Tree Project. The program encompasses reforestation programs, community development and economic empowerment through implementation of micro enterprise opportunities.
    see: http://www.thegreentreeproject.org/

    Here are some youtube links to the work of The Lambi Fund who are partners in the project in Haiti:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GqKo8hgkWY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Uk_7QcQgM&feature=channel
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUIizPh1cFs&feature=channel

  18. Jamie Newton #
    18

    I think that Jane (post #11) has answered the question. The applicant has not given enough information to provide a basis for the decision. How well did they account for expenditure from the previous grant? How do they propose to account for this one, where is their budget, is the budget breakdown realistic? What is the objective of their intervention? Apart from a small training component (hairdressing) what was the impact of the intervention (at the end of funding). Sustainability? Participation? Ownership?
    This is described as part of a continuous programme. What is the exit strategy?
    Who built the shelters – this is a potential skills development activity. Are school uniforms really a priority?
    For me the proposal is too weak, I would say no.

  19. 19

    This was a very interesting report. I think one area as a funder that I would consider seriously in the next grant would be report writing training for the staff. Certainly funding for second round would be appreciated but I would get an organization/partner working in Zimbabwe to visit the program to assess progress made against submitted report just to be sure these activities have been carried out. I am a bit worried about their staffing levels though, I think they may be paying some hangers on… To me there is no clear sustainability plan for current and future activities. it seems like all the activities are being implemented in firefighting mode. Lets have a clear plan first and also a budget report before discussing second round funding.

  20. 20

    I don’t really want to comment on the actual question, but rather on this interesting process that Jennifer has introduced: How useful is ‘crowdsourcing’ such reports in getting better decision-making? On the one hand, it gives many/most of us a good feeling of how a poor, overworked desk officer must feel who is responsible for 27 such projects and gets ask the same question by their boss. Even if some organisations to exchange information informally, it seems like an interesting approach, the beginning of an Intranet-Wikileaks-type of service where donors upload documents and the aid community in the respective country has access to it and can comment on it. Interesting initiative re ‘aid transparency’. The only problem I see is that in this current example the audience is very self-selective…bloggers, twitterers, Jennifer’s friends. This may make it difficult to include other ‘stakeholders’ and potentially critical voices. But interesting idea with potential!

  21. 21

    first thing we find incredibly useful and valuable in this excellent and thought-provoking post, jennifer, are the comments and feedback. You’ve created a portal which provides rare access and insight into the minds of grant decision makers. Wow. This is revelatory. Can’t believe the dependence on numbers! Metrics! Numbers lie and can be manipulated! Monitoring & Evaluation is among the most difficult aspects of “development” even for the best of the best. We’re here (hear) to tell you there’s more than quantifiables and quantitatives… that’s not to say we’d fund, we need to do more due diligence before we can make an informed decision. We are however an animal that we do not see represented, defined or accounted for within your kingdom or paradigm (see If NGOs Were Animals You Would Be please add at will ) http://ht.ly/41MWG

    The BARKA Foundation is a UN-affiliated NGO which just received PVO status from USAID. 501c3, audited annual financials, the whole 9. BARKA is also an all-volunteer CBO registered in Burkina Faso… a voice for the indigenous rural communities of Burkina Faso who are unable to play this game. What do we have to share to this dialogue? New models are needed- innovation in community-led development- empowerment from the ground up, and new thinking and linguistics in our philanthropy and giving models. See HBR’s Dan Paolotta’s recent blog “Stop Giving Donors What They Want http://ht.ly/40mM6
    We need new ways to measure sustainability and long-term impact. See Ned Beslin @breslin Rethinking Hydrophilanthropy http://www.waterforpeople.org/assets/pdfs/rethinking-hydrophilantropy.pdf

    There’s so much here (HEAR) Jennifer- will take us weeks to process and understand. This language (of the industry) is arcane. From our vantage point as a small NGO working in what USAID refers to as a “low-priority” country (despite having the greatest need), as “outsiders” to this system who are not Ph.D’s, engineers, development wonks or aid workers, quickly learning the insane and complex lexicon of 21st Century international assistance, it’s very helpful. Have never before seen such a transparent window into the aid world before. This is a gift that will help create better understanding among all parties. Barka.
    ina & esu

  22. 22

    Dear Colleagues
    This report is not enough to make a responsible decision. IF the information is true, then it might be a YES, but if the information is merely window-dressing then the answer should be NO. Single source reporting is a problem in the NGO space and everywhere. A second and independent flow of information is essential. We are working on this in order to have a community feed as well as the direct NGO feed. This is a work-in-progress, but until there is something like this most fund flows will not produce the amount of benefit that should be achieved!
    Peter Burgess
    truevaluemetrics.org
    @truevaluemetric

  23. 23

    Hello! I’d question the amount of staff they needed for this work, but otherwise I think it seems pretty realistic. I don’t know how large the organisation’s grant was and what they’d set out to do, but I think over a year with bad roads, infra, communications etc it’s a decent achievement. Not brilliant, but it’s surprising how long things take when you have to source bricks from ‘the community’. Small-scale and not very ‘grass-rooted’ necessarily but I don’t think they’re taking the piss.
    I’ve had reports with less honesty and reflection from national-level orgs.

    On the ‘grant decisions through crowdsourcing’ angle: I don’t think most of our comments would be of much use to you since we don’t know your basics. We’re not going to get immersed in your organistaion’s mission, values, budget, other grants etc etc – I don’t even know whether you’re based in-country or at HQ and many of the comments seem to have thought that you quote an application, not a report. You might get some nuggets from a lot of trawling time.

  24. Tawanda Homba #
    24

    we would like to know how can apply for funding l,m working an organisation dealing with orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe called Family AIDS Caring Trust Masvingo.


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