Voluntary groups survey brings praise – but we will use responses to improve our service

Wide-ranging survey prompts useful advice on how to help groups

Voluntary groups survey brings praise – but we will use responses to improve our service

DORSET Community Foundation has been given a vote of confidence in a survey of dozens of groups it has funded in the last year.

But it has said it will use the responses to help it make its service and support for voluntary groups even better.

The community foundation, which has distributed more than £1.5 million in funding in 2020/21, wanted to make sure grants process was smooth, transparent and easy to use, said Director Grant Robson.

The majority of the responses from 71 groups across the county were more than 85 per cent positive, praising the community foundation’s website and guidance, dealings with staff, feedback and understanding of the organisations applying for grants.

Among the comments made about the community foundation were that it has good awareness of local issues and is present at local events, DCF staff respond quickly to queries and signpost to other funders, grant programme guidance is clear and length of application is about right, and that their feedback on grant applications is easy to understand and its recommendations helpful.

Mr Robson said: “It is very pleasing to hear that despite the busy year we have had distributing £1.2 million from our Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund, we have maintained our high standards of service. It’s also a great tribute to our staff and volunteers.”

He said the survey, which was sent to groups who had been unsuccessful in applications for funding as well as those who were, also brought out some constructive comments and suggestions on how its grant procedures can be streamlined and improved.

“We’ve been told that we might lack some awareness of new groups working in the region, that it can be difficult to see what grants we have available and that it would be helpful if our website told people about other funders in the county,” he said.

“We’ve also had some really useful suggestions about streamlining our grant forms.”

Survey results in detail

Areas where we did particularly well (85% or more responses as positive or very positive):

  • Website and programme guidance
  • Staff enquiries
  • Length and ease of application forms
  • Post application feedback & advice
  • Understanding of grantee organisations

Areas where we could do better (more than 30% of responses in these areas were neutral or negative):

  • Ease of End of Grant report forms
  • Impact on grantee organisation

Helpful written responses and suggestions

Common positive themes:

  • Awareness of DCF has grown in recent years and due to pandemic
  • DCF has good awareness of local issues and is present at local events
  • DCF staff very friendly and helpful, respond quickly to queries, signpost to other funders
  • Feedback easy to understand and recommendations helpful (e.g. reminders for policy reviews)
  • Website and Grant Alert emails are helpful
  • Application process is less complex than some funders and generally straightforward
  • Funding is invaluable – ‘couldn’t do it without you’ and comments on having a relationship with DCF

Common constructive comments & suggestions

  • Some lack of awareness of DCF, especially new groups
  • DCF should encourage joined up working between funders/commissioners and be a ‘voice for groups’
  • Difficult to see what grants are available from DCF
  • Would be helpful if website signposted other funders
  • One suggestion that there is a lack of funding for minority/marginalised communities
  • Application and End of Grant forms:
  • should be streamlined e.g. existing grantees have to repeat same information
  • should be more proportional to grant size available
  • should suit core funding applications as well as projects
  • questions in End of Grant form not always suited to grant received, feels ‘one size fits all’
  • Would like longer grant periods or more funding for long term goals and sustainability

Our actions

Immediate actions (within three months):

  • We will continue to work closely with DCA, CAN and BCP and Dorset Councils, to raise awareness of DCF funding programmes and especially those that support core costs and/or organisational development
  • We will continue to build relationships with other funders who may be willing to work with us
  • We will review grants guidance on our website, improving clarity on eligibility for each programme and when they will next open – and advising to sign up to Grant Alert so as not to miss any new programmes
  • We will improve application forms for future programme rounds, including proportionate length for size of grant available, only asking for the information we need and clarity on what information to provide whether a project or core cost application

Longer term actions (over the coming year):

  • Our Grants & Impact Committee have committed to focussing on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within DCF grant-making over the coming year, looking to improve how we distribute funding supporting minority/marginalised groups who experience inequality
  • We will introduce a signposting page to other local funders and sources of support
  • We will enquire if data of existing groups can ‘pull through’ to new applications
  • We will improve the End of Grant form including proportionate length and suitability of questions, and enable groups to select appropriate outcomes for reporting at application stage to improve the feeling of a ‘one size fits all’ system – this will take time as current grantees cannot be moved to a new system
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