Our local community foundation, Bozeman Area Community Foundation (BACF), is a Grant Lifecycle Manager (GLM) user. (Grant Lifecycle Manager is Foundant’s software product to help grantmakers move online.) This past March the BACF invited me to serve on their grants committee. This was my first experience as a GLM user in the “real world” although I have been selling GLM to grantmakers in the United States for 7+ years.
Little did I realize how rewarding and inspiring my experience as a grants committee member would be.
For the 2015 grant cycle, over sixty Montana nonprofits submitted grant application requests to be considered for one of twenty awards with the maximum dollar amount of $1,000 each.
As a grants committee member, I was assigned sixty grant applications to read, score and record my comments/opinions in the evaluation component of GLM. A few weeks later, the BACF grants committee – Bridget Wilkinson, BACF Executive Director and Amy McNamara, BACF Vice President – gathered for a face-to-face meeting to discuss and make recommendations for the twenty $1,000 grants. This recommendation list was then reviewed by the BACF Board at a separate meeting for final approval.
So, what inspired me?
At times, I will hear people comment negatively regarding money spent by community foundations that is not necessarily going directly to the community in which they donate. Complaints about waste, salaries too high for nonprofit employees, etc. are not uncommon. Community foundations are tasked with running their organizations with very limited budgets as well as awarding grants to the nonprofits that need the financial help to run their programs and projects to the betterment of the community in which they serve. For all grantmakers – including community foundations – it’s important to reward grants that align with the grantmaker’s guidelines, mission, vision, and goal.
What I witnessed in the grants committee meeting was extreme care, thoughtfulness, and consideration in choosing the final recommended grantees. Several of the sixty applications had a unanimous approval by the grants committee, but most applications were discussed and deliberated in detail.
- Does this nonprofit organization align with the BACF guidelines? Did the applicant answer the application questions clearly? Do they have the resources to make their program/project successful?
- Does the project’s geography, focus, and/or deliverables fit with the BACF’s mission to enhance the present and future quality of life and natural resources in the Bozeman community?
- Will this project or program have a meaningful impact on the community it is aiming to serve? Does the organization have the staff, resources, capacity and/or standing to deliver on this project successfully?
- Will a grant from BACF have a significant impact on the project?
Please know, I do not have extensive experience as a grants committee person, but I can state with certainty every penny of the money awarded by the Bozeman Area Community Foundation for 2015 was very carefully, conscientiously and thoroughly vetted for the appropriate nonprofit organization.
In closing, please give generously to your local community foundations, United Ways, and other public charities. Be confident in knowing the good work these organizations do with your donated funds is handled with great care and attention.
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