Introducing a Streamlined Grants Process
Impact Austin has a history of innovative grantmaking, responding to the evolving needs of the community and continuously improving the effectiveness of our grant processes. These values are more essential than ever, as we place deeper trust in our members, community partners and grant applicants, and seek to understand and remedy the power imbalances that exist between funders and nonprofits.
We all feel the weight of 2020: a global pandemic, economic downturn, and heightened activism surrounding the anti-racism and social justice movements. The disruption of the pandemic has caused Impact Austin to make swift and significant changes to grantmaking this year, adjusting our processes and channeling funds to more nonprofits than ever before. In parallel, Impact Austin is implementing a flexible year-round membership model, enabling us to rethink how and when we deliver grants.
We have reflected on the influence of these factors and listened to our members and the community. With inspiration and optimism for the future, we are introducing the following changes to grants in 2021, while preserving the ethical and rigorous grantmaking standards that have been Impact Austin’s hallmark throughout our history.
Applicants can request funding for programs, capacity building initiatives, or both (in one application), in four focus areas: Community, Education, Equity, and Health & Well-Being. We are integrating the strengths of our Program, Catalyst and Social Innovation Grants into a single, streamlined application process. This offers more agility and consistency for nonprofits to apply Impact Austin funds where they are needed most.
We will balance grantmaking cycles in the spring and fall, funding two focus areas per cycle. This enables members to be involved in grantmaking year-round, and delivers a steady flow of funds into the community.
All categories will support applications from single organizations or collaborative groups of organizations. The Social Innovation Grant required organizations to collaborate, and many Program grants involved partnerships, amplifying the impact of multiple entities joining forces around a common goal. We are adapting our common grant application to support collaboratives in all focus areas, led by an eligible submitting organization, as well as continuing to accept submissions from single organizations.
We will double the number of Community Partners receiving grants. In spring 2020, we decided to award grants to all finalists to meet urgent community needs. In 2021, for each focus area, 80% of the grant amount will be awarded to the finalist who receives the most member votes, to fund the proposed initiative over one or two years; 20% of the grant amount will be awarded to the other finalist as an unrestricted grant. All budgets include a 20% allocation of unrestricted funds.
All grants will share common eligibility criteria, simplified applications and streamlined review and reporting processes. These changes will benefit applicants, community partners, grant review committee members, and the volunteers who manage our grantmaking systems.
We are applying a broader equity lens to grantmaking. We are examining our applications and evaluation criteria to address bias. We are adding a prompt for applicants to describe how they embody equity, diversity and inclusion in their work, and how this is reflected in their staff and board. We are training grant review committee members on unconscious bias and anti-racism, and adopting equity principles that we piloted through the Social Innovation Grant.
Girls Giving Grants (g3) is also simplifying its application and reporting, while maintaining a focus on programs that improve the lives of youth in the community. It will continue to operate on the school-year cycle, launching in October 2020 with an award in spring 2021.
To learn more about Impact Austin 2021 grants, visit www.impactaustin.org/grantmaking. Check the calendar for key dates, and review the Grant Application Guidelines for details on how to apply.
To see how you can experience grantmaking as an Impact Austin member, visit www.impactaustin.org/grc.