Managing community funds

Assessment and selection

This is invariably the area of fund management which attracts the highest levels of controversy and potential criticism as it is most closely associated with the immediate effects on what and who receives funding within a community.

Your assessment process should examine the proposal with respect to your funding policy and fit with CDP, taking into consideration any criteria and priorities set and quantify their merit relative to these criteria.

Selection may consider other aspects such as availability of funds, relative merits of proposals in relation to funding policy priorities over and above individual proposal merits. To provide a clear and defensible process, it can be wise to keep the two aspects separately defined.

Pre-evaluation

Evaluation and selection of numerous, potentially complex projects can be a logistical challenge, especially if this is being done by a voluntary board as part of their normal business meetings. One way to aid the process is to include some aspect of pre-evaluation.

Examples of pre-evaluation include:

  • sending out summary applications to the decision making group for scoring prior to the award meeting
  • using an employee to prepare assessments to present to decision makers
  • using a separate Project Evaluation Group (PEG)
  • using external individuals or organisations

If your community has the volunteer capacity a PEG can provide additional advantages;

  • reduce the necessary business at board meetings
  • make more efficient use of volunteer resource
  • attract new individuals to your organisation
  • create wider confidence by providing a more independent process
  • reducing potential conflict of interests either for individuals or groups

As your fund management experience grows, you may prefer to develop a list of specialists to use when appropriate.

Using criteria

Assessment can be anything from an open discussion of the strength and merits of a proposal to a very prescriptive quantitative and qualitative scoring against every aim, objective and priority in your community development plans and funding policies. Usually an approach somewhere in between the two is found in practice, though this is shaped by the size of project under consideration. Regardless of the approach, it is recommended that it is fully documented.

As with the early screening process, assessing against criteria helps structure your assessment. As this exercise may need to be more than a yes/no option, you might consider using a sliding scale to assess how well the proposal meets the reference criteria defined in the CDP and Funding Policy.

Selection

Selection considers

  • priorities – what’s most important to your community and its identified needs
  • timescale – how the timing of the project relates to the fund cashflow
  • fairness – previous allocation of funds (are groups being over or under supported?)
  • availability of funds – more requests than available funds

Choosing not to fund an eligible project when funds are available may be viewed as particularly controversial. Though this action can be challenging to defend, it is a surprisingly common scenario:

  • you may feel there is no more capacity for work in this area at that time
  • you could be waiting to see the results of other previously planned work prior to assessing the requirement or relative merit of the new proposal or
  • you may be aware of an opportunity to fund key priority activity that is known to be occurring in the future or the potential need to fund key priority work that is contained in a proposal currently “in the pipeline”
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