Grants:IdeaLab/Reimagining WMF grants/Outcomes

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Reimagining WMF grants

Outcomes

Summary[edit]

Great idea to help make it much clearer for those that have great ideas or ambitions to have the opportunity to more easily apply for funding to fulfill those ambitions.
Use of time and resource - how much time and resource would a user have to commit to get a grant filed and approved? As low as possible, ideally.

From August 17 to September 7, 2015, Community Resources held a consultation about an idea for reimagining WMF grants. Based on what we heard from over 200 people during this consultation, WMF plans to move forward with a grants restructure, with the following modifications:

  1. Offer Conference Support and Travel Support instead of the broad "Events" concept. We'll continue to offer the current Travel and Participation Support program together with Wikimania Scholarships, and add Conference Support to provide targeted resources for conference organizers. Project Grants will continue to fund other offline activities, which may include events other than conferences.
  2. Meet the need for speed, simplicity, and flexibility with low-risk, low-cost Rapid Grants. We're developing the microfunds concept into Rapid Grants, which will offer quick funding decisions for requests or experiments that don't need extensive community deliberation. Rapid Grants will be offered throughout the year, to allow for more flexibility.
  3. Keep Project Grants simple. Project Grants will keep the idea of a pipeline for scaling experiments into programs, but we'll make sure applicants don't have to distinguish project stages themselves. Applications will be accepted quarterly, but we'll keep other program requirements flexible and make a simple process for renewals.
  4. Pilot Simple Process Annual Plan Grants, with more flexible support. We will pilot the simple process for Annual Plan Grants without a staffing limit, and make a process for requesting increases up to the funding limit throughout the year.
  5. Focus on support. As we implement changes, we will focus on increasing support specifically for applicants. We will focus on improving the resources respondents have identified as high priority: connections to others, online resources in general, and budget guidelines. We plan to target support for grantees to specific needs and topics.

Key findings[edit]

  • Priorities. Respondents overall prioritize achieving impact and simplicity and speed in the application process as even more important than community participation. Respondents' priorities also align well with the design principles outlined in the original idea of clear pathways, impact, and simplicity. (see Aspects of the grants process)
  • Support. Non-monetary support is important to respondents, and so is receiving the right kind of support. Connections, budget guidelines, and online resources are seen as most important, and the need for more targeted support is also emphasized. Respondents also described the need for better support during the application process and better tools and support for committees who are making decisions. Finally, collecting global metrics is a difficult part of the process that needs more support. (see Resources and information and Aspects of the grants process)
  • Endorsements and strengths. Overall, many respondents endorse the idea, and like the new funding types and the ways funding could be used. For example, participants already like the way travel support works, like the idea of a simple process for annual plan grants, and liked the idea of a pipeline for experimenting and growing projects. Many respondents find the distinctions among grant types easy to understand and some think the process could reduce the time and work required. (see Strengths and concerns)
  • Concerns and suggestions. Despite many overall endorsements, most respondents express both big and small concerns about the new structure, or have suggestions about how the idea could be improved. For some respondents, distinctions among grant types are not yet clear enough (e.g. seed vs. growth, projects vs. events, microfunds, research). Some are concerned that volunteers might spend too much time learning about the new structure. Some worry that rigid application cycles may not give volunteers enough flexibility to pursue opportunities throughout the year or when limited planning is required, and that limits on staff or funding could make some grant types less effective. (see Strengths and concerns and Suggestions)

Next steps / implementation[edit]

Grants structure[edit]

Based on the feedback summarized below, we'll move forward with a new structure for grants as follows:

  1. Rapid Grants. To provide quick support for opportunities throughout the year. Up to $2000 for low-risk experiments and standard needs (meetups, etc) that don't need broad review to get started.
  2. Project Grants. To promote experiments and sustain ideas that work. Up to $100,000 for 12 months. There will be different guidelines and support systems for experiments and established projects, but one application process.
  3. Annual Plan Grants. To support organizations in developing and sustaining effective programs. Up to $100,000 for 12 months through a simple process, and full process for larger or unrestricted grants.
  4. Conference and Travel Support. To support organizers and travelers attending conferences. Travel, kits and guidance, funds and merchandise, to foster community connections and learning.

Reimagining WMF Grants - GrantsDiagram.png

Emphasis on support[edit]

To implement changes, we will first focus on the following priorities:

  • Applicant support: Supporting applicants with easier forms, instructions, interfaces, and human interactions during the application process.
  • Grantee support: Non-monetary support, including improving online resources targeted to specific topics and activities, and budget guidelines.
  • Global metrics support, simplifying reporting, and better tools and support for committees to make decisions will also be key focuses in implementation.

Timeline[edit]

We know that it is important to minimize disruption to communities and grantees as we implement changes, so we'll start by piloting new approaches in some areas while maintaining existing systems in the other areas. Eventually, we will move all grants over to the new structure. Most changes won't be noticeable until later in 2016.

Timeline for changes to WMF grants
1 October 2015 Open applications for Simple Process Annual Plan Grants pilot (applications due 1 November for grants starting 1 January)*
March 2016 Preliminary evaluation of Simple Process Annual Plan Grants based on first application phase
March - June 2016 Finalize changes to Full Process Annual Plan Grants based on simple process pilot and consultation feedback.
July 2016 Implement changes to Full Process Annual Plan Grants for round 1 2016/2017 applicants
July-September 2016 Transition Individual Engagement Grants + Project and Event Grants to Project Grants and Rapid Grants
March 2017 Evaluate Simple Process Annual Plan Grants pilot with data from first round of grant reports.
* Applications can be made on a rolling basis throughout the 2016 pilot.

Methods[edit]

We gathered feedback from respondents through three channels:

  1. IdeaLab. 34 people shared their thoughts on the Idea discussion page, and through endorsements on the idea page.
  2. Survey. 198 people shared their thoughts in a survey that included multiple choice questions as well as open ended questions about the Idea.
  3. Conversations. 13 people sent us thoughts by email or voice.

Pie chart summarizing the manner of response to the Reimagining WMF grants idea in particular (n=118).
Having multiple channels for this consultation, including alternatives to a public discussion page, was very useful. The survey allowed us to gather qualitative feedback from a diverse range of contributors, including participants from emerging communities. The survey also allowed us to collect specific information about how respondents prioritize or experience different aspects of the grants process, and may allow us to compare responses over time. We also performed a historical analysis to understand how a new program structure would have affected grants awarded in WMF fiscal year 2013-14. This new structure was applied to all grants programs, except the Annual Plan Grants program (i.e. Project and Event Grants, Individual Engagement Grants, Travel and Participation Support, and Wikimania Scholarships). The final results from this historical analysis are summarized as part of the Non-APG Grants Impact Analysis for Fiscal Year 2013-14.

Feedback about the idea[edit]

Overall, the idea received many more overall endorsements than overall rejections. We found about 40 general endorsements and 6 general rejections, but many people who endorsed the idea overall also had concerns about the idea and suggestions to offer.

  • Respondents identify about an equal number of specific strengths and concerns about the idea, and often disagree on key issues. We identified about 142 specific strengths, and about 139 specific concerns.
  • Respondents offer more than 100 suggestions about how to improve grants or improve the idea.
  • See our description of our methods to better understand the numbers in this section.

Strengths and concerns[edit]

It is important to us to look at what specific strengths and concerns about the idea were identified. We identified some of the most frequently mentioned strengths and concerns, which are summarized in this table below.

Strengths Concerns
The distinctions between grant types and options make things more clear. We found this strength about 41 times.
In general I find that the three groups of grants have names which correspond to the kind of supports the community/affiliates are seeking.

The distinctions between grant types and options are not clear. We found this concern identified about 30 times.
Branding in this proposal is "three types of grants", but the kinds of projects including in those three categories do not naturally go together, and the kinds of funding offers in each of these categories are not intuitive.

The process will be simpler. This will make things easier for applicants and grantees. We found this strength about 39 times.
The new process separates out the more complex grants seeking restricted annual grants from the less complicated project and event type grants.
Too much time and work required will be required from volunteers to learn this idea. We found this concern identified about 31 times.
While I like the grant types and differentiation, I think that it is an inefficient use of community volunteer time to learn about these different grants.

We like the types of funding offered and the ways funding can be used. We found this strength about 29 times.
Now has an option for small level grants for low-cost events and projects, rather than having to go through the full process for very small amounts of money.
We are not satisfied with the types of funding offered and the ways funding can be used. We found this concern identified about 20 times.
The new structure doesn't address, or worse, might make things tough for an organization in transition [such as from] 1 FTE to more employees.

We also identified some strengths and concerns that were less frequent, but still came up quite often. Concerns include complexity, inflexibility, concerns that the idea would not appropriately address risk. Some other strengths include around how the idea emphasizes impact, and how the idea would save volunteers time and work.

Suggestions[edit]

We received almost 100 specific suggestions about how to improve this idea or the grants experience in general! We've tried to group and summarize them here.

Needs[edit]

We tracked what respondents are saying about what they need, both to make grants better and to do their work on the Wikimedia projects. This is an important area to track as we move forward with implementing changes. We read about 21 comments about specific needs.

Alternative structures[edit]

A number of respondents identify alternative structures to the idea originally proposed. We received about 14 suggestions for alternative structures, which are summarized here.

Feedback about the grants experience[edit]

Overall survey findings show...

  • 55% rank the grants experience as above average or excellent.
    • Travel and Participation Support receives the highest satisfaction ratings overall, with about 63% of respondents describing their overall experience as above average or excellent.
    • People with experience with Annual Plan Grants are least satisfied, with only about 38% describing their experience as above average or excellent.
  • 51% of respondents find the grants process to be easy, while 23% found it difficult.
    • Easiest aspect of the process: Doing the paperwork to get funds once the grant is approved.
    • Most difficult aspect of the process: Making an application and collecting global metrics for a grant report.
  • Achieving impact, and speed and simplicity in the application process, are ranked as the highest priorities. These priorities are ranked more highly than community participation.
  • Connections to others, financial guidelines, and online program resources are ranked as the most important forms of non-monetary support, and satisfaction ratings indicate there's room to improve in meeting these needs.

Satisfaction[edit]

  • Across all programs, 55% of respondents describe their experience as above average or excellent, while 21% described their experience as below average or very poor. It is important to note that survey respondents included people whose grant applications did not receive funding.
  • Travel and Participation Support is working well. In line with our qualitative findings about the idea, survey respondents rank their satisfaction with the Travel and Participation Support program as above average (31.5%) or excellent (31.5%). Travel and Participation Support received the highest satisfaction ratings overall, with about 63% of respondents describing their overall experience as above average or excellent.
  • People with experience with Annual Plan Grants are less satisfied, with only about 38% describing their experience as above average or excellent. 36% described their experience as average, and 26% described their experience as below average or very poor.

Pie chart showing overall satisfaction with the grants experience.

Respondents are able to get the information they need about grants, but need more timely and useful feedback about grant proposals and reports. Reimagining WMF Grants - GrantsFeedback.png

Aspects of the grants process[edit]

Resources and information[edit]

Importance of general support funding[edit]

Got more feedback?[edit]

Let's keep the conversation going! Please share your thoughts about either this report or next steps & implementation on the discussion page.