Offering feedback would cost too much, say funders

Reluctance to add to administration costs is said to be main reason for lack of response to enquiries

Some grant-making foundations might have to reduce the amount of money they distributed if they were to give better feedback to funding applicants, the Association of Charitable Foundations has warned.

Research released last month by the Directory of Social Change showed that about a third of fundraising applications were ineligible (Third Sector Online, 5 May). Fundraisers subsequently accused funders of failing to provide adequate feedback to applicants (Letters, 25 May).

David Emerson, chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, said last week that he
understood that many charities felt disgruntled at the lack of engagement from funders. But he said that a reluctance to add to administration costs was the primary reason for foundations failing to respond to enquiries from fundraisers.

"Trustees of foundations are very concerned about administration costs and don't want to do anything to add to them," said Emerson. "They might feel that sending out feedback letters would mean that they would have less money to spend on grants."

He also said moves towards online applications for grants were helping to reduce the number of ineligible applications. "There are some sites where applicants are turfed out if they are applying for something that is not relevant," he said. "So there can't be any ineligible applications."

Jay Kennedy, head of policy at the Directory of Social Change, said fundraisers were often "shooting in the dark" because grant-makers did not provide clear criteria. This was compounded by an unwillingness to clarify eligibility as well as a lack of feedback, he said.

Kennedy said the DSC was keen to talk to funders about their experiences. "It's about fundraisers behaving responsibly - doing their research and targeting proposals - but also about funders thinking about and trying to improve their practices," he said.

Ian Savage, partnerships officer at mental health charity Our Celebration, said: "The biggest issue I face is a lack of information to make a judgement on whether to submit an application or not. Although the
biggest trusts are generally good at explaining their funding criteria, there are thousands of small organisations that seem either unwilling or unable to share that information."

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