Research plays a crucial role in the development of new products, services, technology, and medicine. However, its scope is not just limited to the innovation and discovery of new products and services. It plays an equally important role in the operations of grant-making organisations, specifically when it comes to funding-related decisions.
Research is primarily undertaken to determine which factions of society need support and improvement. Majority of grant-making organisations that aim to make a long-lasting impact and are working towards solving the real, complex community problems rely on rich, high-quality research for their decision-making.
The vision, purpose, and focus of one grant-making organisation may differ from that of another; yet all grant-making organisations work towards a common goal: to support the community. When their efforts are backed by research, the process of deciding where to focus the grant programs becomes more straightforward.
What should grant makers research?
Grant seekers with the help of grantmakers take up a huge responsibility of solving the problems which exist in society; thus, it is critical all of the decisions taken during the grant-making process are well thought out.
Before we dive deep into how grantmakers can use research in grant-making, it will be worthwhile to identify the key areas to examine when conducting research.
It typically proves beneficial when grant makers conduct regular research into the issues existing within society and understand what the current needs of the society are. Have there been any major changes in the needs from the last time you extended support, or have they remained same? Does the issue need to be solved differently? Such type of information will help you review the process and guidelines and make any required changes around how the grant funding should be spent.
The people directly working within the community, such as the grantees, social workers, advocates, or social activists fighting for social change, should be considered primary sources of information when researching a grant program.
As such qualitative research conducted with these professionals will provide access to firsthand rich information, which would prove to be helpful when making decisions on how to best fix the problem grantors are trying to solve. Setting up an online forum or organising discussion sessions with such professionals would make it easier to gather all the insights valuable for decision making.
The nature of the problem
You may be highly enthusiastic about solving the problems which exist in society; however, it is not possible to address an issue accurately without having a meaningful understanding of all the components around why a particular problem exists. Information around the nature of the problem will give you a fresh perspective allowing you to solve the problem using new and improved ways. If your funding organisation’s focus is domestic violence, then the possible questions you may need to answer through your research include- What is the most common cause of domestic violence? Why do victims not report abuse? Does the abuse happen only in females or in males and other genders as well? How common is domestic violence?
Any shortcuts at this step may not produce the desired results and only lead to wastage of funds, time, staff efforts, and other resources.
Another important area worthy of attention is around the programs that currently exist in the society for addressing the issue your organisation is trying to solve. At this step grant makers can research if there are other organisations already present that are serving the purpose well? What needs to be improved about the available solutions? Have the problem-solving techniques become irrelevant or outdated?
It is recommended that grant-making organisations identify and research any existing gaps and barriers linked to the solution the organisation agrees upon. It is always best to anticipate and plan how to mitigate the hurdles than being stuck with it until it is resolved and putting a brake on the entire process.
Access to relevant data around some of the basic but essential areas, such as the ones listed above, will increase your likelihood of success, and allow you to achieve your desired results effectively.
How can grantmakers include research into program design?
To determine scope
Understandably, as a grant-making organisation you and your team undoubtedly have a lengthy list of issues you would like to resolve with the funding. However, it is important that you do not get too overwhelmed and try to solve multiple problems in a single go.
By working through the research elements mentioned above, you will ensure that you have taken the required time to determine what should exactly be your focus. You will have a clear understanding of what should be given top priority. When you have completed research, you are less likely to jump to conclusions. The research will help you deeply understand all aspects of the problem and ultimately choose the most effective solution.
To select the problem, you want to solve
This step requires grant-making organisations to finalise the community’s issue they want to address. Based on the urgency and analysis completed in the previous step, you should select the concern that tops your list and requires the utmost attention.
To collect information on the issue
Once your research has allowed you to determine the problem you would like to fix, refer to all the available sources of information you know about to find and collect data around the problem you are working towards. Some of the recommended sources of information grantmakers could rely on to educate themselves on the existing issues in the community include- information from social workers and activists, newspapers, reports published by government bodies or other organisations working towards increasing awareness related to social problems, and data from the local police department data around the issue you are working on.
To compare alternatives
Just like misidentifying the problem can result in a loss of time and resources for grant-making organisations, acting without testing and trial would produce no different results. It is suggested that before your design your grant program you investigate existing programs that are working to solve the same issue. This will help you understand how you can structure the program to have more impact.
Following these simple steps will, without a doubt, improve your grant-making journey and make it smoother and more effective than before.
Benefits of Research in Grantmaking
Now that you have gained a basic understanding of the role of research in grantmaking and the important steps involved in conducting the research let us look at some of the benefits of research in grant-making before you embark upon your research journey.
- Introduces you to new perspectives on the problem you are trying to solve.
- Assists in better decision-making.
- It helps you direct your efforts to maximise impact.
- It gives you the confidence to solve the problem.
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