Philippa Wilkinson, Learning Officer at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
We commissioned nfpResearch to find out about people's experiences of working with us and what changes we might need to make. In 2022, we shared the full report and our initial reflections on the findings.
Since then, we have taken a number of actions to respond to the recommendations and feedback that came out of the research. Below is a brief summary of the key changes we've made so far and what else we're planning to do.
1. Be clearer about the expression of interest (EOI) format, or reconsider its format.
Recommendation: Tell applicants what happens to the information they provide in their EOI submission and how they are being assessed. Be more transparent about the assessment process and criteria for choosing organisations to fund. Consider offering a more flexible approach to the space provided for applicants to express themselves in.
- We updated our expression of interest form, increasing the word count from 200 words to 300 words. We will be making a further update at the end of June.
- Revised our guidance for support and why we turn things down.
- Hosted a series of Q&A webinars on our new priorities for our A Fairer Future strategy.
Ongoing: We hosted a pre-application Q&A webinar on 20 June for organisations interested in applying to Esmée who have questions about our application process or guidance. We're gathering feedback on the format and aim to hold these webinars on a regular basis.
2. Be conscious of bias towards your existing networks
Recommendation: Ensure you are consistently offering applicants accessible avenues of communication during the application process. Consider ways you can share knowledge and expertise with those outside your portfolio and assess any bias in your networking and who you re-fund.
- In February, we introduced Access Payments for applicants needing accessibility-related support to apply to us.
- We commissioned TSIC to do a DEI review of our funding process, which has informed other actions we are taking.
- We have agreed to try out participatory funding with Esmée’s Involving Young People’s Collective (IYPC) and involved the Collective in assessing EOIs and funding proposals.
- Ringfenced “New Connections” (working title) funding for organisations which don’t meet our current criteria.
Ongoing: As part of our work on New Connections, we are exploring alternative routes to our funding, which includes working with experts by experience to help design the process and have a role in decision-making. We plan to share more later in the year.
3. Better manage applicants' expectations of success
Recommendation: Be honest with unsuccessful applicants about whether or not they are a good fit and ensure overall chances of success are communicated earlier on in the process. Think about what more you could offer in terms of feedback. Applicants want to learn and avoid repeated mistakes: funders shouldn’t be extractive in their application processes.
- We’ve added brief feedback to our decline emails at the expression of interest stage.
- Revised the information we give on assessment phone calls to be more honest with applicants about their chances.
- Included success rates in our guidance.
While we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, there’s still more we want to do. We will keep looking at changes we can make to improve how we work and communicate with applicants, including from other feedback and information we receive. We will also be repeating this survey at the end of 2023/24. In the meantime, we continue to welcome feedback on our work and our practice, so please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at nfpResearch are thrilled that our research was able to provide such clear and actionable guidance for the team at Esmée Fairbairn. If you're interested in the research that we do or are looking for insights about your own organisation, get in touch with us at email@example.com .