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Here at Unfunded List, we review proposals. We have been reviewing proposals since 2015 and in that time we have had the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of proposal authors. We have seen frustration and confusion around the grant writing process. We have also seen hardworking professionals working diligently in grantmaking offices who are always striving to improve their efforts and bring more resources to their program teams. On the other side of the spectrum, there are professional philanthropists, giving advisors, and generous individuals employing effective grantmaking in order to fund organizations capable of enacting social change.

Since our founding, we have spoken with a wide variety of characters. We usually do not highlight our zaniest applicants in these updates., but over several hundred proposals we have collected some very interesting stories. We once reviewed a proposal from an applicant who turned out to be a member of a violent soveriegn citizens movement and our founder had to abruptly end the report discussion after the proposal author called him the K-word (an anti-Semitic slur). We have discussed proposals with authors who have been on “Good Morning America” and on the cover of People Magazine. We have also discussed proposals with autistic cello prodigies, Harvard Medical School professors, Malawian entrepreneurs, former Congressmen and Mayors, and on more than one occasion with someone who submitted a proposal on behalf of an Island Nation.

This round, Unfunded List staff were focused on some process improvements and we moved our headquarters (more on that later). To ensure that we were not lowering the quality of our work, we only brought in 40 proposals to review. Each author received a report that included a minimum of 6 reviews;  some folks heard from well over 15 different evaluators. We believe that providing these perspectives will strengthen the work of thoughtful grant writing operations. The wide array of proposals we reviewed this round included a pro-police documentary film as well as a successful application to the Borealis Philanthropy’s Community Transforming Police Fund. Both organizations were pleased with the feedback they received and we enjoyed the report discussions.

We also reviewed about a dozen afterschool and youth programs from all over North America – with several coming from Canada thanks to a small pilot co-review partnership with Social Venture Partners Vancouver, We heard from some familiar folks this round, including a submission from two previously highlighted groups – Mary’s Center, a community health clinic in Washington DC, and AsylumConnect, an organization focused on LGBT asylum seekers.

Mental Health, disability inclusion, and racial justice continue to be regular topics for groups that submit to us and we have highlighted some of them in previous updates. Any funder seeking new proposals on these topics should contact us immediately. The vast majority of our proposal authors are women and about half are people of color. Nearly all of them live in the communities they serve and are affected by the problems they are trying to solve.

When we choose which proposals to highlight, we consider many factors. In particular, we like to highlight people who are making the most of our program. Kimberly Haven from Reproductive Justice Inside and Joseph Paul from the Women’s Goat Project are exemplary participants in our program and it is our pleasure to highlight their work at this time. They both originally found us through co-review partnerships. Kimberly applied to Circle for Justice Innovations and was declined, but opted in to receive our review. Joseph applied to MIT’s SOLVE and made it to the semi-final round where he opted in for an Unfunded List review.. 

Since their original submissions, both authors have submitted multiple proposals, attended multiple report discussions with Unfunded List staff, and joined our evaluation committee where they provide their perspective to other proposal authors. They also both attended our recent Unfunded in the Pines retreat. Here is what they have to say about Unfunded List:

“The feedback from our first round of reviews was a little harsh, but necessary for me to read. As a result of the feedback, we are stronger in our fundraising efforts and have begun to see the impact.  Additionally, we have made Unfunded List feedback reports a regular part of our grant processes. I look forward to the report discussions with the team at Unfunded List and I have now been a reviewer myself and truly enjoy being part of the evaluation committee. It is a great opportunity to give back to the other proposal authors while I also am able to continue to learn even more while I review proposals.”

~KImberly Haven, Reproductive Justice Inside

“When we started the project, we didn’t know anything about philanthropy or grants. But after years working in Haiti, we know our project is needed. We also know that we need the support and education provided by the Unfunded List community. Not only do we get excellent feedback on our own submissions, but we also read and review other proposals and provide our own voice to the reports. Unfunded List provides this opportunity to not only have our work reviewed, but to review others, and have an actual conversation, every six months, with a knowledgeable philanthropy expert who cares.”

~Joseph Paul, Women’s Goat Project

About Reproductive Justice Inside

Reproductive Justice Inside (RJI) of Maryland is a statewide project to address the needs of systems-involved individuals seeking quality and timely sexual and reproductive healthcare and the right to parent with dignity.

About Women’s Goat Project

Women’s Goat Project is administered by Home Roots Foundation, whose mission  is to improve access to education and alleviate poverty across Haiti. To carry out this mission, they help provide community-led programs that mainly focus on children, youth and women. And goats.

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