Following the launch of our impact guide and survey, Ceryse Fear shares how we're embedding our customer recommendations into our work.
In January 2019, we blogged about the launch of our impact guide and survey, with a view to gathering your feedback to help us improve our approach to social investment for our customers.
Firstly, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all our customers who completed our last and final annual survey, and to those who made time to give us further telephone feedback.
Before getting into the detail, we should say that we haven’t always made the progress we would want: this is particularly true in relation to our systems, where ongoing improvements are a top priority, especially in relation to our grant application and monitoring processes.
We have, however, been able to make other improvements in our service delivery in in quite a few areas:
• We are now using the Community Portal on our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system; this means we can immediately see customer input on applications, and can answer any form queries more quickly.
• We have revised our application form for all our current grant programmes to a shorter, more succinct format.
• We also continually review and update our applicant guidance based on the feedback we receive during the year.
• There is also a sector-wide, multi-agency exercise on developing a single approach to diagnostics (and potentially single application forms). SIB is on the steering group, and we will update on any progress.
Telephone support for applicants
• Our Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) has telephone built-in telephone support at the start of the application process.
• Application support in our Reach programmes is provided by the social investors (referred to as Access Points).
Financial information in the application form
• We realise that this might be a challenge for smaller organisations who depend on accountants and other specialists for that information. We no longer ask for this information for our smaller grants (up to £10K) on our EDP programme: we instead now get this information ourselves, from publicly available sources like the Charity Commission and Companies House websites.
• We have plans to integrate this into all our grants programmes later in the year.
• We have improved our decision-making timescales, which are now on average between 4-6 weeks from the time of application.
Feedback to unsuccessful applicants
• We now make sure that the decision minute is included in the email notification to applicants who have been unsuccessful.
Grant terms and conditions
• We will be revising these later in the year to make sure that these are more user-friendly and as jargon free as possible.
Grant offer letters
• Successful applicants can now use the DocuSign process, using electronic signatures for signing grant offers. We don’t ask for signed hard copies anymore.
• There is also user-friendly guidance on the DocuSign process itself for customers. This is on our website and we email the link to customers when we send their offer letter.
• We now use an online survey format for our customers when they complete their grant monitoring on our Reach programme.
• We plan to roll this out to all our grant programmes by the end of the year so that customers will no longer have to complete, sign and send in hard copy monitoring forms to us.
• Whilst we continue to ask for some numbers in our grant monitoring (such as how the grant has been spent), we also encourage grantees to update us on their experiences of the whole process.
• Our Enterprise Grants programme includes phone calls in the monitoring process, so everyone can speak with us.
Working with providers
• We received some feedback about working with providers and questions about value for money. One of our programmes that attracted comments on the rate of provider pay has now closed, and we have sought to learn from that experience (within parameters set by our client).
• We have not recently received any comments about provider rates of pay on our current programmes (EDP and Reach).
• Applicants on the Reach and EDP programmes can now work with providers of their choice (including providers with whom they had previously worked with successfully).
Follow up support after receiving a grant
• This has been raised with us by some applicants and has been observed in external evaluation of our grants programmes that have now closed. We have raised this with other funders such as the National Lottery Community Fund and Access so they can consider this when designing new programmes.
• We are also reflecting on how we build this into any investment (loan) programmes that we develop in the future.
Finally, we are now asking customers for feedback through a shorter, easier and more regular 4 question survey. We will continue to update regularly with any actions, and continue to welcome all feedback, and any opportunity to improve. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.