The grant-making journey

Members’ grant-making: blending heart, mind and responsibility

MWF’s mission is ‘A better life and future for women and families of Melbourne’. 

How do we go about our grant-making to achieve this?  

Selecting invitee applicants…

The selection process begins in August, nearly a year in advance of the Awards Night. 

A shortlist of potential invitees is developed each year from a growing master list of over 140 organisations that are aligned in some way with the mission of Melbourne Women’s Fund. This list is contributed to by members, suggestions from other grant-makers and funders, and intensive research by our Grants Committee. Organisations whose work falls into the coming grants round focus interest areas, as chosen by members in the annual July MWF Member Survey, are then identified and shortlisted for a potential invitation. 

These potential invitee organisations must now satisfy a rigorous selection criteria to make it on to the invitee list.  

In the spirit of fairness and opportunity, this selection process automatically excludes the previous year’s grantees and finalists. Also, with respect for members’ interest in assisting the work of smaller organisations to grow, a revenue cap is applied. For the 2020 grants round, this cap is set at $6m. 

The Grants Committee then checks each potential invitee for legal and regulatory compliance, which means every invited organisation must be endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as both a Tax Concession Charity (TCC) and Deductible Gift Recipient Item 1 (DGR1) and have an impeccable record over the past three years of required reporting to the national charities regulator, the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC).

Around sixty to seventy organisations make it on to the final list of invitees.

Assessing applications…

To ensure our grant-making is a model of best practice, a set of transparency-driven processes and compliance checks are in place from start to finish – from the research, application, consideration and grant voting and award stages through to the acquittal stage, and beyond. These are reinforced through invitee identification, guidance and communications together with clearly defined and disciplined grant-making governance, management and assessment systems.

Here is what this looks like in practice:

To be considered for a grant, applications must be complete and provided with all requested documentation. 

Clear, thorough guidelines for grant applicants are provided via a link on the application and aso available on the MWF website. At the close of the application period, usually end of February or early March, application completeness and the compliance information provided by each applicant is firstly checked. 

This includes verifying the program or project put forward in the application is for the direct benefit of women or women together with their families and will take place entirely within the Melbourne Metropolitan area. 

Completeness includes receipt of all compliance and finance information and documents; organisation Annual Report or reason Annual Report not produced; two non-conflicted referee contacts, relevant insurances verification, a Project Implementation and Evaluation Plan and a detailed project budget.

Compliance includes sighting the organisation’s TCC and DGR endorsement documents, a further check on ACNC reporting, and revenue cap check against audited financial statements for the most recent financial year or, if revenue under $1m, a profit and loss with authorising letter. If an application is later shortlisted as a possible finalist, Referee and Executive Officer checks are also made. 

Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (LMCF) assists with grants guidelines and governance, and provide a final layer of due diligence regarding the six finalist choices made by the MWF Grants Committee after thorough consideration of applications over six weeks and two intensive selection meetings in March and April.

Applications considerations are detailed and thoroughly documented. They are individually scored, then discussed, according to an Assessment Matrix designed to focus the Grants Committee on the key items characteristics of a well-thought out, potentially successful project. 

These include consideration of the need for the project, organisation’s capacity to deliver it, the activities and results expected, the quality of the project planning, resources and budget alignment, the expected impact the project will have both for its beneficiaries and the wider community. Applicants are also advised that further information or clarifications may be requested by the Grants Committee before a final team decision is made. 

MWF places importance on the application process being beneficial for invitee organisations, regardless of outcome. Our careful documentation processes enable constructive, individualised feedback to organisations that do not make it to the finalist stage. 

At the same time, finalists are notified and now enter into the next stage in the process:  a MWF membership site visit, a presentation skills training workshop and advice to begin preparations on their Awards Night presentation pitch. Grants Committee members are paired with finalist organisations in a controlled, impartial process to assist them to put their best foot forward throughout this final stage up to and including the Annual Awards Evening.

As part of the annual grant-making period preparations, the Grants Committee reviews the grants eligibility, compliance, assessment criteria and processes to ensure ongoing appropriateness and relevance.

But wait, there’s more…

Due diligence and transparent practices continue to be important throughout the rest of the grant-making process. The member voting process at the Annual Awards Evening in July is approved and overseen by LMCF and the LMCF Board provide formal approval of the two grant awardees. This approval triggers the issuing and signing of Grant Agreements and then payment of the grant monies in full, usually by mid September. 

Grantees remain in intermittent contact with MWF and are required to submit a progress report in March and a final acquittal by 30 September the following year – both are reviewed by MWF and LMCF. Merit Award recipients (the four remaining finalists) are also required to report, albeit in less detail than the two grantees. The grantee organisations’ results and learnings in these reports are passed on to MWF members through newsletter and social media stories.

MWF has a strict Conflict of Interest Policy for Grants Committee members and MWF members alike. Those who have leadership roles with applicant organisations who apply for a grant are ineligible to participate in considerations and voting. Selection of invitee applicants is as objective as possible and decided on alignment with MWF’s mission, compliance and eligibility requirements only, not simply by recommendations. 

Planning. Research. Due diligence. Questioning. Listening. Learning. Discipline. Checking and re-checking…

The MWF Grants Committee endeavours to act in the best interests of MWF members who want to see their granting making a difference, and the nonprofit organisations that work so hard to improve the lives of women and women together with their families in Melbourne. As you can see, there’s quite a process and responsibility involved in achieving this aim.

Thank you to all members for putting your voice and your trust in our grant-making work. 

MWF Grants Committee

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