Why feedback?

Every organisation needs honest, timely, constructive feedback to get better at what they do.

PRS Foundation - showcase, Jay Prince
PRS Foundation - showcase, Jay Prince

Feedback for applicants

In 2017 reducing the number of applications was a key priority for the foundation and although we cut applications by 27%, still received over 2,000 applications. This meant we were not able to speak to each applicant to provide feedback. We currently code each application by the main reason we turn it down, and offer feedback to each applicant on that main reason. We also use this data to make our funding guidance and quiz clearer and more helpful. Our most common reason for turning applicants down is that they are a poor match to priorities. We want to explain more clearly why this is the case for each applicant and will aim to do that in 2018.

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Feedback on Esmée


In 2016 we began asking for feedback from applicants and organisations we fund, using a tool developed by the Peery Foundation - Funder Feedback - to seek anonymised instant feedback on all aspects of our work.

  • It is very quick to fill in, is completely anonymous and requires no logging in. 
  • We ask all applicants and grantees to rate us on clarity, consistency and openness.
  • We ask applicants to tell us the one thing they would change about our application process, and grantees the one thing we could do to support them more effectively.

What are applicants telling us?

Most feedback received has been from applicants who were turned down at first stage, though response rates are low at 6%. With such low response rates, it’s hard to take lessons from the ratings as one or two very negative ratings can skew the data in a quarter (eg Q4 2017). However, a consistent lesson for us is that we are better at clarity (question: “Please rate how clear the information we provided was”) than openness (question: “Please rate how easy it was to tell us honestly about your needs or your progress, rather than what you thought we wanted to hear”).

On the one thing we could change about our application process, the key issues that we are currently considering are:

  • clear and tailored feedback – especially for grantees receiving multiple declines year on year
  • an opportunity to talk/meet with EFF pre application
  • the word count to be increased/allow more supporting information to be submitted
  • alternative ways of applying

Having been turned down for not being a close enough fit with current priorities, I'm not entirely sure that I understand what would be a better fit as I saw, and reflected in my application, many areas of synergy between your priorities and ours

What are organisations we fund telling us?

We have had various issues with sending automated emails linking the Funder Feedback tool to grants which were recently approved, closed, or just received a payment. These were resolved in Q4 of 2017, so we now have 6 months of useful data.

Response rates were better than for declined applicants – 60% of organisations with a newly approved grant responded, along with 38% of organisations recently receiving a payment, and 26% of recently closed grants.

There was a lot of positive comment, as you might expect for organisations in receipt of funding. However, there was plenty of challenging feedback on our systems and processes, both before and during the grants, and how involved we are (or are not) with the organisations we fund. Ratings for openness and clarity were both high, but lower for customer care (Question: “Please rate how good we were at getting back to you, and doing what we said we would”).

On what we could do to support the organisations we fund more effectively, the key issues that we are currently considering are:

  • closer engagement – telephone calls, site visits, face to face meetings, connecting with peers and networks
  • faster response times
  • clarity and communication - especially around grant making timeframes and reporting requirements

‘It would be great if responses could be a little speedier. Our grants manager was really supportive and very thorough but we had to wait several weeks for a reply on the few occasions where we had queries.’

‘Your funding application process is one of the easiest I’ve come across and having one person to be able to call if there are issues has been invaluable.’

What are we doing in response?
For applicants:

Issues we are going to work on:

  • continue to reduce the total amount of applications, so that we are able to offer more support to applicants who fit our funding priorities
  • give more specific feedback on the priorities 

For organisations we fund:

Issues we are going to work on include:

  • being clearer about what is involved in the grant assessment, and any likely crunch points in the process (eg coming up to the committee meeting date)
  • giving a timetable for decision to applicants when their second stage application will be decided, and updating it if needed
  • spread the contact from Grants Managers to the whole team, to ensure that calls and emails are dealt with more quickly and payment or admin issues can be swiftly resolved.
  • survey organisations we fund to find out in more detail what they would most value from a relationship with Esmee and feed this into our new funding strategy in 2019