How soon should they tell donors they're spending the money?
October 1, 2012 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Scientists / medical researchers (and donors), how long should a nonprofit take to publicize new grants?

Every now and then I see posts on AskMe from researchers kvetching about the grantwriting and funding process. Here's a question from the other side of the coin -- say a nonprofit organization decides to issue a grant. From a researcher's or donor's perspective, how long should it take for the organization to publicize the grant to its members and donors?

And if the grant winds up being a very large portion of the organization's annual research expenditures, does that change any expectations? I would think that donors would be more interested in learning about significant grants (which might constitute a high percentage of the organization's total research grantwriting) sooner rather than later.

(I'm not interested in legal disclosure obligations or fiduciary-duty-to-donor issues; I am more interested in what people think is "too long" for general publicity or donor-communication purposes.)
posted by QuantumMeruit to Science & Nature (5 answers total)
I'd want to see any grant made on your blog within a week, and an announcement in your newsletter (linking to that blog post is fine) in your next regularly scheduled communication. I don't care if it's a big grant or a small grant; as a donor, I would like to know how you are spending my money.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2012

I've donated to some non-profits that give research grants and from the donor perspective, I can't say as I have an opinion on this. If I'm being all duly-diligent, I would want to know about what you've done the in last year or so, but really, my level of caring about this on an ongoing basis could barely be lower.

In fact, if you reached out other than as part of an opt-in, non-required mailing list/newsletter subscription to tell me you spent some money, I'd probably be annoyed. Whatever your usual schedule of communications is would be fine -- if that's, say, quarterly newsletters, then "by the time the next quarterly newsletters comes out" seems reasonable.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:33 PM on October 1, 2012

It really depends but usually as soon as possible, is the short answer.

Sometimes you want to wait until after the grantmaker has publicized it, but not always. Sometimes will federal grants you'll hear about it before it shows up on the official federal agency website. I think waiting the week or two until they've made it public to make yours public is courteous. Sometimes private foundations won't publicize their grantmaking until fiscal year end, in which case just do it as soon as makes sense - social media stuff right away, in the newsletter whenever the next one is published.

For very large grants, which could mean different things depending on the size of your org, a special press release is often issued, with a special email announcement and maybe something in the local media outfits.

Most donors, but not all, want more rather than less publicity. This tends to be truer of big foundations and corporate foundations that are interested in cause marketing stuff than individuals. It's always best to check with the grantmaker before issuing announcements, just to make sure they are cool with what you're doing and what you're saying.

Too-long would be into the next quarter.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2012

From a researcher's or donor's perspective, how long should it take for the organization to publicize the grant to its members and donors?

What kind of nonprofit is it? An organization that exists primarily for the purpose of fundraising from the public to fund public awareness and research for a disease, where the "members" are donors? Or a professional organization, where the members are researchers/physicians working on progress against a disease, but the organization also does career development, scientific meetings, advocacy, public education, etc.?

I worked for an organization like the latter and handled some of our grants administration in addition to running other programs. First of all, communication with the members, with donors, and press/PR are often handled by completely different departments (hopefully working in conjunction with each other, but...)

Announcements may get held up so that they can be bundled with similar news. Not only for more effective use of the staff time needed to write and proofread news items, but also because of a totally justified fear of opt-outs and spam filters. If an announcement went out to everyone every single time there was something important to communicate to the membership, it would be akin to a most horrible unmoderated listserv.

But oh, yeah, speaking of staff time, I've gotten way ahead of myself. Before all that communications stuff happens, there's the selection process. Applications are verified for eligibility, qualified reviewers must be enlisted to review applications, conflicts of interest are handled appropriately, qualitative criteria communicated and scores calculated, committee convened for final decisions on awards. Then I would contact winners, verify their acceptance, verify the blurb of text used to describe the work, get it approved by leadership, get it set up in a distribution pipeline, send it to any other relevant departments...lots of opportunities for delays there.
posted by desuetude at 11:15 PM on October 1, 2012

Thanks for the thoughtful responses. To clarify the exact situation I'm coming from, this is from the perspective of the granting nonprofit organization, not the receiving researcher. The specific nonprofit I'm involved with gives grants to researchers as a major component of its mission.

A recent round of (new) funding which was approved amounts to a very large portion of the organization's total annual budget.

The organization communicates via its quarterly newsletter, but also communicates more frequently via social media channels and opt-in, "push" email.

The specific delay I'm trying to assess is the time between when the organization decides to give the award (in other words, voted on and approved) and the time that donors and others are informed of that decision. So, desuetude, I think the last sentence in your response, citing "opportunities for delays" is exactly what I've experienced -- and was trying to gauge exactly how long would be considered acceptable from external perspectives.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 7:43 AM on October 2, 2012

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