Grants talk:APG/Proposal form v5

Improvements to this form


Here is a summary of some minor improvements to the proposal form this round we are considering right now. They are in the process of being implemented.

  1. Problem: Multiple number formats have made it difficult to read and understand the financial information in these forms. In addition, calculation errors happen, and it can be challenging to understand how a certain number was chosen.
    • Solution: Encourage applicants to use a common standard for writing numbers, such as that consistent with the English Wikipedia Manual of Style.
    • Implementation: A note was added to the Edit Intro for this form requesting that applicants use a consistent format for numbers   Done
    • Suggestion: Consider technical solutions that may make this easier to standardize in future versions of the form.
    • Related problem #2: Currency name can be in title of column but not within cells.
  1. Problem: The table of links made it easier to ensure that all of the needed supplementary documents (annual plans, strategic plans, reports) were submitted by each applicant; on the other hand, we still did have a few issues with missing or incomplete documents.
    • Solution: Make it more clear which documents are needed and why, and invite applicants to discuss difficulties with staff in advance of the proposal submission deadline.
    • Implementation: An explanatory note was added to the section requesting these documents, to help applicants understand the purpose and importance of the documents and ensure that they are in contact with FDC staff if they anticipate any difficulties completing the application. This table was also added to this section as as a numbered question. This table's headings have been simplified and we know longer request the organization's mission statement in this table.  Done
    • Suggestion: More ongoing work can be done with applicants to clarify the relationship between the proposal form and an annual plan, and how the FDC and FDC staff considers past reports and strategic plans during the proposal review process.
  2. Problem: Applicants are not sure how to submit or what to name subpages to their application that contain critical supplementary information, reviewers are not always clear on the purpose of these documents, and FDC staff does not always process these documents or categorize them in a timely way.
    • Solution: Find a space on the proposal form to provide instructions and information about use of supplementary documents.
    • Implementation: An optional question has been added to the section "Reflection on past programs and activities," where applicants can list any supplementary documents.   Done Information on supplementary documents still needs to be added to the FAQ.
  3. Problem: While there is now more clarity around the exchange rates used consistently within a proposal form, FDC staff sometimes needs to use different exchange rates to analyze the financial information in these proposals. This is not a significant difficulty, but may be unnecessarily confusing, so we should consider ways to make exchange rates more consistent.
    • Solution: Provide exchange rates in advance and use them consistently throughout the process.
    • Implementation: We publish a table of exchange rates on 1 September. Applicants can use these exchange rates to calculate the amounts in US dollars used in their applications. We have added these instructions to the proposal form. We have also updated the text around local currency, so applicants know to submit requests in local currency unless otherwise agreed.   Done
  4. Problem: Financial data submitted in applications is not consistent. There are many errors across most applications. For example, the sum of items in a table sometimes do not add up to the total listed. Sometimes numbers in local currency and US dollars are not consistent with the exchange rates presented. Sometimes the sum of two table totals does not add up when it should due to errors in one or both tables or a misunderstanding about the application form. This makes financial analysis difficult and time-consuming and may open the door for misunderstandings about financial information that need to be corrected later on.
    • Solution: Make it easier for entities to check financial data for consistency.
    • Implementation: (1) Offer more concrete guidance on this in the application form itself, (2) Link to learning patterns about the application process based on the experience of past applicants and staff, (3) Consider technical solutions (such as submitting spreadsheets or using functions that allow applicants to add up the data in their tables).
  5. Problem: Information (and especially numbers) about staff continue to be confusing and require significant clarification after the proposal forms are submitted.
    • Solution: Improve the proposal form to ask for information about staff in a clear way, and give clear instructions about what data is requested and why.
    • Implementation: Combine information in a way that requires fewer tables and makes it easier for applicants to check that information is consistent, through clear instructions.   Done added guidance on which table totals should be used in what tables
  6. Problem: While the distinction between program and operational expenses has been useful, it is still not possible to understand the amount of time organization staff are spending on program vs. operations using this form.
    • Solution: Request information about staff time spent on programs vs. operational activities, but do this in a nuanced way since separating programs and operations can be a complex issue for many applicants.
    • Implementation: Include this information in the section with other staffing information so that it is more clear.   Done see Q4 in this section
    • Suggestions: Continue ongoing discussions among applicants in this area.
  7. Problem: Data on membership and numbers of volunteers is confusing. Applicants define membership in many different ways and an apples to apples comparison is not possible or relevant. This data may not be key to the FDC process, unless an applicant feels it is especially important to them.
    • Solution: Make this information optional, focus on substance rather than the numbers
    • Implementation: Cut this required question on membership from the proposal form. Rephrase the question on volunteers to focus more on strategy than numbers. Ensure there is optional space for applicants to provide this when it is useful.   Done
  8. Problem: When applicants do not closely follow the suggested application format, it is difficult to read and understand applications from a portfolio point of view. We also realize that applicants have many different contexts and want to make sure they are free to present information in a way that is relevant to them.
    • Solution: Pending.
    • Implementation: Pending. Instructions around this are already included in the preload. Needs more thought.
  9. Problem: Applicants, FDC, FDC staff are not well-aligned with respect to understanding how activities are grouped into programs. Sometimes applicants present thematic groups of activities or operational activities as programs. This approach is not consistent across applicants and so it makes many aspects of the application difficult to understand from a portfolio point of view.
    • Solution: Clarify terminology around programs. Clarify how applicants think about programs. Make sure applicants have opportunities to discuss what is important to them.
    • Implementation: Integrate P&E glossary terms with application form to clarify terminology. Other suggestions pending.
    • Suggestion: Ongoing discussions with applicants in this area.
  10. Problem: This proposal form is not designed to accommodate participation from a non-Wikimedia organization or from the Wikimedia Foundation, but rather is tailored to existing Wikimedia organizations; at the same time these exceptions do participation in the process.
    • Solution: Consider how to modify this form, or consider use of a separate form, to address these situations. This problem does not need to be solved immediately since no exceptions have submitted LOIs in the current round.
    • Implementation: Postponed.
  11. Problem: There is a lack of clarity around operating reserves, current cash balance and underspends. This seems to need a lot of clarification on the talk pages every round.
    • Solution: Pending.
    • Implementation: Include a table specifically on operating reserves and include alongside other financial information. Ask for needed information and eliminate unnecessary questions around this. Link to a policy once developed.   Done see table 6, policy in development
  12. Problem: Metrics are not presented in a consistent way in the proposal form or in the reports and so it is difficult to pull out and analyze this information. Also, key information (such as baseline metrics) are sometimes missing from the proposal form documents even when they are present in other documents, and finding this information can be difficult.
    • Solution: We need to clarify what we are looking for in terms of metrics, to make sure applicants know how to present a strong plan in this area. Working with P&E team to implement a few key universal metrics.   Done added to programs section
    • Implementation: Rephrase question on metrics; emphasize baselines and targets;   Done encourage use of tables and other ways to clearly track metrics;   Done; link to tools and learning patterns relevant to metrics.
  13. Problem: Organizations must submit this form in English, but the communities they work with do not work primarily in English. Also, submitting the proposal form in English is a burden for some organizations.
    • Solution: Pending.
    • Implementation: Pending.
  14. Problem: This proposal form is long and is difficult to read (especially but not only for non-native English speakers), which makes community review difficult. The current summaries designed to facilitate community review did not seem to help very much in the last round.
    • Solution: Gather better summaries and find a way to display them.
    • Implementation: Rephrased summary question to make purpose clear.   Done Create templates to display summary information   In progress…
  15. Problem: FDC staff sometimes need additional information from entities when completing staff proposal assessments.
    • Solution: If the proposal form is better aligned with the staff assessment form, FDC staff will have more of this critical information to start with.
    • Implementation: Pending parallel improvements to staff proposal assessment form.   In progress…
  16. Problem: It continues to be a challenge to understand how programs are related to Wikimedia strategic priorities based on the information presented in the proposal form, but alignment with these strategic priorities are emphasized in the staff assessment and considered by the FDC.
    • Solution: Clarify information about alignment with strategic priorities in the proposal form.
    • Implementation: Tried to make it clear that strategic priorities should relate to program objectives, and that only one or two priorities are needed and rationale is crucial.   Done
  17. Problem: Wiki tables can be cumbersome for applicants to complete, especially when financial information is complex. On the other hand, we need a clear record on Wiki of information that is key to the application process.
    • Solution? Ideal situation would be to have a calculation table with summation function on Meta. Alternatively a google spreadsheet could be shared with FDC staff, and an image or PDF of it included in the form (or turned into a wiki table). A spreadsheet would minimize confusion on how cells were calculated and reduce the number of variations in how people submit their numbers.   Done we will accept spreadsheets
  18. Problem: It is difficult to understand the proposed increases in FTE staffing.
    • Solution: ?
    • Implementation: We can't solve this, as it would make the staff table too complicated. We may need to follow up with organizations when there are questions.
  19. Remove question on other funders, since it is covered in revenue and addressed by Email in any case.   Done
  20. For year-to-date financials, applicants do not consistently list the time period they are defining as year-to-date.
    • Implementation: Separated this as a new question.   Done
  21. It's hard to tell how likely an organization feels it is that they will receive revenue from a particular source.
    • Let organizations identify the status of different anticipated revenue sources.
    • Implementation: Add a column to the revenues table.   Done
  22. People are sometimes confused about which fiscal year / which time period financial tables refer to.
    • Implementation: Clarified headings, reorganized form to include current and past information in the same area of the form.   Done
  23. Problem: Proposals vary tremendously in their size. The longer the proposal, the more challenging it may be for community members to review them.
    • Solution: implement a limit on pages or bytes or characters?
    • Implementation: for now, we will address this through communication with entities during the proposal process
  24. Problem: lack of ability to capture in kind contributions in terms of office space, time, and other in-kind support
    • Solution: pending
  25. Problem: This form is too long and complicated.
    Solution: Cut questions.   Done

Summary of other changes


We made other small changes to this form, like clarifying instructions in both the form and the preload, as well as some technical changes and some changes to the order of the form. Winifred Olliff (FDC Support Team) talk 17:50, 29 August 2014 (UTC)Reply

Optional section for multiyear funding pilot


It's a bit pre-emptive, but I wanted to add this section on multiyear funding to the proposal form now since (1) we have committed to make the proposal form available by 1 September 2014 so that applicants have enough time to prepare, and (2) we think it is likely that we will be implementing some version of this multiyear pilot program and that the FDC will need the information requested in this section if we do so. We are still working out the details of this pilot project and who will be participating if it takes place, and so this section of the form is provisional and subject to change, and shouldn't be used by any applicants until they know that the pilot program will happen and that they will be participating. In fact, I've even added the section descriptions as templates so that they can be changed easily across the forms. Please note carefully that not all eligible organizations will be able to apply for multiyear funding in this round, since this is a pilot program. We will have more information available about the pilot program very soon and will make sure all potential applicants have those details once they are available, so please be patient with us in the mean time. Cheers, Winifred Olliff (FDC Support Team) talk 19:23, 29 August 2014 (UTC)Reply

Return to "APG/Proposal form v5" page.