28 Jan 2020 Grants and Program Alignment
By Elizabeth Frame Ellison, CEO & President
2019 was an important year for LTFF. Not only did we launch the largest program our organization has ever operated in Mother Road Market, we modified our grant application process in a further attempt to solidify a correlation between the outcomes we measure through our own programs (Kitchen 66, Mother Road Market, Tulsa Startup Series and Kiva) and the outcomes we work with grantees to report upon during their grant cycle. As a nonprofit that both supports and identifies as an entrepreneurial organization, we strive for continuous improvement to maximize our impact.
In 2014, we narrowed LTFF’s grant making to outcomes-based grant funding in three categories: entrepreneurship, economic opportunity, community development. After five years of testing the refined grant strategy and three different iterations of an LTFF grant application process focused on outcome-based impact, we struggle to find even ONE data set that overlaps between our grantees and our programs that doesn’t cause mission creep for the grantee. Our programs like Kitchen 66, Mother Road Market and Kiva Tulsa aim to increase equitable access and inclusion. As such, our programs measure economic impact, growth, economic mobility, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, employment status, persistence (still in operation), and immigration status in the ecosystem and evaluate changes in these statistics when evaluating impact. The grants we see today, although highly impactful in their own right, are typically outliers who don’t contribute to the impact metrics we use to assess our own programs.
An unintended consequence of this misalignment is that LTFF creates unnecessary work for our grantees with reporting since the data reported upon doesn’t allow us to evaluate impact in the same way across grants and programs.
Example: For the last five years, nonprofit X has been a grantee of LTFF. Between interim and final reporting schedules, nonprofit X has produced ten grant reports with five outcome measurements. Because the data we measure internally for program impact isn’t the same type of data collected by nonprofit grantees, LTFF has been unable to take meaningful action on the more than fifty data points we have from nonprofit X alone beyond processing the information and perhaps sending an email congratulating him on his efforts. Because the outcomes nonprofit X measures don’t coalesce with the data LTFF programs measure to assess impact, the data is not dynamic enough to objectively assess the impact of the work. In short, after 5 years, the collective impact metrics we sought are not present despite narrowing our funding categories and requiring outcomes based data reporting from each grantee.
Moving forward, LTFF is further narrowing its focus in an attempt to create overlapping, outcome-based data that will correlate the missions of our programmatic work with our grants. Instead of funding grants in three categories, LTFF will experiment with funding grants that equitably activate the geographical area surrounding Mother Road Market and Kitchen 66 where there is extreme need. In Kendall Whittier, the neighborhood directly north of 11th street, one in four residents are food insecure and 73% of students in elementary school are eligible for free/reduced lunch. Nearly 20% of residents live at 50% BELOW the poverty line with a $16,764 median household income compared to $51,623 in Tulsa MSA. In focusing specifically on equitably activating one corridor in the community, LTFF will be able to closely measure and collect data to validate our impact based on desired outcomes. Our research leads us to believe that we can improve community outcomes and economic mobility for business owners and residents alike by activating Route 66 as an underutilized asset in Tulsa and creating a model for future inclusive growth along other parts of Route 66 in Tulsa.
Beginning in 2020, LTFF will suspend its formal grant application process. Instead, grantmaking will shift to programming and infrastructure that will support the following placemaking outcomes along S. Xanthus Ave. to S. Birmingham Pl along 11th street and surrounding neighborhoods.
In 2020 we are looking at outcomes related to Placemaking along Route 66 that fall into three primary categories:
- Pride of Place and Community Attachment
- Physical Infrastructure
- Economic Activity and Equity
We believe this focus will help us better assess impact of the dollars we spend to fulfill our mission through both programmatic and grant related work. If you are interested in partnering with LTFF on a project along S. Xanthus Ave. to S. Birmingham Pl along 11th street and surrounding neighborhoods or seeking funding from the LTFF discretionary fund, please visit www.lobecktaylor.com/grants.