Captain Ellena connecting with Deputy Captain Julia.

We’re smack in the middle of voting season. Last week, every one of TPC’s 255 members received a ballot in her Inbox, listing the virtues of 22 of Boston’s most impressive non-profit organizations. Who are these organizations, and how did they make it onto our ballot? It all started last August, when we notified the local non-profit community that we would be awarding $250,000 of grants this year, in $20,000 and $30,000 chunks. While organizations were busy preparing Letters of Intent (short proposals that described their mission, their clients’ needs, and how they’d spend a TPC grant), we were busy recruiting TPC members to join Grant Review Teams that would evaluate the proposals. By October, here’s where we’d landed:

  • 140+ TPC members volunteered to join a Grant Review Team
  • 91 organizations submitted Letters of Intent (LOIs)
  • 17 Grant Review Teams were created, each headed by a volunteer Captain & Deputy Captain

Each Team was assigned five to six LOIs to vet, and got to work. Their task: Determine which organizations were strong enough to advance to the next stage of our process — Full Proposals.

Captain Wendy with TPC member Diane

“My team tried not to be too tough in our evaluations at the LOI stage,” said Team Captain Wendy Weiss. “We tried to give organizations the benefit of the doubt, and invite as many as possible to the next stage, Full Proposals.” By Thanksgiving, TPC Teams had invited 49 (of the original 91) organizations to submit a Full Proposal, which were due back to TPC in January. How did Teams evaluate the Full Proposals? Team members were trained to use TPC’s evaluation rubric, a tool that guided them through the process systematically. Individually, members first evaluated each Proposal on her own, on a variety of dimensions: the organization’s fit with TPC’s mission, its leadership, the diversity of funding sources, and more. Then, the women came together to discuss their individual evaluations with their Teams.

Captain Amy at 2014 Grant Announcement

“Within my Team, it was easy to achieve consensus,” Team Captain Amy Wilson said. “Consensus just happened. We didn’t stick to an overly rigid process, the rubric guided the conversation, which naturally flowed.” The Teams’ task was to decide which organizations should advance in the process, and receive a Site Visit. “Many of the organizations really did seem great, and were doing important work,” Amy said. “It just came down to eliminating those that, for some reason, did not seem to be a great fit for TPC.” In April, Team members fanned out across greater Boston (Boston, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Dorchester, Dracut, Malden, Lowell, and more) to meet with executive directors and staff working for the 28 organizations that, collectively, they’d chosen to receive a Site Visit.

TPC site visitors enjoying post-visit treats at Flour Bakery.

By the beginning of May, the work of TPC’s 17 Grant Review Teams was complete: The 91 organizations that had applied for a TPC grant had been vetted and narrowed down to 22 Finalists. “The evaluation process is the heart of TPC,” said Captain Wendy. “My team approached the work reverentially. There are so many extraordinarily intelligent women in TPC, and everyone, no matter who they are, has some kind of experience they bring to the table.” Lest she give the impression that TPC teamwork is all work and no play, Wendy added, “My husband heard us laughing during one of our meetings, and said how can you be working? You sound like you are having too good a time.” A high priority for Wendy is making everyone on her Team feel comfortable. And at this she clearly succeeded: “Sometimes they feel so comfortable,” she said, “they don’t want to leave!” On May 20, each one of TPC’s 255 members – whether or not they participated on a Grant Review Team – received a ballot via email. The ballot lists all 22 Finalists, with a description of each organization, including basic demographic information, and an explanation of why the Team recommended it for funding. Members are asked to vote for 10 of the 22 organizations.

Who will be TPC’s next Grantees? The 10 organizations that receive the most votes.

We will reveal their names at our June 2 Annual Meeting and Grants Announcement. TPC members: RSVP below if you haven’t done so already.


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