And the Winner is...Our Community! How Our Social Action Committee Decides Where Our Donations Will Have the Greatest Impact!
Looks simple enough, doesn’t it?
We come together in community and the spirit of love.
We dedicate our time, talent and treasure to make the world a better place.
That’s what the world sees, but on closer look, here’s what is happening behind the scenes to ensure that what the SAC and UU staff do ensures that your donations are invested for greatest impact:
May and June - Revise our Grant Process documents. August - Invite local nonprofits to make grant proposals, offering professional guidance on best evaluative practices. October - Receive proposals by the October 31 deadline and receive Interim Progress Reports from current grantees. November - Evaluate proposals and do additional research, if necessary, to make preliminary decisions so that the Board can consider the total amount to be granted. December - Board estimates amount that will be available according to pledge projections. January - SAC proposes final grant amounts to the Board, doing additional research if asked. February - Board votes on a final amount and SAC revises final proposed grant amounts. March - Congregation votes on whether to make grants as proposed. April - Funds are distributed to local nonprofits and the previous year’s grantees file Final Reports on actions taken, which, this year, the SAC used to write articles for the newsletter to share magnificent impact stories.
Doesn’t sound so simple, does it? But wait! -- there’s more! Much more! Now, not everyone wants to know more, for we tell ourselves we are just having an easy life in San Miguel, but more than a dozen UUs on the SAC almost literally cuss and discuss every detail of every one of a dozen grants all year long in site visits, meetings, and evaluative sessions, the details of which are right here for your clicking pleasure: Early August begins a rigorous grant review cycle for the UUF’s Social Action Committee. For the past six years, our UUF Administrator Denise Gallipeau coordinated grant-related communication between the Social Action Committee and prospective grantees, sending out the Request for Proposal to the 12 - 14 previous year’s grantees and coordinating receipt of applications in late October. Now that Denise has moved on to become manager of Sunday Services, our Administrator Diana Amaya has stepped up to fulfill Denise’s SAC-related responsibilities. The SAC is grateful for the many hours and suggestions Denise put into this supporting and improving this process.
This year revisions to the RFP have added the requirement of a cover letter explicitly stating the amount requested, increased the expectations for financial transparency, included language communicating our liberal values and showing how they relate to the part of the Mexican constitution that honors human rights, adding optional tools to help NGOs with self-review, streamlining interim and final reporting guidelines, and translating all documents into Spanish thanks to our Administrator Diana Amaya. Thank you, Diana! Applications are due at the end of October, at which point the administrator forwards them to individual SAC members who have volunteered to be the ‘steward’ for a particular NGO and stores copies on Dropbox. Stewards carefully review the applications and complete a review template based on criteria the SAC has developed over the years. Among the criteria are whether the proposal is complete, entails a single or multi-year commitment, addresses basic needs (water, food, shelter, health, education), includes Pandemic considerations, is for core operations or ancillary projects, and indicates the presence of other funding sources.
Once a steward completes his or her written review, it is shared with the larger committee in advance of the SAC meetings in November, then presented orally at the meetings. If there are questions, the steward is asked to follow up and share answers via email in advance of the next meeting. Due to the number of grant applications in recent years, it has been necessary to add extra meetings to have enough time to hear all presentations. In late fall, the Board of Directors provides the SAC with a working figure that is their best estimate of the amount of funds that will be available for distribution based on projected pledges. At this point, the Committee completes an online survey in which each member allocates an amount for the grantees whose applications meet the criteria, making sure that the total allocated stays within the amount the Board indicated. In early January, these amounts are then averaged and brought to the Committee for further review. Based on further discussion, a spreadsheet containing final recommendations is shared with the Board. If the Board has questions, the relevant steward follows up and information is brought to the next Board. In recent times, the Board has been able to revise its original allocation upward as they have a better idea by this point of pledge income.
This leads to another round of voting to distribute incremental increases, resulting in the Final Recommendations to be shared with the Fellowship at the Annual Meeting in March. Once the Fellowship approves the recommendations, the SAC Chair provides our administrator with a letter to send to each grantee indicating the amount of the award and which process will be used to deposit funds into the recipient’s account. Grantees are expected to provide Interim Reports at the end of October and Final Reports in early April detailing how funds were used, if there were any changes in plans (such as was the case with the Pandemic,) and other news on the deployment of services worthy of note. This past year, the reports in the spring became part of a series of ongoing articles in the newsletter letting the Fellowship see in greater detail what the impact of their giving had been.
About three times a year, as an introduction to the offering during Sunday services, the SAC steward provides an update on the activities of their NGO. This is another way the Social Action Committee helps to keep the work of the agency on the radar of the membership.
And this is in addition to Blue Plate Specials about three times a year, for which the SAC and staff work a much more streamlined process, involving whether to pay donations in dollars or pesos, depending on the financial arrangement of the recipient and obtaining appropriate facturas. Whew! That’s a lot of work! But, work is not as hard when you have passion, and the SAC has passion -- plenty of passion -- to support our local community hosts to enjoy as much of life as we enjoy as expats and they know that without your open hearts, none of this would be possible. It’s a labor of love. And may it always be so.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Miguel de Allende Apdo 798, San Miguel de Allende 37700 Guanajuato, Mexico