From work in the Ethereum community, specifically getting involved in some of the Core Dev work at the lowest levels of infrastructure that impact the entire network, I came up with the outline of a framework for thinking about grants: project time frames, grant sizes, and purpose of the grant. I've put this on the Ethereum Wiki, so it can be edited and extended by anyone.

This is based mainly on funding of software products, from project experiments, mid length R&D, and long-term R&D and maintenance. For any grant project, you'll want to define how you measure success and what the overall impact is that you're looking for.

Especially in working with crypto currencies, one of the big advantages is that sending them around the world is very simple, compared to what would need to happen to send between arbitrary bank accounts. So, there is low overhead on this aspect from an operational aspect. (At least, for the granting organization – the grantees may have more trouble getting local currency)

Can we improve the experience by trying to do things very quickly? For example, give out 50 x $1000 grants in 50 days.

The first reaction that people have when I propose giving out grants very quickly, is that I'm crazy (cue "Brewster's Millions" reference).

Being forced to go fast can highlight the friction points in the process, from project review, to selection, to processing, to follow ups and outcome tracking.

If you are spending a long time, and using time from multiple people, to decide whether or not to give out a $1000 grant, your overhead of paying those people (or having them volunteer their time), may be more than what the grant is "worth".

Going fast means necessarily being efficient: working smarter not harder. This might mean a streamlined application process – for example, use an Airtable form for project intake, reviewer rating & comments, and final selection. Or using Calendly with Zoom integration for smooth interview scheduling, without any back and forth playing Calendar Tetris – especially where global time zones are involved.

Don't like my relatively small $1000 grant example? From the wiki page, I set suggested time frames for decision making and disbursement from application time to decision and disbursement of funds:

  • < $50K should take less than 1 month
  • < $120K should take less than 2 months
  • $120K+ should take no more than 3 months

I think the benefits of going fast, with many iterations, learning, and optimizations along the way, outweigh any concerns about "waste". You have a tuned grant process, and can use the results and participants in the first round to create a funnel for a next round – larger grants, or longer term funding.

The story of the ceramics class and quantity before quality is mostly applied to making, or creative works. But the same continuous learning and improvement should be applied to business processes – whether grant-making or coding.

As someone who has applied for grants, what were your biggest pains around the process?

As someone involved in giving out or reviewing grants, what areas caused the most friction? What do you wish you could improve?