Grant Review Practices

I'm looking for advice from an organization that has experienced growth and had to adapt their grant review process. We are small, but growing. We now regularly receive 50+ grant applications for each cycle and our current process is an "everyone is involved in everything" approach. All board members evaluate the applications (in GLM), staff organizes the results so we have a first draft of a prioritized list, and then we meet (virtually) to review the list and make funding decisions. We add in grantee interviews if needed. It's a process where everyone reviews and has a say in everything, but as we grow, we need a more sophisticated process that spreads out the work but still leads to the board feeling good about the decisions we make.

Anyone else been on this journey and have advice on how to structure grant reviews as an organization grows? Thanks!



  • edited May 2021

    Hi @AbbeyCameron,

    For our larger grant cycles that have around 50 proposals, we break our grant committee down into sub-committees. We usually have different categories with our RFP so try to make our sub-committees match those different categories as much as possible. For our capacity building grant cycle, we had a sub-committee focused on leadership, one focused on technology, and one focused on projects like consulting.

    Reviewers only have to read around 17 proposals that way. Each sub-committee has a deliberation meeting and decides on their funding decisions, then we have an all-committee meeting where each sub-committee puts forward their recommendations to the whole group. As long as their are no major concerns, the whole group approves the projects for funding.

    It has been working really well the last two years and makes the committee meetings easier, though you have to have more meetings.



    KaraAdams[Deleted User]MikedeHilsterAshleyHarper
  • Hi @AbbeyCameron!

    This is a great question. I don't know what your grant cycles or programs look like, but I did want to share what we've been doing at Triangle Community Foundation with great success.

    We have five grant cycles for discretionary dollars (one for each impact area) every year or two and each has it's own committee. These committees do NOT involve our Board members or staff. In the past, these committees were made up of community members that worked in that field, were a very involved donor that wanted to volunteer in this area, nonprofit professionals who were not eligible for this program, etc.

    We have recently made a shift with a few of our grant programs to a participatory grantmaking model. For these programs, we have invited the previous year's grantees to be the reviewers for the grants. There is a lot of research on the effectiveness of participatory grantmaking, and we are planning to implement it across our programs. We have also started to include high school students on our education/youth grant committees and their perspective is invaluable!

    Finally, we have also budgeted into each program area a line item for paying our committee members. We use an internal process in GLM to get committee members to sign their conflict of interest forms and in that form we ask if they would like a stipend. For those working at nonprofits (in the case of participatory grantmaking) we also ask if they want it personally or to go to their organization. Many people accept it, but several do not, especially those who work for organizations who allow/offer volunteer time or flexibility to do this work.

    A few different ideas for you to consider here--I'm happy to talk more or to connect you with one of my team members who have more experience implementing the participatory grantmaking committees!

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