Whether your organization’s grants tend to generate more applications than you can handle or the candidates aren’t always ideal, adding an extra layer of screening can decrease your workload and save time. Here are some ways to pre-screen grant applicants and improve the process for both candidates and reviewers.
Make the Funding Opportunity Transparent
Without a complete description of the eligibility requirements and the grant review process, candidates may not understand whether your organization’s funding opportunity is right for them. This confusion could result in an influx of poorly qualified applicants or a loss of high-quality candidates.
Fortunately, you can make the funding opportunity transparent by clarifying the key issues that determine candidate eligibility. Clearly state whether candidates must reside in a certain jurisdiction, offer straightforward examples of relevant grant projects, and specify qualities that make an applicant ineligible.
Take this concept a step further by allowing candidates to filter out irrelevant opportunities or view grants that meet certain criteria only.
Require Candidates to Demonstrate Their Eligibility
Requesting that candidates pre-screen themselves may seem simple, but it might not do enough to improve your grant’s applicant pool. For even better results, consider requiring candidates to complete a quiz that demonstrates their eligibility for the funding opportunity. Use straightforward yes/no and multiple-choice questions to assess key areas of eligibility, and take care to avoid subjective or open-ended questions that your program can’t evaluate automatically.
With a simple online questionnaire and full-featured grant management software, you can easily integrate the pre-screening quiz with the grant application. Those who prove their eligibility may go on to complete their grant applications, while those who provide insufficient answers won’t be able to proceed.
Rate Grant Applications Automatically
Whether or not you invite candidates to pre-screen themselves, your organization may also benefit from automations that help you sort and filter applications. This strategy can be especially helpful for funding opportunities that tend to receive a high volume of applications. It can serve as a filter for low-quality applicants.
With comprehensive grant management software like Submittable, your organization can label applications based on candidate responses. Although this step won’t eliminate the review process completely, it can ensure that reviewers focus their time and energy on the best candidates for the opportunity. From there, reviewers can refer to your organization’s applicant screening form to evaluate candidates further.
Conduct Scripted Phone Interviews
Conducting a scripted phone interview with each eligible candidate can help with either screening out lower-quality candidates or drawing additional attention to top-tier candidates.
Whether you opt to ask straightforward objective questions or more nuanced subjective questions in a phone interview, take the time to create a score sheet first. Interviewers may then calculate scores, add data to applications, and prompt each application to move on to the appropriate workflow stage.
Another option is to host a grant information session. Here reviewers get to meet the candidates in person and get to know them. While you likely won’t get one on one time with them, you get to see who they are and what they represent.
Communicate Clearly With Candidates
No matter which strategy you use to pre-screen grant applicants, remember to communicate clearly with your candidates. If candidates fail to pass the eligibility survey for a funding opportunity, for example, display a concise message that explains why they aren’t qualified and what alternative steps they could consider taking next.
If your review process or scripted phone interview determines certain candidates are ineligible, communicate your findings as soon as possible. With a grant application system, you can send automated emails or templated, batch updates to select candidates or specific groups. By automating the communication process, you’ll effectively save time while still keeping candidates in the loop.
Whether your organization opts for an automated method or a more hands-on strategy, screening candidates prior to the review process can improve your grant management process substantially. By taking the time to pre-screen grant applicants, you’ll help candidates understand where best to apply their efforts while preventing your team from wasting time assessing low-quality applications. We also wrote 6 Ways to Improve the Quality of Grant Applicants.