Grant information sessions have recently been increasing in popularity. The exact nature of this session varies based on your organization and needs, but it essentially serves as a prescreening of your grant applicants. This session can involve a rundown of the application process and what the applicants can expect, what sort of requirements and deadlines are involved, and also a general mixer to get to know the applicants. Is a grant information session necessary? Or even useful? Like any other tool, it all depends on how you use them.
What to Expect From a Grant Information Session
The grant information session is a mixer, a way to meet with your potential applicants and fill them in on the details of the grant application process. It could be held in the style of an informational presentation with a social time to follow, or you could speak with each applicant individually and give him or her a brief rundown of the process.
Whether you choose to go with the group or individual route, you can use this opportunity to inform your target applicants to give them the best shot at impressing you and earning the grant. Clear information up front ensures the applications your organization receives are complete, timely, and full of the information you want.
When to Host a Grant Information Session
How often your organization awards grants will play a big factor in how often and when you hold your grant information sessions. A simple announcement detailing the date and time of your session, as well as what is expected from the applicants, should be posted. You can post one announcement per session, or use one for all of them, listing the date and time of each opportunity.
Do you reward grants monthly? Every quarter? Once a year? Ideally, you should offer at least one grant information session per application period. These sessions should be held approximately a month out from the deadline. If the session is too early, the applicants may forget some of the details they’ve learned. If it is too late, they won’t have the opportunity to put your words to use.
Why Host a Grant Information Session?
By giving the applicants all the information they need beforehand, you can ensure the quality of applications. This saves your organization time by avoiding the task of weeding out any less suitable applications. Additionally, by meeting the applicants before reviewing the applications, you will have a better sense of their character, their ideas, and their goals. Sometimes you get new information about people when you meet them in person that you wouldn’t get simply by reading over an application.
How to Manage a Grant Information Session
While there is not a singularly correct way to conduct a grant information session, there are some best practices you can follow in order for everyone to get the most out of the session. Before the session begins, you can have everyone invited come up with a “fast pitch.” This is a brief two-minute pitch of their proposal that can be delivered directly to you at the end of the session.
The advantage to this is that when their proposal comes across your desk, you are already familiar with their ideas. This, combined with any icebreakers or other social time you choose to include in your session, will allow you to get familiar with your applicants and their ideas and make a more informed choice.
You can also use a part of the session to familiarize applicants with any online systems or other procedures you have in place. Not every organization receives grant applications the same way, and it’s important applicants understand your process.
Grant information sessions can be a powerful tool for your organization, but it’s up to you to determine whether you need one. Perhaps you take applications from all over the country and a single event would be impractical. But if you’re a more locally focused organization, gathering a majority of your applicants for a grant information session could be quite beneficial.