At a glance, the grant review process can seem complex and multi-faceted. From the first received submission all the way through to the final decision, the grant review process can take days, weeks, or even months.
However, it can be simplified and broken down into several steps, making the review process more easily manageable for any size organization.
The first step once an application has been received is to review it for general completeness and basic eligibility. Individual members of staff can take on this task, as no major decisions are being made at this stage. Only the applications that aren’t fully filled out or are obviously ineligible are rejected here, and everything else moves forward.
An online submission form can help greatly, as it can separate incomplete forms on its own, saving your organization some extra effort.
In addition to looking for completeness, reviewers at this stage can give a cursory glance to submissions to ensure the proposals are financially viable, without necessarily delving into each proposed budget and going over it thoroughly.
This step is where decisions begin to be made. A committee made up of members of the organization, outside experts, volunteers, or a combination of these, should be formed to make decisions. This diversity will lead to a well-informed decision and will equip those without any prior experience for future panels.
This panel has the task of reading through all of the completed submissions and making sure they not only address the questions and issues raised by the organization but that they also propose a viable solution. Organization members can make sure that the proposed ideas stick to the goals and ideals of the organization. Industry professionals can help make sure that proposed solutions are viable, cost-effective, and worthwhile. Volunteers, depending on where they originate from, can assist in ensuring the proposed ideas are effective for the community.
National Chair Review
Depending on the size of your organization, the proposals chosen by the committee may then move on to a national chair or board. This step is for larger organizations that take submissions from all over the country. The individual branches of the organization (usually divided into districts, states, or regions) each send their top submissions to a national headquarters. At this point, a final review committee is organized, and all the submissions are taken into consideration. This typically ends the review process, at which point the organization with the winning submission is contacted and the process moves forward.
Adapt as Needed
While there’s no single way to conduct a grant review, these are often the major components. Depending on the size of your organization, though, you can broaden or narrow the scope of the review as necessary.
While a three-level process is ideal for its thoroughness, it’s likely that a smaller organization doesn’t have the infrastructure or resources for such a large undertaking, in which case the process can be adapted. If your organization works primarily within a single city or geographic area, you likely won’t have a national board to report to, and you may choose simply to have a committee go through all of the applications.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of resources, perhaps you’ll want each proposal to be judged for completeness and content at every stage of the review process.
Regardless of how you choose to conduct your review process, having multiple steps in place helps to ensure the quality of your final decision.