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How to Create and Run an Efficient Grant Application Review Process

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

How to Create and Run an Efficient Grant Application Review Process

Before you start thinking about your grant review team, it's important to make a clear grant review process. A good process makes things fair and easy for everyone. It also helps make your grant program better overall.

Why is it so important to create and define a grant review process?

First, it sets clear rules and expectations for everyone involved. When we know what to expect, we’re able to perform in the way our stakeholders expect us to.

Creating your grant review process is also important because it helps to ensure all applications are judged fairly. It also makes the review process faster and easier while making your grant program better overall.

Transparency is key in your review process

It’s critical to tell applicants how you will judge their applications. Clearly explain what criteria you will use to score applications. You may also want to give reviewers a detailed scoring guide or rubric ahead of time. We recommend posting this publicly as well. Be transparent to build trust with applicants, donors, review teams, etc… And, finally, you should let everyone involved know the timeline and important dates for the review process.

Make sure the application form is easy to understand and fill out

We recommend that you use simple language and give instructions when needed. It’s also a good idea to divide the form into clear sections to make it easier to read.

While you’re building your form, it’s beneficial to make sure the form works well on computers, phones, and tablets. Before the first application form goes live, always test it out and see how the process will be for your grant applicants. This will give you the opportunity to find and fix any problems before your program is live.

Pro Tip: Don't ask unnecessary questions on the application form

When building your form, it’s best to only ask for information that is directly related to the grant program. Get rid of questions that are repeated or not relevant to save time.

Put yourself in your applicant’s shoes - Think about how long it will take to fill out the form. You may also want to have colleagues read your form before it goes live and give feedback so you can make changes if necessary.

If you remember these ideas, you'll create a strong base for your grant review process. A well-made process is good for your organization. It also shows potential applicants and others that you care about being fair, transparent, and excellent.

Tips for Establishing Your Grant Review Process

Whether you’re paying employees or hiring volunteers, the people you bring on board to help you with your grant review process will be a critical component to your success. With the right personnel, you can run a better grantmaking program. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit that there’s more to your program’s proficiency than your team. As such, below are some tips you can use to run a more efficient grant application review process.

1. Have a Plan In Place

Grant review plan

A construction crew doesn’t build a house without blueprints, and you shouldn’t try to figure out how to manage grants, let alone who should be on your grant application review team until you formulate a blueprint of your own. This blueprint will help you decide things like how much support you need.

For example, if you anticipate 10,000 applications coming in, you’ll have a better idea of how many reviewers you’ll want to bring in to go through them all in a timely fashion. If you’re a new grantmaker, it’s very possible that you may underestimate or overestimate things in your planning, but at least thinking about it ahead of time can prevent a number of headaches.

In your planning, think about things like how many reviewers you anticipate you will need, and how much time will be necessary to review applications. It may be helpful to talk to other people in grantmaking to get their thoughts on how much support you should bring in.

Also, consider how you will go about reviewing the applications in the first place. Consider questions such as whether or not you will use a grant scoring rubric. Hint - you should! Will you have a FAQ section, provide question-level help, and answer validation to reduce the need for support personnel answering the same questions multiple times? Again, you should!

Bottom line - having a gameplan just makes any project more efficient, including your grants program.

2. Don’t Just Attract Anybody, Consider Your Ideal Reviewer

While they are not the only key to success, setting up the ideal grant review team is of great importance. You want to have people on your grant review team that match the vision and ideals of the grant. These team members are your public representatives, so it’s imperative that your grant administration staff fully vet potential employees/volunteers, and only fill the positions with individuals that embody your desired morals and values.

Consider ideal reviewer

Next, think about how you will go about outreach to find the right people for your grant management team. If you’re seeking volunteers, perhaps you can use people that have received grants in the past, or that have at least worked with your organization in some capacity. Should you opt to hire people for paid positions, career placement services may be a good consideration as they can take the workload of finding qualified people off your plate.

3. Use Software to Aid In Grant Management

Software is the most essential element in running an efficient grant review process. The reason? The software can work faster than anyone on your team can, and it will work 24/7! It also ensures a lower chance of errors. For starters, using grant management software will help you instantly pre-qualify and filter out ineligible candidates so that only the people that are eligible submit an application. That step alone can save you the time of going through those unqualified applications!

Next, using the grant management software you can add grant application rules that dynamically change the questions in your form based on the user’s answers. This could whittle down the potential pool of eligible people without you doing anything extra. If that wasn’t enough, you can also create a scoring rubric and have answers automatically scored.

Should you choose to, you could eliminate any application from your evaluation pool that didn’t reach a certain threshold thereby cutting down on your grant review process time even further. Another thing you can do is remove applications that haven’t submitted all requested documentation, essays, or relevant information before evaluations even begin.

While we’re saving time, we should share that using the right software eliminates the need to file paperwork and send/email sensitive or confidential data as well. Everything will be instantly available to your team members without the hassle or additional time of uploading and downloading files. Finally, using evaluators' shared notes and scores, your team can quickly address concerns about applications and eliminate them from the pool of candidates that much faster.

4. Assign Your Smaller Pool of Candidates to Evaluators

Thanks to software, you should now have a significantly smaller and more qualified pool of candidates to choose from. And, you should also have a rock-solid team in place ready to evaluate the applications that are still eligible for the grant. Now, it’s time to assign the applications to evaluators and actually begin the final phase of the grant review process.

Grant review evaluator pooling

Organize your evaluators into logical groups, and then assign evaluations on a group basis with the click of a button. The applications can be made anonymous so that your team will not know the applicant’s identity, and they can make assessments without bias. From there, your team can use your scoring rubric to quickly sift through their pile of candidates until there is a final small group of applications for everyone to discuss and choose the grant recipients.

SmarterSelect Makes the Grant Review Process Quick and Efficient

If you're considering software to help you create and manage your grant review process, SmarterSelect is the best choice for your needs. We've built our platform to be the optimal grant management solution.

Our software helps you define a clear and transparent review process by making it easy to establish evaluation criteria, create user-friendly application forms, and avoid unnecessary questions. Once your process is set up, SmarterSelect streamlines the entire review workflow, regardless of how many applications you receive.

We have saved our clients hundreds of thousands of working hours as a result, and we want to do the same for you. From creating your perfect grant review process to managing it efficiently, SmarterSelect is here to support you every step of the way.

Click here to schedule a demo, and learn why SmarterSelect is the go-to software for managing grants, scholarships, awards, and special programs.


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