Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall as funders review grants? It must be incredibly difficult to actually make the decision about which organizations will be awarded a grant. There are so many incredible programs, and so many communities that would benefit.
So, what are funders looking for when they review your grant? What criteria do funders use when making their decisions? What do you need to know about the review process to ensure you have greater success? So many questions! Let’s unpack the answers.
3 Key Elements To Understand About Every Grant Review Process
Understanding these three elements before you ever begin to write your grant proposal will put you in a greater position for success.
- Specific Review Criteria
Whether your grant proposal is for a Federal grant, a Family Foundation, or a local Community Foundation, funders will almost always provide review criteria within their guidelines or on one of the pages of their website. Funders may be looking for your proposal to have an element of collaboration, a significant evaluation component, or may be seeking proposals that bring a high level of innovation. Whatever it may be, it is vital for you to read through the criteria, as it will provide the foundation for your proposal. If neither the grant guidelines nor the website provide information about how the grant will be evaluated, ask. Attend an information session, send an email, schedule a phone call, or plan to meet the funder in person to ask about the review process.
- Goals Of The Grant Program
Most funders are very open about their goals and what they hope to achieve through their grant program. The goals of the program are also often highlighted within the application guidelines. For example, if a funder’s goal is “to provide strategic investments in heritage sites, events, programs, and other projects of cultural, educational, and recreational value” and your application doesn’t clearly outline how your program aligns with this goal, there is a very strong chance funding will not be coming your way.
- Mission Or Purpose Of The Funding Organization
Typically, funders will also be clear about their mission or purpose as an organization, and you need to ensure your application aligns. If the mission was to “preserve, enhance, interpret, and promote the cultural and heritage resources” within a specific geographic territory, you need to demonstrate in your proposal how your project meets that mission.
By understanding the specific review criteria, the goals of the grant program, and the mission or purpose of the funding organization, you should be able to confidently write and complete your application. Understanding how your proposed program will intersect with each of these elements should help your proposal stand out among other really strong proposals.
Who Will Actually Review My Proposal?
There are a few different types of review committees. Understanding which of these committees may be reviewing your proposal will influence how you should prepare your application.
- Peer Review
A peer review of grant proposals is often used within the academic and research fields, as well as for many arts organizations. These committees are made up of experts, authorities in their field who bring a significant level of understanding and experience to the programs and projects being reviewed. As an arts organization, you may be seeking funding for a dance program. A peer review, in this instance, would be made up of dance teachers, dance professionals, and individuals with many years of experience in dance programming. As a grant writer, this can be helpful to understand as you prepare your proposal. Within a peer review scenario, your writing can be more specific and detailed, as reviewers will likely have intimate knowledge of the sector, including recent research data.
- Volunteer Committees
Many funders use volunteers to vet proposals and make final decisions about which organizations will receive funding. In this situation, you will need to be intentional about ensuring the review committee understands every element of your proposal. Use of industry jargon and acronyms make it difficult for volunteers to completely understand your message, as they may not have a direct knowledge of your sector.
Keep the writing clear and concise and think about having someone outside your organization edit and review the proposal to make sure they fully understand your ideas. If they are confused at all, there is a chance your review committee may have some difficulty as well.
- Staff Review
With some smaller funders, the review process may be completed by a small group of staff members. It might be one or two people who are given the task of making funding decisions. In these situations, staff may include an external review process as part of the overall evaluation. Through an external review, staff would gather information, suggestions, ideas, questions, and concerns that might be raised by some community experts. Although the individuals involved in the external review are not responsible for whether a proposal is accepted or declined, they do provide significant insight on the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed project.
As mentioned earlier, it is helpful for grant writers to understand the review process. If it is not specifically stated in any guidelines, don’t hesitate to reach out to the funder to gain a better understanding for the process.
Understand even more about funders by reading: “How To Quickly And Easily Get Funders To Notice Your Proposal.”
Some Additional Grant Review Tips
The grant review process has a number of interesting elements to consider. Here are a few additional ideas you may want to know as you write your proposals.
- You may want to build relationships with local Members of Parliament so they are aware of your work.
- Funders may follow up with a grant writer to clarify information as they move through the review process. If a foundation seeks supplemental information, provide it to them as soon as possible. Communicate quickly and effectively and ensure they have everything they need to make a decision.
- Your organization may be asked to make a presentation. Don’t be surprised if this happens to you. Be as prepared as possible, and do everything you can to answer any questions they might have about your proposal. You should know your proposal inside and out, so share it humbly and with great clarity. Be sure to also thank them for the opportunity to present.
What Do You Need To Know About Your Next Review Process?
You may be writing a grant proposal right now, or may have one coming up in a few weeks. Stop and take the time to understand the review process before you even begin to write. Will it be a peer review process? Volunteer? Staff? How will the review process change the way you write your proposal? Be intentional in the way you write your next proposal by having a full understanding of the review process.
If you want to know even more about what goes on inside a review process, GrantsEdge has prepared 10 of the most common questions a reviewer might ask themselves as he or she sits down to review your proposal. Download the document here by providing your name and email address and get 10 more questions a reviewer might consider as they evaluate your proposal. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it away to anyone).
10 Of The Most Common Questions A Reviewer Might Ask
If you want to know even more about what goes on inside a review process, GrantsEdge has prepared 10 of the most common questions a reviewer might ask themselves as he or she sits down to review your proposal.
Download the document here by providing your name and email address and get 10 more questions a reviewer might consider as they evaluate your proposal. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it away to anyone).