How to establish and maintain integrity in your grants program

by | Oct 2, 2020

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Integrity: the state of being whole and undivided. 

 When it comes to running a successful grants or funding program, integrity is a critical success factor. It’s crucial that your program is trusted by everyone– your team, the applicants, the stakeholders and the public. 

 What if they don’t? Your program would attract fewer applicants than it should, or people could lose trust in your grants. Partners such as governmental bodies could feel less comfortable to stand behind your program. In other words, failing to ensure integrity can pull the rug out from under your program’s feet. 

 However, creating and maintaining a respected and trustworthy grants program is possible and doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this.  

Be transparent 

 Transparent communication with your program participants and the public is the foundation of establishing a trusting relationship. 

 Support your applicants through the entire application process by providing all the information they need to complete their entry. 

Make sure you clearly state: 

  • Any eligibility requirements
  • How your reviewers will assess the applications (include criteria and weighting, if used)
  • How the final decision will be made and a timeline of events to keep your applicants in the know

 Provide your panel of assessors with the information they need to make good grant decisions, such as:

  • Details about your program and the types of grantees it aims to support
  • Expectations for review, such as contextual information about how to review and where to find all relevant applicant data 

 Keep in mind that your reviewers are human, which means the final decision will include a non-reducible human bias. Ask yourself how you can convey this information for the sake of radical transparency. Dedicating a page of your website or creating a page to sit alongside the application form that presents the panel of reviewers, their background and current position can be an effective and transparent way of conveying this information.

Share and report on previous grantees

Sharing past successes about the individuals and projects your program has funded in the past is a great way to increase trust towards your grant. Showcase the stories of your grantees with an emphasis on how the funding they received helped fuel their project, be it research or an initiative to help communities in the field. 

 For future grantseekers, seeing these stories gives the motivation to submit their best quality application. And if your program is in the process of attracting new panellists, they’ll be happy to see the kind of result to which they will be contributing. 

Create an equitable application experience

 Build your application form with equity in mind. You can do this by establishing fair and equitable criteria through a flexible and dynamic application form. Be sure your application is user-friendly and accessible to all.

Communicate eligibility requirements early in the process to applicants so they know that while it may seem rigorous, it will be fair. 

 Fairness in the application program will not only encourage more people to apply for your grant, but it’ll also show that you genuinely care for your grant community. 

Anticipate conflicts of interest

It’s impossible to predict every conflict of interest, so encourage your grant review panel to notify you if conflicts arise. A conflict of interest can easily arise if, for example, a reviewer knows an applicant personally. 

 By making it easy for your reviewers to declare conflicts of interest, you encourage them to actively participate in maintaining your program’s integrity. In Good Grants that’s as easy as clicking on an “abstain” button.

Keep a consistent message 

Consistency is a major contributing factor to establishing and maintaining trust. For your grants program, this means your message is aligned throughout all platforms. For example, in your marketing collateral, program website, emails and official documents and reports.

 Your program’s identity, mission and value are the cornerstones of your messaging. If your actions and communications reflect that, you’ve managed to create a trustworthy brand image.

Maintain strict security protocols

Your program collects a lot of information from applicants, including personal or business information. Sometimes, the data provided is intellectual property or protected by a patent. It’s important you protect this data.  

Here are a few guiding principles:

  • Certifications are the best way to ensure the data in your program is safely handled by the software you use. Look for certifications like the ISO/IEC 27001, and keep in mind the GDPR or CCPA guidelines if you or your applicants are within the EU or the US, respectively. 
  • Never share your logins. If someone else in your organisation needs to have access to the platform, ensure they are set up with their own login.
  • Set and encourage the use of multi-factor authentication. This security protocol adds a second layer of authentication by asking for a second password via, for example, SMS or an authentication app such as Google Authenticator. 
  • Allow participants to set their own passwords. This might seem like a no-brainer regarding applicants, but also think about your reviewers or third-party participants. You may want to set up their account for them for more convenience, but that can result in a real security risk if passwords need to be communicated electronically. 

Integrity, first and foremost

 Your program’s integrity will lay a solid foundation for a trusting relationship between your grantseekers and you, the grantmaker. And this relationship is the basis of building a community around your program, which will allow it to grow and gain respect, year after year.


Are you looking to create or maintain an integrous grants, scholarship or corporate-giving program? Try a 14-day free trial with Good Grants.

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