Over the last decade, participatory grantmaking has become an increasingly popular approach to grantmaking, creating a way for communities to engage with the organisations that foster positive change and growth in their world.
Some grantmakers and funders are learning that funding strategies, criteria and decisions are best made in conjunction with the communities they seek to serve. Both the grantseeker and grantmaker are empowered in this participatory model and experience greater confidence in the process.
And, the outcomes have exceptionally positive potential impact, not just due to funding or support but also due to the empowerment that such cooperation can bring.
But this approach can also come with challenges. For example, it can be time and money intensive and dynamics between funders and community representatives need constant attention to avoid conflict of interest and bias and to garner consensus on what good grantmaking looks like in the specific context of the served communities.
Yet with the right framework, disposition and grant management toolset, these challenges can be overcome and a successful participatory grants outcome can be achieved. Read on to learn how Good Grants can help alleviate many of the challenges faced throughout the participatory grantmaking approach.
What is participatory grantmaking?
First, let’s go over what participatory grantmaking means. According to Grantcraft, participatory grantmaking is an approach to philanthropy that cedes decision-making authority to the very communities affected by funding decisions.
Essentially, it demonstrates a paradigm shift in how to work with grantees as agents of change in their communities rather than simply as beneficiaries of aid.
How Good Grants can streamline participatory grantmaking
Good Grants has been designed and developed to support a vast array of grant, scholarship and CSR programs and is thus, extremely flexible. Below are some of the key challenges facing grantmaking programs and how Good Grants helps to alleviate and in some instances eliminate those challenges to streamline participatory grantmaking.
Some of the key challenges participatory grantmakers face include:
- Difficulties with large stakeholder groups
- Access to technology
- Challenge of distance
- High costs
- Safety risks for community representatives
- Conflict of interest in decision-makers
- Application bias
- Decision consensus
Here’s how Good Grants helps to mitigate those challenges.
The challenge: large stakeholder groups
Let’s start with one of the biggest challenges in participatory grantmaking— large stakeholder groups. Not only are there a large number of stakeholders within a funding organisation, there are now even more stakeholders to consider— those coming from within the served communities. That’s on top of the actual applicants within the served communities.
Good Grants offers several key features to help alleviate the pain associated with large stakeholder groups:
Unlimited users—Firstly, with Good Grants there is no additional charge for the number of users using the software. So you can invite as many stakeholders to use the software as you require.
- Ease of use—It is exceptionally easy to get all stakeholders onto the platform. You can import stakeholders in bulk or individually, invite them to register from within the system or send them a registration link.
- Accessible registration—Users have access to a range of registration options, including the ability to register using their mobile number in case they don’t have regular or reliable access to email.
- User roles and permissions—Good Grants has an extensible system for defining user roles and associated system use permissions so that users can only access functionality they’re permitted to, whether they be applicants, a panel of reviewers, community representatives, the grants management team or internal stakeholders not directly involved in the day-to-day management of the program.
The challenge: access to technology
We’re now more connected than ever, but there are still communities around the world who struggle to gain access to the most basic of needs like food and water, let alone modern day technologies like electricity and the internet. From a technological standpoint, Good Grants is well suited to handling portions of the grantmaking process which are hampered by low technology access or unavoidably offline scenarios.
- Good Grants is mobile friendly—not only in its responsive design but also in the low mobile data requirement. Obviously if your program requires images and video this will significantly increase the mobile data used but in terms of loading and completing questions (with no media uploads), Good Grants uses about 3MB of data to fill in and complete a simple form. Larger forms can expect 5MB.
- For zero connectivity locations, offline applications for funding can be captured and imported into Good Grants.
- Program managers and panel members (optional) can download and print applications made by grantseekers to allow for offline assessment, the results of which can later be captured into the Good Grants software.
- If multimedia submissions are required but internet connectivity is poor, unavailable or expensive, applicants can simply save their multimedia files to a storage device (flash drive, memory card, etc) and these can be posted along with a “Packing slip” which can be printed by the applicant from within the Good Grants system. The packing slip is pre-populated with a unique QR code which, upon reception by the program management team, can be scanned and the associated media uploaded to the specific application in the Good Grants platform.
- If an applicant has disrupted internet connectivity or other problems, they can easily come back to the application any time. Good Grants autosaves the application as the applicant goes along.
The challenge: the need for collaboration despite physical distance
Like most of the world, grantmaking programs have had to get used to working in geographically distant locations. As previously mentioned, Good Grants is available online, from anywhere in the world with internet connectivity.
It also comes packaged with several features for enabling collaboration between your review panel members, including optional visibility of review comments made on applications and the ability for program managers to communicate directly with panel members or other interested/important members of the grantmaking team and stakeholders.
The challenge: costs
Good Grants aims to democratise access to enterprise grade grantmaking software. We genuinely believe there is a better way to manage grants and the barrier to a better way of managing grants shouldn’t be the cost. Month-to-month plans start at US$139. Purchased annually, Good Grants plans cost US$1,390, which is essentially two months free.
Outside of the exceptional value of the software, you’ll find Good Grants is able to cut down and eliminate several costs associated with running your program manually, in spreadsheets or via a cobbled together set of online forms. You’ll find the system streamlines the program management team tasks and activities and saves hours of billed time!
You’ll benefit from a searchable archive of all past and present applications and associated uploads, historical panel decisions, reduced printing requirements, no more postage fees, zero travel costs and no need for data capture processes.
The challenge: safety risks for community representatives
It’s an unavoidable discussion. Some funding programs are involved in risky activities. Or support at-risk communities. Consider conflict zones where tribal groups run rife. Consider the LGBTQ+ movement and its many detractors. Consider religious movements and competing beliefs. It is sad to say, but violence between and across groups is still a reality for a large swathe of the world’s population.
When particular communities and their representatives are known in these situations, their participation in programs is dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
While the participation of these communities and their representatives needs to be managed at a much deeper level than just within the grantmaking software, Good Grants has the ability to protect this information as well.
Programs with community representatives who form part of the grantmaking team or decision-making panels can choose to keep panel members anonymous by not including any personally identifiable information in the system or even hiding application comments made by the members on decision-making panels.
For applicants, all of their data is private and secured by default, but added levels of privacy can be added to their application details (there are 3 levels of additional data privacy that can be applied) to ensure their personally identifiable information is known only to a small circle of members of the grantmaking team.
At the highest setting, only the program manager is able to access information that could be used to identify individual applicants. Learn more about privacy and security in Good Grants.
The challenge: conflict of interest
One of the challenges of participatory grantmaking is conflict of interest amongst the grantmaking team whether they be founding funders, community members or others. It happens. We are all human and it can be a difficult situation.
In Good Grants, individual reviewers can safely abstain from reviewing applications they have a conflict of interest with, without affecting other panel members. Program managers also have the power to recuse reviewers in certain situations where the panel member has weighed in on a particular application—all the while ensuring integrity in the results provided by the other panel members.
The challenge: bias
Closely associated with conflict of interest is bias. In Good Grants, bias can be minimised through a range of different settings, including the ability to randomise order of applications for review, anonymising applicant names to the review panel (and just having them review/score based on the facts presented) and avoiding peer influence by choosing to keep individual review comments/scores private and not shared with the rest of the panel members.
The challenge: consensus
Time and again, we see programs struggle to achieve consensus within their review panel members. And drawing consensus can be tough! However, the same features used in conflict of interest and bias can be put to great use here as well. But even more importantly is the actual method used for making decisions.
With Good Grants, grantmaking programs have access to a powerful review suite to ensure panel consensus is fair, transparent and without favour. There are several review modes available to help make a good grant decision but by far the most suited to dealing with consensus is the Top Pick review mode.
In Top Pick, reviewers rank their favourite applications using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) calculation method, which is widely used for elections. Essentially, each reviewer is tasked with “ranking” their top 5 (or 10 or any other relevant number) of preferred applications. These rank scores are then combined using the STV calculation to produce a preferred set of applicants to award funding or support.
This is perfect for:
- Limited budget programs where only a set number of grants can be given out
- Large review panels where consensus is a requirement for grantmaking
- Selecting a single application or any other particular number of applicants for granting
This is an outstanding method for determining consensus.
Using Good Grants to engage with communities
Apart from the above features and benefits of Good Grants, there are several other features that augment or improve the participatory grantmaking process:
Segmentation of budgets and funding
If your program works with distinct categories, you can create sub-panels of reviewers and assign these sub-panels specific budgets to allocate or support funds. This is ideal if you have panels that are uniquely interested in particular community initiatives and you’d like to ensure your funding or resources are distributed equitably across categories.
If for any reason you can’t add community representatives to your grantmaking team or you’d like the entire community voice to be heard, you can use the Good Grants Crowd Voting mode to have the wider community vote for their preferred funding type, initiative or program.
Running your program with communities who don’t speak English or prefer their mother tongue? Not a problem for Good Grants. You can run your program in one or more of more than 25+, professionally translated languages. If your preferred language is not on the list, talk to us— we add new languages regularly.
Communication tools built in
Good Grants comes packed with handy tools to help you communicate important program information with your program participants. You can communicate in bulk or individually and you can leverage automatic notifications to email addresses or mobile devices via SMS.
Application form guidance
If your applicants are new to technology or have struggled with completing forms accurately in the past, Good Grants has the ability to add contextual information directly on the application form. You can welcome and guide your applicants using content blocks above the form or you can get really granular and put help and tip information alongside each and every question you ask.
Participant training not required
Applicants and reviewers will find the Good Grants interface to be extremely user friendly and intuitive. They will not require training in order to either submit or assess applications.
Good Grants makes participatory grantmaking easier
As you can see, Good Grants can be used to effectively power participatory grantmaking in your funding program. It’s a stable, trustworthy and reliable platform, with high end, enterprise grantmaking features at an exceptionally high return on investment.