The grantmaker’s guide to creating an equitable grant review process

by | Mar 3, 2021

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Your program mission is to make a difference—whether it’s through empowerment, community transformation or to change lives for the better. But, this is no easy task and it can be a whirlwind of complexity.

The review and decision process can be challenging—both emotionally and operationally.

Which applicants should be funded? How will you decide? How will you minimise any bias and create a review system that is transparent and trustworthy and lifts your program’s mission and reputation?

At Good Grants, we see firsthand how a wide array of organisations use our grants management software to make good decisions. From creating fair and equitable criteria to anonymising the review process, there are many steps you can take to ensure an impartial application assessment.

We’ll walk you through the process below and provide you with actionable best practices to make sure your review process is fair and nets the best outcomes for you and your program’s mission.

Design an equitable grant review process, from the start

Good Grants application form

1. Guide the assessment by starting with a great application

Before the review process even begins, it’s crucial that you have a strong foundation––an accessible, intuitive application that provides your reviewers with all the information they need to easily assess each application.

The more you control the assessment experience, the less room you leave to subjectivity. After all, you know your program best and are best suited to determine what to include in the review of your applications. It all starts with a well-planned application form.

Establish the questions you want applicants to answer and in what format you’d like for them to respond. These questions will define how your reviewers will make their decisions.

With Good Grants, for example, you can use our easy drag-and-drop form builder to create your form with categories and tabs. Choose from 17 different question types. Use conditional logic to ask for additional information and provide contextual help to your applicants along the way. 

Review instructions for grant reviewers

2. Provide clear review criteria

It’s ideal to define your assessment criteria or scoring rubric soon after or at the same time as when you build your application. Why? This will allow you to align assessment criteria with your application criteria, making it easy for your reviewers to associate each piece of the application with a corresponding score.

A few tips:

  • If you have long-answer questions in your application, consider providing your applicants with a bulleted list that outlines the instructions and what they should include. This will of course help your applicants submit better quality applications, but it will also help your reviewers quickly isolate the specific details they need to score effectively.
  • Provide instructions along the way for your reviewers. In Good Grants, you can easily provide guidance to reviewers through effectively placed content boxes. You can add text, images or video instructions throughout the application form, without navigating through any additional settings or menus.

Providing a consistent and predictable experience for your reviewers removes any inconsistencies. This allows the reviewers to know what to look for and where to find it and can improve their assessment experience.

Review modes in Good Grants

3. Define the review + scoring methods

There is no one way to assess an application. That’s why Good Grants provides an entire suite of sophisticated assessment tools to help you assess applications and make sound funding decisions. In Good Grants, you can choose between the following review modes:

  • Qualifying: This is used for making simple pass/fail decisions, perfect for shortlisting applications before moving on to more in-depth review rounds.
  • Top Pick: Reviewers can rank their favourites by using the Single Transferable Vote calculation, used often in elections. This is great for when you need a consensus from a large panel of reviewers. 
  • Crowd Voting: If you want your entire organisation, specific group, or even the public to vote on favourites, you can use this mode for easy voting.
  • Scoring: This highly configurable review mode is perfect for more in-depth reviews with expert reviewers. Results are calculated and available in real-time.
  • Galleries. Showcase your applications by using these high impact visual galleries, ideal for displaying previously granted applications or providing a historical record of past submissions.

Consider a scoring rubric that allows for both quantitative and qualitative review options. In Good Grants, it’s easy to create that perfect mix of numeric scoring and qualitative feedback for applicants. (Learn more about the Good Grants review suite.

4. Present the scoring criteria in one place for your reviewers

Make it simple for your reviewers. In other words, make sure your reviewers can log into your platform and quickly see what needs to be scored, when, and what the criteria is for each section of the application.

This means creating review assignments so that your reviewers are never searching for their next task. They can simply log in and review what’s next in their queue.

Make sure they don’t have to print stacks of paper applications or click between numerous websites or tabs to align assessment criteria with each application.

Provide all the information they need to review each application on one screen and make sure it’s mobile-friendly in case your reviewers need to access the assessment process on the go.

Good Grants provides a beautiful and intuitive review experience with all relevant information on one simple page. Content can be added throughout the platform to guide your reviewers along the way. And the entire platform was designed with flexibility in mind. Your reviewers can access the platform from wherever they are, on any computer, tablet or mobile device with an internet connection.

Best practices for your grant review process

Once you’ve designed your grant review process, consider these best practices to make sure your assessment runs smoothly for everyone involved.


Communicate with grant reviewers

Communicate often with your reviewers

You can easily cut down on any confusion or support requests by providing clear instructions for your reviewers, directly in the platform. Send regular updates to let your reviewers know if they have any applications awaiting review.

In Good Grants, you can provide contextual information for your reviewers throughout the platform to help them through the assessment process. You can also easily send Broadcasts directly from the platform to let them know if they have any applications waiting to be reviewed. 

Manage conflicts of interest

Use recusal and abstention tools to allow reviewers to abstain or managers to recuse reviewers from scoring or deciding on any applications where there may be a potential conflict of interest.

Good Grants offers both of these options to make it easy for your grant managers and reviewers to manage any conflict of interest. 

Set scoring controls

Consider scoring controls such as minimum and maximum score. Good Grants also allows you to weight each piece of criteria to create more equity in the assessment process. 

Ensure equity through anonymous review

Subjectivity can also be compromised by including personal information about an applicant, such as name, gender, education or location. An easy way to combat this is to make applications anonymous. Show reviewers only the information they need to assess each application, reducing the risk of bias.

In Good Grants, you can easily anonymise applications by using the field visibility tool to hide personal information, even when they download applications or attachments.

Avoid peer influence with a private reviewing view

Reviewing in Good Grants can be done individually or collaboratively. While collaboration has its benefits, it can also create peer influence. If you are looking to avoid this, it’s easy to provide private views in Good Grants of each application so that each reviewer enjoys a clean view, free from other reviewers’ scores and comments. 

Create space for application feedback and critiques

If you want to provide your applicants with helpful and insightful feedback on their application, no matter its outcome, create a space for reviewers to provide comments. In Good Grants, this is a simple configuration option that can provide increased value to every program applicant. 

A successful review process equals successful outcomes

Making grant and funding decisions is never easy. With so many amazing applicants, it can be a difficult process for the most organised of programs.

But a streamlined review process can help you feel confident of your decisions, build your program’s reputation, and provide transparent guidelines on what your applicants can expect.

By creating a review process that cultivates equitable decision-making, you can add credibility and value to your grant, scholarship or funding program.

Learn how Good Grants can help you build a seamless review process with sophisticated review tools to help you always make the best decisions. Get a free trial today. No credit card required.

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