The grants management process is fueled often by reviewers — experts, board members, and volunteers who share their knowledge and time with us and help our program find success. In return, give them the easiest review process possible.
Giving is a big part of the nonprofit space. It’s what we do, and what we are often most proud of. But while to you giving might be second nature, to others, it’s a big ask. We see this most often when we reach out to donors, sponsors, or partners who are considering making a financial contribution. But as they say, time is money. So our board, our reviewers, and any other volunteers that make room in their busy lives for us need to also be considered. They give us precious hours. What are we giving them in return?
If the answer is a complicated application review process, it may be time to stop and consider what can be done to improve it. Sure, no one in the organization benefits from a complex process, but reviewers who are volunteering their time are often most negatively impacted. They are asked to drive to offices to pick up massive files. They spend countless hours comparing forms and essays and budgets. And then they send their expert opinions and feedback back out, maybe assuming, maybe hoping, that it makes a difference and their insights will enable the right people to receive funding.
Consider adding these features to your application and grants management system to make the review process as easy as possible.
Qualifying quizzes. A number of the submissions received with a paper, electronic PDF, or even basic web-form application will not meet the standard qualifying criteria for the grant or scholarship you are administering. And often, it’s the reviewers who spend their time reading through applications only to stumble upon the issue and review the offending items from the stack. When you begin an online application with a qualifying quiz, you can assure those that reach your reviewers are vetted and worthy of their time and attention.
Rolling to-do lists. With an online system, you can assign applications to your reviewers as they are received and vetted. Their dashboard within the portal will show all assigned applications on a rolling basis, allowing them to tackle them as they come in or set aside time to handle a chunk of them at once.
Clear status updates. Reviews often happen between meetings, after hours, or even during a reviewer’s weekend. A portal that allows reviewers to stop, save, and restart as needed — and that clearly indicates the progress and status of each application in their queue — makes attending to the reviews and returning after inevitable interruptions much easier.
Combined assets. When email or paper is used, it’s difficult to flip between files. Imagine the stress level of a reviewer literally surrounded by papers, or with a series of browser tabs open, trying to go back and forth and find the info they need to make their decision. A portal allows all the information to be combined into one clean space, clearly defined, and easily accessible.
Side-by-side scoring. Some reviews are simple: approve or deny. Many, however, include a series of questions that can be answered with radio buttons, short answers, scales, and more. To respond well to all of these questions, reviewers often have to toggle back and forth between their scorecard and the content they are reviewing. With a built-in side-by-screen, your reviewers can easily find all the info they need, allowing them to score more accurately, and more quickly.
Parent-child data. While the application itself holds the heaviest weight in a review, there are other factors that may influence your reviewer. Has the applicant received funding from the organization before? Are they applying to other programs the organization's is running? How have his fellow reviewers scored this applicant? With related data visible to your reviewers, they can see any of this data and more within the portal, right alongside the application.