August 31, 2020

Five Ways to Set Up Grant Reviewers for Success

They give of their time, talents, and insights, and as such are a pivotal part of your grantmaking. Ensure your reviewers have the tools, training, and support they need.

One of the best investments that a nonprofit organization can make is keeping grant reviewers happy. Grant reviewers, usually working on a volunteer basis, are fundamentally important to the grantmaking process, and it’s in your best interests to make good use of their time. Often, this means clearing obstacles and making reviewers’ jobs as simple as possible. Here are five ways that you can streamline grant reviewers’ workloads and set them up for success.

Create a Grant Review Guide

Every grant reviewing assignment is different, and even the most experienced reviewers could use a quick guide about what your organization is looking for during a particular cycle. It’s well worth your time to create a simple guide or checklist that outlines exactly which features qualify an applicant, such as education level, experience, age and other simple factors. Written responses can be a bit more complicated, so include a few pointers on how to assess them, such as length, clarity, or other intangibles such as passion and enthusiasm. Be sure to notify reviewers that this guide is available and to make it easily accessible.

Take Your Grant Review Online

With remote, online work being the current preferred option for so many of us (both now and most likely well into the future), your organization will need to ensure that the entire reviewing process can be conducted online. Today’s grants management software allows reviewers to access everything they need from the comfort and safety of their personal computers. Reviewers will have the option to view application materials in virtually any form, including online, as a downloaded PDF, or printed. However, after learning to use a state of the art online grants review platform, we promise that no one will miss the paper trail. 

Ensure a Welcoming Grant Reviewer Portal

Now that you’ve brought your grant review process online, make sure that your system is optimized for ease of use. Ensure that everything reviewers need is all in one place — a one stop shop where multiple users can review and rate applications simultaneously. Some systems can even give reviewers the ability to see other reviewers’ notes. Look for convenient features such as color coding of application stages and automated reminders to keep the process on track. 

Send Reviewers Your Best Applicants

Another way to ensure a timely, streamlined grant review process is to only send reviewers candidates who actually qualify for the grant, award, or scholarship. This means filtering out applicants who don’t make the criteria at the time. Your reviewers’ time is precious, and they shouldn’t have to do this sorting work, particularly when it can be automated using smart nonprofit technology. For example, grants management software can screen for qualified applicants using a simple quiz during the application process, ensuring that only the most competitive applicants end up on your reviewers’ virtual desk. 

Say Thanks… And Then Follow Up!

Be sure to thank your reviewers for their contribution to your organization. A small gift or handwritten note reminds them how important they are to the mission. This acknowledgment might also encourage them to lend you their time and talent during the next grant cycle. 

After you thank your reviewers, there’s one more thing you should do: Ask how it went. We’ve previously recommended volunteering as a grant reviewer yourself to better understand the experience. If you aren’t able to do that, one of the next best ways to learn more about the process is to follow up with reviewers after a grant has been rewarded. This can be as simple as a brief email or phone call. Be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How was your experience reviewing applications for our organization?
  • What about our process made the experience easy or enjoyable?
  • What could have improved your experience?
  • Were you able to complete all of the tasks asked of you?
  • Do you have any other comments about the experience?

You might want to submit these questions through an anonymous tool to ensure that your reviewers are answering candidly. Because nonprofit work is often personal, you want to create an environment where your partners can speak their minds without concern. 


We know how invested you are in providing a good experience for your reviewers. An efficient grants management software can streamline the process for them, help them focus on your applicants, and make their contribution even more of a pleasure. 


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