May 11, 2021

Special Considerations for Launching Relief Grants

Responsive grantmaking practices are leading to more organizations adding emergency relief programs to their offerings as necessary, but these crisis programs require different processes than a more traditional grant. Consider these ways to change your typical process to be more supportive during a difficult time.

As a modern grantmaker, funding the needs of those in crisis, disaster, or emergency situations can call for a temporary pivot to address current, pressing issues. Adding relief grant programs to your full-time giving portfolio means different considerations need to be taken to launch these vital programs quickly and deliver them to those in hardship.

In times of critical urgency, it is essential for those grantmakers often focused on long-term missions and programs to have a system in place to create a rapid response with aid. This, of course, requires an alert and attentive staff, but having the right resources in place is paramount in acting quickly. Let’s explore some of the ways grantmaking software can help your team pivot quickly to a responsive grantmaking model.

Create a simple application process

Make the application process simple for your applicants who are busy with emergency-response work or in desperate need (and free up valuable time for your staff from fielding countless logistical questions) by bypassing wordy instructions and lengthy data entry. 

Some ways to ensure your application process is accessible include:

  1. Simplifying navigation by removing any unnecessary text or images from the browser page, limiting distractions by making links open to new tabs, and using colorful call-to-action buttons to guide the next steps.
  2. Divide the application into smaller, more logical parts by including a Table of Contents to orient your applicant to the process overview and including section details that indicate important info like materials and time needed to complete that section.
  3. Write clear instructions by clarifying your grant application questions, providing explanations on why you're asking, providing example answers to the more ambiguous questions, defining the length of the answers, and avoiding any insider jargon that might not be familiar to them.
  4. Consider removing questions you may typically ask for more traditional grant applications. Request only the bare minimum that your team needs to qualify an applicant. Ancillary and background questions can be asked later in the process once the grantee's pressing needs have been addressed.

Implementing these changes will open up opportunities for quality applicants to utilize your services, as well as take the guesswork out of operating the process.

Make your application ADA Section 508 friendly

Having taken the time to ensure your application is as approachable as possible, it may still be unreadable or out-of-reach for the disabled population. 

Nearly 20% of the population struggles with a disability, from difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition, and movement to living independently without a caregiver. Navigating the regulations and standards set by the ADA in the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that is, making your website safe and accessible for people with disabilities, can open up your grant applications to a wider audience, increase your page views and web visits, and position your brand as an inclusive entity. 

To be sure you’re including this large segment of the population, consider some features of ADA friendly applications like keyboard accessibility, image text, closed captioning and timeouts.

Review the Health and Human Services resources or the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 to learn more about the latest requirements. 

Fast-track your application process

If your organization is offering relief grant programs, you may need to update your systems to be able to expedite applications, providing grantees with much-needed funds quickly. 

A qualifying quiz at the beginning of the application can save both time and effort by informing the applicant of their eligibility before taking any action toward it. An organization can also have any post-application questions answered on the final screen by including a confirmation of receipt, expected timeline for your decision, and any explanations needed for further action.

Modern software can help your team sync up online to review applications rapidly and efficiently. With a smart grants management system, you can not only collect applications quicker, but automatically assign reviewers (or even have the system score and approve applications), send reminder emails, and move along processes to get checks cut and sent faster.

Ensure clear and open communications

Remember, your grantees are busy dealing with a crisis and will need to know you appreciate the urgency of the situation and are able to offer quick updates. It’s best to have a grantee communication plan in place to let them know exactly how it is you’ll be communicating, whether it is online, via email, or via text.

Since you'll probably want to touch base with grantees as their emergency wanes to see how your support was utilized -- a requirement with relief funding generated by government initiatives like the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan -- be sure to also clearly explain how progress reporting and follow-up information will be collected. If you utilize a grants management system, grantees can log in to the same portal where they applied to complete these forms and submit any receipts, budgets, or other materials.


Make the funding process quicker and easier for your team and your grantees with emergency relief grant management software that can be tailored to fit your needs. By planning now, you'll be able to quickly pivot and be more responsive in handling requests for support during complex and difficult times, so both you and your applicants can do your important work. 


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