The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants

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The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants is a step-by-step outline on how to manage grant programs from start to finish.

The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants

Navigating the complexities of grant management can be a daunting task for grant providers. Recognizing the need for a streamlined and efficient approach, Reviewr, the leading grant management software, bridge the gap between technology and best practices in grant administration. 

Through its innovative software solutions and deep industry knowledge, Reviewr empowers organizations to manage grants in the best possible way. This blog post delves into the insights shared in Reviewr’s recent webinar, “The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants,” offering valuable advice on optimizing application processes, ensuring data security, and fairness in selection. 

Whether you’re new to grant management or looking to refine your process, this post will help you explore how Reviewr is revolutionizing the way grants are managed.

Short on time? Here’s the TL;DR version of The Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants

  • Grants are life changing opportunities for participants – we need to give them the energy they deserve.
  • Experience is everything.
  • Leverage your existing website as the starting point for rules, eligibility, etc. From here, link to Reviewr.
  • The 1st step in a grant workflow is a proof of process.
    • Sets expectations. When you apply for a grant this is what the process looks like.
      • Dates
      • Application experience
      • Review and selection experience
      • Post awarding process.
  • Data security and privacy is critical. Ensure your software is SOC2Type2 compliant.
  • The submission process should be low barrier and promote an engaging experience that empowers the applicant to focus on content creation of the strongest application as possible.
  • Ditch reference letters and instead do reference templates.
  • Sample grant application form included in this guide.
  • Create review workflows that mimic the review workload capacity of review team.
    • Phases
    • Categories/Buckets
    • Set number assigned to review.
  • Auto assign a random number of submissions to each reviewer.
  • Provide a way for a reviewer to opt out with a conflict of interest.
  • Blind PII and sensitive data from review teams.
  • Leverage a mathematic based scoresheet.
  • Sample grant evaluation criteria included in this guide.
  • Once applicants are reviewed and selected any communication and additional data collection should go through the same portal that was used the entire time for consistency and data aggregation/reporting.

The Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Phase 1: Planning and Preparation

The first step in the Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants lies in meticulous planning and preparation. This stage is critical, setting the tone for the entire process and ensuring that every subsequent step aligns with your organization’s goals and objectives. Reviewr, a leader in grant management software, emphasizes the importance of this foundational step and offers insights into making the planning phase as effective as possible.

Define Your Objectives

  • Purpose Identification: Clearly define the purpose of the grant.
  • Goal Setting: Establish measurable goals. How many grants will be offered? What impact do you hope to achieve?

Target Audience Analysis

  • Demographic Targeting: Identify the demographic and characteristics of your target audience. 
  • Needs Assessment: Understand the needs of your target audience. What financial or support do they require?

Budget Planning

  • Funding Sources: Identify sources of funding for the grant. Will it be funded internally, through fundraising efforts, or via sponsors and partners?
  • Budget Allocation: Determine the budget for the grant program. Include funds for the grant awards and operational expenses (marketing, administration, etc.).

Grant Criteria Development

  • Eligibility Requirements: Establish clear eligibility criteria based on the grant’s objectives and target audience. Consider financial need, community involvement, or specific requirements.
  • Selection Criteria: Define the criteria for selecting recipients. How will applications be evaluated? Will you prioritize certain qualities?

Timeline Establishment

  • Program Schedule: Create a detailed timeline for the grant program, including the application period, evaluation phase, selection announcement, and disbursement of funds.
  • Milestones: Set key milestones to track progress and ensure the program stays on schedule.

Utilizing the Right Tools

  • Leveraging technology can significantly streamline the planning and preparation process. Reviewr’s grant management software offers a suite of tools designed to facilitate application collection, review, and communication. Grant Management Platforms are essential in operating the “Ultimate Playbook to Managing Grants”.
  • By automating administrative tasks, your team can focus more on strategic aspects of the grant program.

Preparing for Challenges

  • Anticipate challenges and prepare contingency plans. 
  • Whether it’s dealing with an overwhelming number of applications or addressing technical glitches, being prepared ensures that your program runs smoothly.
  •  Reviewr’s support team and comprehensive resources are always on hand to help you navigate any obstacles that arise.

The Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Phase 2: Marketing the Grants


  • Direct Communication: Personalized letters or emails highlighting the grant program’s importance, criteria, and how to participate.
  • Digital Marketing: Utilize SEO strategies for your website, content marketing through blogs and articles, social media campaigns, and email marketing. Consider paid advertising through google, social media, and LinkedIn.


  • Regular Updates: Include a dedicated section in the regular newsletters about the grant program, with updates, timelines, and featured past recipients.
  • Spotlight Stories: Share stories or interviews of past recipients, focusing on the impact of the grant.

Email Campaigns

  • Announcement Email: Send a detailed announcement about the grant program, including key dates and how to apply.
  • Reminder Emails: Schedule reminder emails as deadlines approach, including tips for a successful application.

Social Media Campaign

  • Hashtag Campaign: Create a unique hashtag for the grant program and encourage people to share stories or posts with it.
  • Regular Posts: Share regular updates, quotes from previous grant recipients, and countdowns to deadlines on social media.


  • Dedicated Web Page: Create a detailed web page on the organization’s website with all information about the grant program.
  • FAQ Section: Include a FAQ section addressing common questions about the grant process.

Partnership and Sponsorships

  • Industry Partnerships: Collaborate with industry partners for wider outreach and credibility.
  • Sponsorship Opportunities: Offer sponsorship opportunities for different grant categories.


The Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Phase 3: The Submission Process

Utilizing Technology

Select a Platform, and use a tool like Reviewr to manage submissions and the review process efficiently. Here are key elements your grant management software should include. 

Streamlined Submission Platform:

  • A digital platform where applicants can submit all necessary documents and information in a structured, user-friendly format.
  • The platform supports various file formats and submission types, catering to the diverse needs of different programs.
  • Ability to collect third party references in a template format.
  • Ability to save, logout, and track progress.
  • Capture all the necessary grant application content.
  • This digital transition not only saves time but also enhances accuracy and the overall applicant experience.

Safeguarding Applicant Information

It’s essential that grants are managed through dedicated and proven grant management software. Not only do these platforms save grant managers hundreds of hours in management energy, but they also include dedicated features to ensure an engaging experience for all parties involved as well as mechanisms for grant compliance. grants are high-impact programs and should be treated as such. Grant programs should never utilize tools that were not developed to manage the sensitive nature of grants such as online form and survey tools, emails, spreadsheets, file-sharing sites, etc.

Data Encryption

  • All data, especially PII (Personal Identifiable Information) and student information should be encrypted both in transit and at rest.

Compliance with global standards

  • In an ever-changing, dynamic environment, compliance standards must be constantly reviewed. This includes things such as GDPR, FERPA, California Personal Information Act, etc. Softwares such as Reviewr that maintain the gold standard for data protection such as SOC2Type2 are always ahead of the curve and take the guessing game out of the equation – as well as the headache and time requirements that grant managers do not have.

Audits and Certification

  • Saying a grant program is compliant and ensures data security and privacy is one thing – proving it is another. 
  • Ask your grant management software for their Soc2Type2 report (Gold Standard).
  • While many grant management applications may be compliant in their own right, they lose grant compliance when used in conjunction with other tools. For example – collecting grant applications through a tool like JotForm may be a secure and reliable method, but once those forms are exported and moved into other tools the grant compliance goes out the window.
  • This is why it’s critical to utilize a full grant management platform.

Reference collection

Often an afterthought, yet critical to get right, is the collection of references. When an external variable such as references is added to the grant application and selection process we must ensure this too follows both proper protocol for data security, but also best practices.

Avoid reference letters:

  • Historically references were collected in a letter format but this is now an outdated and risky method.
  • Letters create a barrier for references.
    • Hard to write
    • Takes time and effort
    • Multi-step to create, write, and send back.
    • Not all references are created equal – some are better written than others, some had more time put into it, etc. Is this a fair representation of the grant applicant?
    • Hard to blind PII in a letter.

Leverage reference templates:

  • Outline 3-5 questions that each reference should answer.
  • Lowers the time and effort barrier for references.
  • Creates data consistency amongst all applicants.
  • Creates consistency in the review process with defined data sets.

Use Reviewrs automated reference collection process:

  • Grant applicant will enter the name and email of the reference
  • Triggers an email notification to reference
  • Reference clicks on a link that brings them to a reference template
  • Reference simply fills out the template with the ability to save, log out, and work at their own pace.
  • Visibility to both grant program managers as well as to applicants on the progress of references.
  • Actual reference content can be blinded from the applicant.
  • Upon submission, the reference template is automatically attached to the applicant profile.
  • Reference data can be blinded more easily by the review team.

Impartial Review Distribution

All human variables that may lend themselves to bias must be removed from the grant management equation. This includes how grant applications are assigned to review committees. While many scholarship programs are committee based with all members reviewing all scholarships, may opt to deploy a process where not all committee members review all submissions.

  • Depending on volume, sometimes it can be overwhelming to ask review team members to evaluate all grant applications. 
  • If evaluators are overwhelmed, their review and selection process is often degraded, leading to potentially inaccurate and unfair reviews and selections.
  • Instead, start with a survey of the review team to define how many applicants they can provide 100% of their energy towards. This becomes the target.
  • However, grant review members being assigned only a subset of the total application pool adds a risk element to who is reviewing who.
  • Leverage Reviewr automation where an exact number can be entered (Assign each evaluator 9 submissions, assign each evaluator no less than 5 but no more than 7, I want every applicant reviewed 7 times, etc).
  • Reviewr will then automatically, and randomly, distribute submissions to reviewers based on the input. By removing the human element of deciding which applicants are reviewed by which staff members, we can ensure compliance.

Centralized Communication and Workflow Management

  • Facilitate streamlined communication with built-in messaging and notification systems, keeping everyone informed and engaged.
  • The platform allows for easy tracking of deadlines, with automated reminders and updates, reducing manual follow-up tasks.
  • A centralized dashboard enables program managers to oversee and coordinate all aspects of the program lifecycle in one place.

Enhanced Data Management and Reporting

  • The platform offers robust data management capabilities, securely storing and organizing applicant information.
  • Real-time reporting and analytics provide insights into program performance, helping in informed decision-making.
  • The ability to generate comprehensive reports reduces the administrative burden and supports strategic planning and evaluation.
  • Scalable Infrastructure: The system should be able to handle a high volume of submissions without performance issues.
  • Integration Capabilities: The software should integrate seamlessly with other tools used by the organization, such as CRM systems, Single sign-on, and AMS. 

Customer Support and Resources

  • Access to reliable customer support for troubleshooting and assistance.
  • Robust library of resources for all types of participants. 

Sample Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Application Form:


Often times less is more when it comes to grant applications. Best practices indicate a simply online submission workflow with a low barrier for applicants that leads into an initial review and vetting process. From here, grant applicants will be narrowed down where if any additional information is needed that grant maker can reach out to the grantee within Reviewr to collect additional information. 

Applicant Information

  • Organization Name:
  • Tax ID (if applicable):
  • Organization Address:
  • Website URL (if applicable):
  • Contact Person: Name, Title, Email, Phone Number.
  • Organization Type: (Non-profit, Educational Institution, Business, etc.)
  • Year Established:
  • Mission Statement:
  • Current Annual Budget:

Grant Request

  • Amount Requested:
  • Project Title:
  • Project Summary: Provide a brief overview of the project, including its goals, target population, and expected outcomes.
  • Project Detail: Describe the project in detail, including implementation steps, timeline, personnel involved, and any partners.
  • Alignment with Mission: Articulate how your work supports the grantmaker’s mission and vision.
  • Budget Breakdown: Provide an itemized budget detailing how the grant funds will be utilized.
  • Funding Need: Explain why this funding is necessary for the project’s success and how it complements other funding sources, if any.
  • Usage of Grant funds: Provide in detail how grant funding will be utilized to achieve your projects mission. It is critical to demonstrate both the direct impact of the funds on the project execution and in fulfilling your organizations broader goals.
  • Define Success: Outline specific metrics for success. Demonstrate a plan for evaluation that shows a structured approach to measuring the projects outcome.
  • Sustainability: Describe how the project will be sustained post-grant period including strategies for securing ongoing funding and resources. It’s critical to demonstrate long-term viability.

Supporting Documents

  • Project Plan: Attach a detailed project plan, including timelines and milestones.
  • Financial Statements: Attach the most recent financial statements of the organization.
  • Letters of Support: Please provide letters of reference from individuals or organizations that can attest to your organization’s ability to successfully execute the proposed project and manage grant funds effectively. References should be knowledgeable about your organization’s work and the specific initiatives outlined in this proposal. Include at least two reference letters. The reference will be notified in real time with a link to a reference template to be filled out. This reference template will be automatically attached to your profile. You can login to your profile at any time to track the progress of your references.
    • Reference 1
      • Name:
      • Position:
      • Organization:
      • Relationship to the Applicant:
      • Contact Information: (Email and Phone Number)
    • Reference 2
      • Name:
      • Position:
      • Organization:
      • Relationship to the Applicant:
      • Contact Information: (Email and Phone Number)
  • Board of Directors: Provide a list of board members and their affiliations.
  • Previous Grant Awards: List any previous grants received, including the grantor, amount, and project outcomes.
  • Additional Supporting Materials: If you have any additional documents, reports, visual aids, or relevant materials that you believe will strengthen your application, please upload them here. This can include but is not limited to:
    • Research findings.
    • Previous project evaluations.
    • Multimedia files showcasing organizational activities.
    • Any other documents that provide insight into your organization’s capabilities and the proposed project’s potential impact.


  • Certification of Accuracy: “I certify that the information provided in this application is accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge. I understand that any misrepresentation may result in disqualification from the grant process.”
  • Signature:
  • Date:

The Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Phase 4: Judging and Selection

The grant selection process is a crucial phase that demands fairness, transparency, and objectivity as guiding principles. It is essential to establish a rigorous and unbiased selection mechanism to ensure that every applicant receives equal consideration, based solely on their qualifications and alignment with the grant’s objectives.

Reviewr has developed grant management software that upholds these principles at every step of the selection process. The software incorporates advanced features that safeguard against bias and streamline the review workflow, thus enhancing the program’s credibility.

Promoting Objective Reviews

A fair selection process is fundamental to maintaining the integrity and reputation of your grant program. It involves implementing strategies that minimize personal bias and ensure a level playing field for all applicants. This is not just about ethical responsibility; it’s also about identifying truly deserving candidates who best match the grant’s goals.

Blind (Personal Identifiable Information) PII from the evaluation team

  • Purpose: To prevent unconscious bias, Reviewr’s system anonymizes applications by hiding PII from review teams during the evaluation process.
  • Impact: Reviewers make judgments based on the quality of the application without being influenced by the applicant’s personal background.

Blind “non-critical” information

  • Often times grant applications include essential bookkeeping and data but it’s not essential for the actual review in the selection process – meaning the data collected will not be used in making grant selection decisions. In this use case, the data should be blinded from reviewers so as to also provide an engaging and non-overwhelming experience for them.

Random distribution of applications to review teams

  • Method: Applications are randomly assigned to reviewers to prevent any potential clustering of applications that might skew the fairness of the evaluation.
  • Benefit: This ensures that every application has an equal chance of being reviewed by multiple reviewers, balancing out individual reviewer biases. 

Manage Review Team workloads

  • Approach: Reviewr ensures that each reviewer is assigned a manageable number of applications, preventing review fatigue and ensuring a thorough evaluation.
  • Outcome: A focused and less burdensome workload leads to more attentive and considerate reviews, contributing to the overall quality and fairness of the selection process.

Structured Review Phases

  • Initial Vetting to Final Selection: The process is divided into phases, starting with an initial vetting to filter out ineligible or incomplete applications, followed by more detailed reviews that narrow down the pool to the most qualified candidates.
  • Advantages: This phased approach allows for a more organized and gradual narrowing of applicants, ensuring that each stage is conducted with due diligence and focus.

Dedicated scholarship management software

    • While it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility for review team members to export, screenshot, or save information – using a dedicated grant management system such as Reviewr does make it significantly more challenging to ensure that data collected in Reviewr stays in Reviewr.

Quantitative Selections

The last piece to a compliant, fair, non-biased, and equitable grant management process is leveraging scoring rubrics for a quantitative selection. By using scoresheets we can avoid comparison bias amongst applicants and let the merits of their entry and scoresheet tell the story.

  • Scorecards should match the grant application and grant provider’s guiding vision and principles.
  • The Proof of Process lays out why specific grant questions are being asked – the scoresheet needs to mirror those.
  • This allows the review team to side by side review the grant application and references with a scoresheet that follows along. The review team simply plugs in their answers as they read the application.
  • Consider weighted scoring
    • While the scoresheet should mirror the questions answered in the application, some grant application questions are in more alignment with the grant provider’s mission than others – these should be weighted to reflect.
  • Use a grant management system such as Reviewr to auto-result tabulation and leaderboards.
    • It’s critical to remove potential human error when tabulating grant results on a quantitative basis. Leverage Reviewr automation which calculates the quantitative results based on the scorecard input by the review teams. This will then outline non-bias, and fair, rankings.

Sample Ultimate Playbook for Managing Grants Evaluation Form:

Initial Vetting Screener Scorecard

The purpose of this scorecard is to quickly identify applications that meet basic eligibility criteria and demonstrate a fundamental alignment with the grantmaker’s mission and priorities. This stage is designed to be low-barrier, focusing on essential organizational and project-related information.

Organization Type EligibilityYes / No
Completeness of ApplicationYes / No
Alignment with Grantmaker’s MissionYes / No
Project Feasibility (based on summary)Yes / No
Budget Request Within Funding RangeYes / No

Scoring: Applications that receive “Yes” in all the above criteria pass to the detailed review phase.

Detailed Scoring Rubric

After initial vetting, this rubric is used for a deeper evaluation of the applications. Each criterion is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates poor alignment/quality and 5 indicates excellent alignment/quality. Note: consider weighting these questions based on your organizations priorities.

CriterionDescriptionMax Points
Organization’s Mission and HistoryAlignment with grant objectives, track record of impact.5
Project Innovation and ImpactNovelty of the project and potential for significant impact.5
Alignment with MissionHow well the project supports the grantmaker’s mission and vision.5
Detailed Budget JustificationClarity and justification of the budget, cost-effectiveness.5
Evaluation and Success MetricsClarity of success metrics and evaluation plan.5
Sustainability PlanViability of long-term project funding and resources.5
Quality of Supporting DocumentsRelevance and strength of supplementary materials.5

Scoring: A maximum of 35 points. Applications scoring above a predetermined threshold (e.g., 70% of the total possible points) proceed to the final interview phase.

Final Interview Scorecard

For the last phase, the scorecard evaluates the applicant’s presentation and responses during the interview, focusing on their ability to articulate the project’s value, feasibility, and alignment with the grantmaker’s goals.

CriterionDescriptionMax Points
Clarity and ConcisenessAbility to clearly and succinctly describe the project and its impact.10
Passion and CommitmentDemonstration of passion for the project and commitment to its success.10
Understanding of Grantmaker’s GoalsDepth of understanding of how the project aligns with the grantmaker’s goals.10
Responsiveness to QuestionsEffectiveness in addressing questions and providing relevant information.10
Potential for PartnershipPotential for a strong, collaborative partnership with the grantmaker.10

More To Explore

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