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How do I set up a grant programme?

Setting up a grant programme can feel overwhelming.  How do you know who to fund, how much to give, and how will you assess the benefit of your grants?

First and foremost, it is important to set your objectives – what do you want to achieve with your money?

There are three important questions to consider alongside your project or organisation’s specific aims.

  1. What size of grant would be best? Do you want to give one large sum to a large body who will deliver what you need, or would many microgrants be more effective? Do you want to fund a whole project from your applicant, or a percentage – perhaps matched funding would dilute some risk for you.
  2. How long will your grant program run? Some programs are annual, some are a one-off time-limited response, and some run continuously. Whatever the lifecycle period, it must include enough time for your administration, and also be timely enough to ensure impact when it is needed.
  3. What can recipients use your funding for? Some grantmakers specify funds can only be used on a project, others allow contributions to core costs, and others don’t require evidence of how the grant is used – grants like this are often given as a crisis response.

Next, it is important to consider the cost of making each grant. While you are establishing how you’ll disburse your funds, you should also examine what resources you will need to make the grants. Effective grants management requires resources, and you will want to find a balance between your grants spend and grants administration costs.

Once you have decided what you are trying to achieve with your funding, and how your grant program will run, it is a good idea to capture these details in guidelines for potential applicants.  Make sure you include:       

  • All important dates and timelines
  • A description of the application, assessment and notification processes.
  • Eligibility criteria for applicants
  • All criteria for the grant program
  • The amount of the grant
  • Reporting requirements

Setting up your application process

You will want to ask potential applicants some questions – the art is in the balance of asking for just the right amount of information.  Too many detailed questions may create a barrier to applying, and not enough questions might make it hard to choose the right recipients.

Also consider the length of application form, particularly in context of the size of your awards. An applicant will expect to spend a significant amount of time applying for a very large bid, but would be prepared to spend less time on an application for a small amount of money with few conditions attached.

Making your decisions

Your decision making process should be transparent. Think about who will read and assess the applications, and who will make the decisions about who gets a grant, and how much?

Your scoring rubric will be informed by your objectives and by your requirements. How will you avoid bias, and how will you ensure accountability in your decision making process? Using a grant management system like AIMS allows you to remain transparent in all decisions.

Reporting on your activity

Within your guidelines for applicants you should outline what your reporting requirements will be.  You will want to do some internal reporting – how many people applied, who they are, how many were successful, how much money you gave out.  In addition, you may want to understand how your recipients used their funding, in order to examine the effectiveness of your grant program.

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