Best Practices in Grant Adjudication

Picking your Winners with Fairness, Transparency, Efficiency and Accountability

With the current economic malaise and cut-backs in government spending, some grant-making organisations are experiencing increases in the number of applications they receive. This means more work for the grant adjudicators – usually with no more staff.

Unsuccessful applications take just as long to adjudicate as successful ones, but now there are more of them. Ironically, unless either the available funds or the number of grants have grown, this increased adjudication effort is directed mainly to unsuccessful applications, not successful ones. Spending more resources on adjudicating unsuccessful grants doesn’t seem very efficient – but of course it has to be done.

Several years working with granting organisations in different sectors suggest there are a number of best practices which successful and efficient grantors observe. Some have been successful in increasing the number of high-quality grant applications they receive and reducing the number of less compliant ones. This can save time because some applicants won’t have to write applications and the adjudicators won’t have to evaluate them.

Ten of the best practices I have observed are described below.

  1. Use a two-phased adjudication process – and test for eligibility in the first one,
  2. Use transparent and explicit adjudication criteria,
  3. Use equally explicit performance measures,
  4. Standardise your application form,
  5. Have your applicants self-assess their ideas against your criteria,
  6. Use a peer group, not a single adjudicator,
  7. Hold an adjudicators’ review meeting,
  8. Close the accountability loop by reporting back to the applicants,
  9. Use grant adjudication software, and
  10. Have your Board approve the adjudication methodology – as well as the grants.

For many granting organisations, making the adjudication criteria and measures more explicit, standardising the application forms and allowing for applicant self-assessment prior to submission, will reduce the number of non-compliant applications and enhance the overall quality and compliance of those submitted.

Peer group adjudication with explicit criteria and measures can make the adjudication process more robust, more transparent, less time-consuming and much easier, saving valuable time, effort and money. At the same time, accountability to the applicants is enhanced by issuing formal adjudication reports.

If you find these ten practices appealing, affordable web-based software to manage them is available. No hands, no paper!

StrategyLink Consulting

Author Chris Jones MBA, CMC FCMC is a Certified Management Consultant and an Associate Faculty member at Royal Roads University where he teaches management consulting and non-profits management to mid-career MBAs and MAs. He is a Community Advisor with the Victoria Foundation and a member of the Greater Victoria Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. He welcomes comments and questions either by email or on the blog.