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PEAK Grantmaking

5 Tips for Making Your Grant Review Board More Inclusive

This post is sponsored by Submittable.

Research shows that a more inclusive workplace offers a wide range of benefits to professional teams. Working in a diverse setting helps people learn from each other, become better communicators, increase their social awareness, and develop higher levels of creativity.
Because having a variety of perspectives and insights also improves project outcomes, committing to a grant review board that exhibits diversity and embraces equity will enhance your organization. Here are some suggestions toward this end.
1. Take an Inventory of Your Workplace Culture

Before reaching out to a diverse group of potential grant reviewers, it’s important to assess the ways diverse viewpoints are valued in your organization. Often, measuring this can be done by looking at the kinds of micro-decisions that are made on a daily basis.

For example:

  • Whose opinions are being sought out?
  • Who is invited to which meetings?
  • Who is included in your organization’s target audience?
  • Do your applications or forms use gendered language?

Answering these kinds of questions can help you make needed adjustments internally. This, in turn, will help new people feel comfortable, respected, and valued. Bringing in outside grant reviewers will be easier if you’ve done the work in your office first.

It’s also important to carefully consider the reasons you are interested in diversifying your review panel. What will diversity contribute to your grant review process?

More voices and perspectives in the decision-making process will likely push at the boundaries of what your organization has done before. Ensuring that you are ready to embrace these changes will contribute to a smoother experience for everyone.

2. Do Your Homework

Posting a call for grant reviewers across your social media platforms may bring in some diversity, but you’ll have better luck if you reach out to the reviewers you want on the platforms where they spend the most time. If someone on staff has connections to a particular group or community, this can be the easiest way to put a call out. Should you decide to use an application form for new reviewers, be sure your language is inclusive.

You might reach out to other organizations that serve particular groups and ask them to help you solicit reviewers. Or you could consider creating a press release about openings on your review board and share it with professionals working in diverse communities. And don’t forget about individual grantees and organizations you’ve supported in the past that can offer not only familiarity with your process but unique and valuable perspectives as well.

3. Consider a Digital Review Process

Organizations opting for digital review of grant applications have an advantage that in-house staff reviewers don’t have. By shifting to an online review process, you are not limited to your staff or those within your immediate, physical community.

For nonprofits and foundations making an effort to become more inclusive in the groups they are serving and how, digital review software like Submittable makes it possible to seek out reviewers from a range of communities, geographical locations, abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and gender identities.

4. Communicate What You Are Offering Clearly

Depending on your organization’s size and budget, you may or may not be able to pay your reviewers. Either way, be honest about what you can offer when you are soliciting assistance. This will help establish trust in your organization and will save time for both potential reviewers and your team.

If possible, do offer some kind of compensation. Even modest payment is a way to show your reviewers that you value the work they are doing for your company. Alternately, get creative about other ways you can provide compensation—and be sure you’ve ironed out all the logistics ahead of time.

5. Broaden Authentically

Nothing is more off-putting to a team member than realizing she is the only woman on the team. Or the only Black person in the room. Diversity for diversity’s sake will leave reviewers feeling tokenized.

Ensuring that your review team is truly, broadly diverse will help you make decisions authentically and will help you build diversity into your company’s ethos. Once your review team is assembled, encourage efficiency with thoughtful management and an emphasis on soft skills.

Creating an inclusive review panel takes time and requires reflection, assessment, and a deliberate examination of your organization’s values and goals. This work is vital to any organization and will not only help you create a diverse grant review board but will also strengthen your organization as a whole.