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PEAK Grantmaking

An Equity Checklist For Your Corporate Scholarship and Grantmaking Efforts

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Sponsored by WizeHive

The racial reckoning of 2020 layered with the Covid-19 crisis has put new and much-needed emphasis on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. According to The 2020 Porter Novelli Executive Purpose Study, 76 percent of executives acknowledge the role of business in perpetuating systemic racial inequality and are committing to action now more than ever. To achieve that action, these C-suite executives are turning to their corporate social responsibility and social impact teams for answers to the questions, “What are we doing to advance DEI issues?” and “How can we achieve a greater impact?”

One often-overlooked area where bias and discrimination can lurk if you’re not vigilant is your company’s internal processes, including standard applications for scholarships and grants. If your corporate social impact programs involve these types of applications, use the checklist on the next page to ensure your process embeds equity into every step.

Creating Your Application

  • Keep language simple. Use simple language to ensure clarity, particularly for new applicants. Microsoft Word can help you determine readability.
  • Remove or explain buzzwords. Define all organizational lingo or acronyms so that anyone can follow your application prompts, regardless of experience level.
  • Pare back your application to basic information needs. Which application data points are “nice to know” instead of essential for your determinations? Recognize that not all applicants have the same access to meeting your “wants”. Focus instead on your “needs”.
  • Ensure the application experience aligns with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When it comes to equitable grantmaking, ADA-friendly applications are a must. Without them, applicants with disabilities may not have proper access.
  • Conduct user testing with target demographics. Ask representatives of your target groups to complete the application and point out anything that’s unclear.
Designing the Application Process
  • Allow users to save and return to the application. Choose software that creates a user account, so applicants can return any time and aren’t rushed through your process and can seek assistance if needed.
  • Create a qualifying quiz. Ask a few questions first to confirm the applicant is qualified before asking them to complete an entire application.
  • Enable integrations. Look for ways to reduce data entry. For example, see if your online application can link to popular apps like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox.
  • Provide application assistance. For some individuals, this may be the first time they’ve applied for a grant or scholarship. By making application assistance available, you help provide a more equitable experience.
  • Consider translation options. Some software may enable an application translation feature. This can be particularly helpful for applicants whose first language is not English.
Ensuring an Equitable Review Process
  • Choose representative reviewers. As you build the review team, ask yourself:
    • Do your reviewers reflect the population you serve?
    • Is there enough diversity to make sure you’re seeing all perspectives?
    • Do you need representation from individuals outside your industry or field?
  • Lean on technology to help remove potential bias. Your grant management platform should be able to help you facilitate a more unbiased review process, including features like hiding demographic data and randomizing reviewer assignments.
  • Clearly define criteria. As you review your evaluation criteria, don’t leave room for interpretation. Provide your reviewers with a detailed definition of each criterion, so they’re reading each application through the same lens.
  • Be transparent. Visibly share the selection criteria and review process with applicants so everyone understands the measures by which they will be evaluated.
Encouraging a Diverse Applicant Pool
  • Create awareness. If marginalized communities don’t know about your funding or scholarships, they can’t apply. Examine your pipeline to determine if you’re casting a wide enough net outside of your familiar go-to organizations.
  • Expand your networks. Attend diverse community meetings, events, or town halls to promote your program. Build relationships with diverse leaders and affinity groups. Ask reviewers, awardees, and community leaders who they feel might benefit from your grants and scholarships.
  • Review application and promotional materials. Ask people from disparate backgrounds to review your materials for tone and barriers.
  • They should be reflective of diverse communities. You may also consider translating your materials into other languages.

Reviewing your application process from start to finish may not eliminate all areas of bias and discrimination from your corporate social impact programs, but it will most certainly reveal ways to improve your procedures and workflow and can help you target areas for improvement in the future.