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Who Decides? Options for Grant Review & Selection

Grassroots grantmaking practitioners utilize several different models for managing grant review and decision-making.  Several of the most frequently used models are described below, with possible pros and cons for each noted.

Model
Pros
Cons
Grant proposals are reviewed by staff.  Staff make grant decisions.
Allows quick response.Draws on specific expertise of staff.
Senior staff and volunteer leadership have little direct exposure to the program.Staff can unknowingly bring their own biases and info gaps to grant decisions.Staff become the primary keepers of relationships and information.  Staff transitions can mean “starting over” in these areas.
Grant proposals follow the same process for review and decision-making that is used for more conventional funding requests.
Funding organization can use existing systems.Grant review/distribution committee gets good exposure to grassroots grantmaking program.
Lessons/information from grassroots grantmaking program can flow into other decision-making processes.
Grant proposal turn-around times can be extended.Without sufficient training and orientation, members of the grantmaking committee may bring inappropriate assumptions or expectations to grant proposal deliberations.
Representatives from various organizations that contribute to a shared grant pool serve as the grant review/decision making committee for the program.
Maintains funding community’s commitment to the program via hands-on involvement.Allows funders to learn together, share risks, and bring different perspectives to the deliberation.
Information and insights from neighborhood residents are missing from the process.
Grassroots leaders/residents serve as the grant review and decision making committee for the program.
Grassroots resident/leaders bring important insights and information to the deliberation.Facilitates relationship building among grassroots leaders and residents.Strengthens grassroots leadership capacities.Changes the relationship between the funder and the community.
Introduces new opportunities for accountability and transparency to the funding process.
Senior staff and volunteer leadership have little direct exposure to the program.Residents can act as gatekeepers and narrow participation in the program.Unless proactively addressed, conflict of interests can arise and cause tension.
A grantmaking committee that includes board members from the sponsoring organization, local experts, donors, AND neighborhood residents is recruited to serve as the grantmaking committee for the program.
Allows for a broad range of experience and perspectives to inform the grantmaking process.Facilitates formation and strengthening of horizontal and vertical relationships.Creates program advocates in multiple places in the community.Provides good leadership development opportunities for neighborhood residents.
Neighborhood residents may initially  feel intimated by other committee members.Finding meeting times and locations that work for everyone may be difficult; neighborhood residents may not be able or willing to meet during the day, while others may not be willing to meet at night.Special efforts will be needed to establish a common language and decision-making framework.  Foundation jargon will be an obstacle in this setting.
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