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Four Ways to Create an Equitable Grantmaking Process

The grantmaking process is often exclusive and expensive, making it accessible to those select nonprofits with the right expertise and networks, which can be costly for organizations and funders to seek and distribute funding. Applying for grants is a tedious and expensive process, with a good percentage of applications taking upwards to a week or more just to write. To help those communities who’ve been commonly excluded to thrive, organizations with access to capital need to start adopting more equitable grantmaking practices—making funding more accessible to everyone. Grantmakers have a responsibility to create equitable processes, making sure that communities of color and other marginalized populations are not adversely impacted by giving practices.

When looking at grantmaking, diversity includes casting a wide net to attract diverse applicants. Inclusion might mean your reviewers are diverse, mirroring the community the organization serves. Equity might include revamping the application process making it more accessible.

In following these four tips, nonprofit organizations will be more equipped to have the right processes in place to evaluate equitable grantmaking:

1) Create a More Diverse Pool of Applicants: The first step toward equitable grantmaking is to encourage a diverse applicant pool. If nonprofits serving marginalized communities don’t know about your funding, they won’t be able to apply. Examine your pipeline to determine if you’re casting a wide net outside of your familiar go-to organizations. Look into expanding your networks—we all have a tendency to build relationships with those like ourselves. Attend diverse community meetings, events, or town halls to promote your fund.

2) Keep the Entire Application Process Simple: Grant applications can feel complicated to newer applicants. Use clear, simple language when creating instructions and applications. The general rule is to write at an eighth-grade reading level. (Word offers this functionality–you can use google to find out how to use it).  When it comes to equitable grantmaking, ADA-friendly applications are a must. For example, screen reader capability and keyboard accessibility create an equitable website experience. Without these, applicants with disabilities may have difficulty applying.  

3) Lower Chances of Bias in Review Process: Implicit bias is an unconscious association made about social groups. For example, many automatically assume business executives are male and secretaries are female. While it is ingrained in us from a young age, implicit bias can hinder best intentions for equitable grantmaking. By creating an unbiased review process, you’ll strengthen the entirety of the grant review process. Some examples include, offer implicit bias training to your reviewers and examine reasons why applicants were rejected.   

4) Review Reporting Metrics: Metrics are vital to any funder’s success—including equitable giving outcomes. Be sure to create equity metrics early in the process. You’ll want to track data points such as the number of diverse applicants and awardees. 

To reduce funding barriers, make sure to take a closer look at your processes from beginning to end. Take a look at each step and try to pin-point when diverse populations are no longer in the forefront. Be open to outside perspectives who could provide unique solutions—grantees and reviewers could offer ideas around inclusivity and/or equity. 

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