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  • Kristina Riffle Semukete

The Other Side of Grants: Grant Reviewer

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

I recently had the privilege of being a grant reviewer for a large, private foundation. This grant program has awarded over $3 million to 536 organizations across the country, so it was an honor to be a part of the process.


This foundation has a five-step grant review process:

1.) The Director of Grants reviews all proposals to ensure they meet the criteria for the program.

2.) Online Review of all applications. Proposals will be randomly assigned to reviewers across the country who are asked to review and score the application based on the quality of the program

3.) All scores of online applications will be reviewed by Director of Grants, Chief Science Officer and Chief Field Officer

4.) Face-to-face or webinar review meetings: local and regional committees will receive finalist grant applications to review and score that are specific to their chapter or region.

5.) Chapter boards review committee recommendations and the foundation leadership approves recommendations.


I was able to be a part of two different steps of the review process- Steps 2 and 4.


During Step 2, I was given 12 grant applications to review. Once I read each application, there was an evaluation form to be completed. The evaluation form required that a reviewer respond to the series of 5 questions below and score individual applications using a 1 to 5 rating, with 1 being the lowest score and 5 the highest. Each question also required an explanation on why the rating was chosen.

1.) Do you believe the objectives and outcomes for the program are clear and measurable?

2.) How well does the program increase or expand services to the people we serve, the service providers, and their families?

3.) Overall, is the budget reasonable and would the costs associated with the program contribute to a successful outcome?

4.) Do you believe the program is sustainable and can continue with alternative sources of funding if necessary?

5.) How would you rate this grant overall?


These 12 reviews were completed online through the foundation portal. Once I completed this round, I was contacted by the foundation and asked to be a part of reviewing the finalists for my state. The state committee was given the top 15 finalist applications for Texas and was asked to review and take notes on the following five questions.

1.) Do you believe the objectives and outcomes for the program are clear and measurable? Please take into consideration whether an applicant has clearly identified in the abstract what they want to accomplish with this grant funding and how the award will help them to achieve these goals.

2.) How well does the program increase or expand services to the people we serve, service providers, and their families? Your response here should take into account the number of people who are impacted by the proposed program. Does the proposed use of grant funding help to expand the reach of the organization?

3.) Do you believe the program is sustainable and can continue with alternative sources of funding if necessary? The sustainability of a project will be evident in its ability to continue beyond the life of the grant. Will the organization be able to raise funds from other sources and/or re-allocate funds internally to ensure continuity?

4.) Overall, is the budget reasonable and would the costs associated with the program contribute to a successful outcome? A strong budget will clearly demonstrate how the funding is aligned with the proposed program. Here it will be important to consider if the funding request is sufficient to realize the outcomes specified in the abstract, i.e. is the amount too small, too large? Does it list items that may be able to be donated in-kind?

5.) Please give consideration to the local need and potential impact the program would have on the community. Does the proposal stand out to you?


We met as a committee and discussed our notes for each of the 15 finalists and answered one final question: Should this grant applicant receive funding?

Yes-(You believe 100% it should receive funding from the foundation)

Maybe-(You like the grant but are unsure if it should receive funding from the foundation)

No-(You feel as though this particular application should not receive funding from the foundation.)


As a committee, we chose 9 grants to be fully funded and 1 grant to be partially funded for the state. It was very exciting to be a part of the decision making progress and to know how much effort and manpower is given to review each application properly and to ensure that the best applicants get funded. Have you ever served as a grant reviewer? Was your experience similar?


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