The Grant Assessment Process, Explained

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In our recent survey, our members asked for more transparency in our grant application and assessment process.

Hello members, Ailsa here, Chair of the Grants Committee.

I wanted to take this opportunity to give you all an update on the 2019 grant process so far and to provide some transparency around the evaluation process undertaken by the Grants Committee.

The closing date for EOI submissions was Friday 5th October – I am delighted to let you know that we received 35 EOI responses this year under our two themes of Education and Community and Economic Development.

Over the coming weeks, each of these will be meticulously evaluated by the Grants Committee following the declaration of any conflicts of interest they have and after an appropriate allocation of effort.

Including myself, there are 12 members of the Grants Committee. I am grateful to have such a fantastic and dedicated set of people supporting me and the organisation as a whole.

We have a wealth of experience from the not-for-profit and the finance sectors, lots of curious minds and critical thinkers and importantly, appropriate gender and age diversity as well.

It is important that we can all contribute our views and engage in the healthy debate where necessary to ensure the Committee functions to the best of its ability. With this team, I am confident we will not disappoint.

The Grants Committee is responsible for reflecting on last year and reviewing the various forms and evaluation matrices.

After a handful of tweaks to tighten up and improve the questions, this year we asked 40 questions at the EOI stage.

Each question was carefully crafted and responses to all are assessed on a question by question basis. One set of questions goes straight to eligibility – an initial administrative review of these is performed by me, as Chair.

I also ensure the form and the accompanying financial templates are complete, liaising with the applicant in the event they are not, before dividing the EOIs amongst the Committee.

Other questions are tagged as being fundamental to our understanding of the applicant organisation and project – if the applicant does not answer each of these sufficiently it is unlikely that the Committee will recommend them for the next stage.

The remaining EOI questions are considered individually and scores out of 5 awarded to key questions covering: compelling cause and project; direct reach; indirect reach; cost, value for money and significance; and management strength.

This year we have again continued to strengthen our evaluation process, introducing a set of Evaluation Guidance Notes aimed at helping the Grants Committee navigate on a more consistent basis through areas previously interpreted ambiguously, e.g: whether the applicant organisation has to be based in South Australia, what we mean by ‘transformative’ and ‘high impact’, our position on auspicing arrangements, etc. Messages from the Board level have been communicated in these notes so that Committee members have them to hand to refer to.

There are four sub-groups, each allocated a quarter of all the EOIs. Over the next month, each individual will review all the EOIs allocated to their sub-group.

Thereafter, each sub-group will meet to form a collective view on which EOIs in their allocation they believe should be put forward for consideration at the next stage. We then convene as a full Grants Committee for an Assessment Day and discuss together over a good few hours. All members are actively encouraged to read all 35 EOIs, and again noting conflicts of interest, are expected to contribute to the discussions on the Assessment Day.

The output of this in mid-November will be c.10 applicants who we believe are worthy of putting forward to the Full Assessment stage.

As I hope you can see we are very mindful of good governance and best practice and we take our role seriously.

We do also have fun while we do it. It is terrific to have exposure to all of the EOI responses – we genuinely have a lot of organisations in South Australia and beyond doing wonderful things for the good of our communities. It is heartening to see and to be a part of an organisation that is able to help some of them make an impact.