Why does your grants program exist, and what do you aim to achieve by it? This is the first thing you need to establish. This early stage is the time to consider high-level questions about your grants program.
Good grantmaking requires a thoughtful, clearly articulated grantmaking policy and clear lines of responsibility. You need to develop, agree on and share your broad policy framework and operational framework before diving into the detail of your program and processes.
There are many great projects and organisations out there, but how many of them are positioned to deliver specifically what you want? Selecting the right organisations and projects to fund is key to the success of your program.
The best-designed application forms are easy to complete and provide grantmakers with all the detail they need - but no more. Every unnecessary question you ask imposes a burden on grant applicants, while making assessing applications much more difficult than it needs to be.
The success of your grants program depends on encouraging the right grantseekers to apply, but it's not only about reaching your target group - you may also wish to reach other stakeholders (funders, power-brokers, etc).
If you have carefully planned all aspects of your application forms and processes, the assessment stage should be relatively straightforward. You need to plan and document a fair, transparent assessment process.
Who's going to make the decisions about who receives a grant, and how will they decide? Transparent decision-making structures and processes are essential to accountability.
Advising successful grant applicants and announcing the results is more than a feel-good stage in the grantmaking process. It's also an opportunity to promote your program to the wider world and to build knowledge and capacity.
Managing unsuccessful applicants actively and well can reduce disappointment and anger, provide opportunities for improvement, and encourage ongoing involvement and trust in your grants program.
Grant agreements and contracts might sound bureaucratic, but they're more than simply legal and administrative processes and documents. They can also be opportunities to build relationships, capacity, skills and understanding.
Payment systems need to achieve the basics but they should also reflect the nature of grant relationships, the size of the grants involved, the capacity of recipients, and the level of risk.
Monitoring the progress of activities funded by grants is an ongoing responsibility of both the grantmaker and the grant recipient. The benefits of monitoring can flow both ways as well.
The best way to address performance issues is to anticipate them, plan an early intervention, and activate the intervention plan sooner rather than later.