Unlock the Door to the Right Funders with a Powerful Grant Strategy| Part 1

May 27, 2016 Cynthia Adams

This blog is the first in a three part series that will focus on the tools you need in order to build a comprehensive grants seeking program. Today’s post will focus on how to create a Grant Decision Matrix.


When your organization needs funding for a project, how do you approach the grants seeking process? Do you begin planning before the need for funding arises? Do you have procedures in place to help guide your research? If you answered no to either of these questions, then you might need to rethink your grant seeking program.

Fortunately, this post will offer tools and resources that can help your organization adopt a consistent and thoughtful process that will keep your grants pipeline full. However, this is just one method. You should use this information to develop your own process and come up with procedures that work for you and your organization.

The first step in building a comprehensive grants seeking program is to develop your Grant Decision Matrix. This will serve as an analytical tool that will help you make quick decisions about which grant opportunities to pursue. The matrix can be applied to requests for proposals and grant application guidelines.

How to Build a Grant Decision Matrix

  1. Start by designing the matrix components. Each component can be as simple or complex as you feel is necessary. It is a good idea to develop one matrix for government grant opportunities and another for private funding because the processes and importance of different criteria varies depending on the type of grant maker.
  2. Develop a set of decision criteria. Break these into subjective (e.g. relationship to the grant maker) and objective (e.g. matching funds are required).

Once you’ve established a set of criteria, make sure to have it approved by leadership (director, fundraising committee, board of directors, etc.). This will not only allow you to make quick decisions when new opportunities present themselves, but it will also allow you to step away from a particular opportunity that may not be a right fit for your organization.

  1. Assign a weight to each criteria based on its importance in the final decision of whether to give the request a green light or red light.
  2. Decide what total score will give you the green light to move forward with the grant proposal. Decide what each score (or range of scores) means and how it should be applied (e.g. do not pursue, requires leadership approval, needs further consideration, or do pursue).

After you develop a draft matrix, run a few test cases against it. You’re going to find this particularly helpful in shaping the criteria and weights that you give to each of your criteria.

This tool will result in a thumbs up or thumbs down almost all the time. However, if the score falls in the “needs further consideration” zone, you may need to step back and reanalyze the opportunity before you move forward.

Create a project description worksheet for each program that requires grant support. Include as many details as possible, so you can use this worksheet to guide your grants research. Find an effective way to share the worksheets with your team.

What do you include in your project description worksheet?

  • Project name which will serve as your working title
  • Lead contact person or team overseeing the project
  • Proposed project in short, narrative format
  • Needs to be addressed or problems to be solved in narrative format
  • Relationship to larger projects or past projects
  • Project budget in summary form
  • Keywords for research: geographic focus; areas of interest; target population; and types of support

This worksheet doesn’t have to be well written, especially if you’re only using it to guide your research. But the more time and effort you put into polishing the worksheet, the better your results will be when doing your research.

Make sure to read part 2 of the series to learn an effective 6 step process to doing grants research.

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