OmniStar Insights

How to Design A Grant Program

Are you planning to offer grants to the community? Do you know How to Design a Grant Program?
Distributing grant money is simple—but ensuring that charities and research organisations spend the money effectively is challenging. Therefore, a well-designed grant program becomes essential as it brings you closer to ensuring that the grant funding benefits the cause it was aside to assist.
Designing a grant program can be quite a task and puts forward endless questions, as there are many evaluation points to consider. The team involved in developing the grant program must make various decisions such as determining what information to ask from grant seekers, what the terms and conditions of the grant program should be, what the duration and scope should be, to name a few. Often there can be confusion around which tasks need to be completed and bring the whole grantmaking process to a halt and leave the stakeholders- internal and external clueless about their next step. Therefore, designing your grant program is a crucial step to consider and undertake.
When you follow a well-established plan, the process for designing a grant program becomes less complex. In this article, we take through our key steps to successfully develop a grant program.

What is A Grant Program?

Grant programs are designed to support projects that will benefit certain sections of the population or community. Grant giving is one of how the government, not for profits, and other foundations funds different ideas and initiatives contributing towards the larger good. There are different types of grants available, and the grantees can access and apply these through various governmental, not-for-profit, and other private organisation websites offering grants.

Grant programs are the broader set of activities that sit around the grant funds. They are activities designed to ensure that the grant monies are being spent effectively against the cause or issue they support. 

Grant programs usually will require that the grantee provide regular reports to demonstrate how they are spending the funding provided to support the cause it aims to help.

How Do You Design a Grant Program?

Understanding how to put together a grant program is an important step when offering a grant, although knowing where to start can be an intimidating task. So, how do you design a grant program? Some of the steps discussed below may prove helpful when undergoing the job of delivering a grants program.

  • Start with developing the grant programs aims and deliverables-

The very first step in designing a grant program is defining the primary aims and objectives of your organisation’s broader vision and mission. From there, you need to consider what the goals of your program are. It is essential to consider how the critical objective of your grant program aligns with this and what you expect it to achieve. Map out what you want to accomplish through the program and get your internal stakeholders on board. 

  • Decide upon the grant criteria and guidelines-

Now that you have a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve with the distribution of grant funds. The second step to designing a grant program is to compose the grant program’s essential guidelines and standards. The program standards should be transparent and straightforward. Your policies should assist grant applicants in understanding how and when they are eligible to receive grant funding. Include all essential details around the terms and conditions, purpose, scope, reporting requirements, and grant eligibility.

  • Establish funding details –

Another essential consideration to keep in mind when you design a grant program is to decide whether you want the funding to be for a single grant cycle or a multi-year grant cycle. Considering whether you want to direct all the funds towards a single grantee working towards a more significant initiative or do you want to fund multiple grantees, and thereby numerous projects could help you determine what the best approach would be here. Other details that will need to be determined when designing a grant program are to think about how you would like the financial reports to align with their grant progress. During this stage of developing your grant program, it is crucial to work with your internal stakeholders to establish all the finer funding details. Determining this information early on is a critical step to ensure the successful delivery of a grants program.

  • Design the application form-

Now that you have gone through designing a grant program, you must develop the grant program application form in a grant management solution. The grant application form needs to strike a delicate balance between asking for just the right amount of information from grantees and not being so arduous that no one applies for the grant. On the one hand, too much information may restrict grantees from applying for the grant, while failing to request enough information may create difficulty when it comes time to picking the most exemplary applications.

  • Prepare your program delivery team-

Once the application form is complete, you need to determine and clearly define the decision-makers in the ongoing management of the grant program, articulate their responsibilities; provide any required training or knowledge around delivering the grant program to all members involved. Resolve doubts or questions the program delivery team would have.

  • Decide on the promotion strategy-

Now, you have reached the final step in designing a grant program. You must decide how you will promote your grant program to the public to ensure the not-for-profit organisations and community at large is aware of the grant you are offering and the initiative you want to support. You can use your organisation’s website, newsletter, or local media to describe your program and answer any questions.

Following the above outlined basic steps will ensure you have successfully planned and prepared enough.

The Importance of a Well-Designed Grants Program

It may seem that developing a grants program is a relatively straightforward task; however, looking at the steps above gives us an idea of the complexity and effort that goes into designing a grant program. .Taking the time to design your grants program thoroughly helps you mitigate the risk associated with a poorly design grant program. It also helps with the ongoing management of grants and ensures successful outcomes. Below are more of the benefits associated with a well-designed grants program:

The benefits of a well-designed program:

  • Provides you with ample time to think about how your grant program’s objective aligns with your organisation’s vision and mission and allows you to make any required changes.
  • Serve as an action plan for the implementation team to successfully follow the process without being worried about their next steps.
  • Removes ambiguity for both internal and external stakeholders and prevents issues caused by miscommunication.
  • The documents, guidelines, and strategies developed during program design act as a go-to kit for the team involved in implementing the grant program. They provide clear expectations around what is required and who is responsible.
  • Act as a point of reference when designing other grant programs in the future, offers a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and develop a better program.


Now you should have all the information required to know precisely how to design a grant program. Developing a checklist will help indicate the steps you have completed and the ones that still require your attention.

Planning is the foundation for successful, cost-effective, and responsible grant management.

It is essential for funders to identify and resolve any implementation or grant delivery challenges right at the beginning. Collaboration with governmental and non-governmental entities and seeking insights from grantees can prove to be helpful during the grant creation and designing stage.

A well-designed program will give you the confidence to embark on your giving journey with a fresh and positive mindset and help you make the desired impact.

OmniStar Supports Successful Grant Program Delivery 

A grant management system like OmniStar reduces the administrative burden and cost associated with grants management. It successfully assists you through all the stages of your grant life by simplifying complex processes, automating repetitive tasks, freeing you to concentrate your grantmaking efforts on what is essential.

Get in touch with an OmniStar expert today to discover how you can transform your current processes and increase your grantmaking impact.

Starting a new grantmaking program is both exciting and daunting. There are so many social problems to be addressed, and so many possible ways of addressing them. Designing a grant program is undeniably complex and requires time and thoughtfulness.

Many funders spend a considerable time thinking about the issues they hope to address, and an inadequate amount of time up front thinking through the impact they would like to have with their grantmaking and how to allocate their resources to achieve their goals. Although there is no single “right way” to develop a strong program, considering the grantmaking strategy behind the program design will inevitably increase the likelihood that an effective program will be developed.
A Grantmaking strategy is a purpose driven framework which enables grantors to design, implement and evaluate their granting programs. The plan consists of information around the issues you want to address through your grant, your long-term goal, and the steps to take to meet your goals.

Why Are Grantmaking Strategies Important?

Bringing about change in the community through grantmaking is a complex process, and to ensure that it is impactful, requires a well-designed grantmaking strategy.

A well-designed grantmaking strategy will help-
• In keeping stakeholders informed about the mission, focus, and goals of grantmaking as well as make available tools to track progress.
• In providing a clear communication pathway between internal and external stakeholders
• Consistently review your steps and evolve in your grantmaking efforts.

Organisations will already have some ideas on which issues, organisations, and locations they want to support through their grantmaking efforts. To make a larger impact through the distribution of these funds, grantmakers need to design and adopt a strategy to help keep track of ongoing and future progress.

What Are Grantmaking Strategies?

A grantmaking strategy is essentially a method of directing funds to worthy organisations.

It explains how organisations plan to accomplish their objectives— their areas of focus in terms of a specific cause, the kind of organisations they want to promote, and their commitment as donors. By working with a clearly defined set of objectives and goals offers grant-giving organisations a sense of focus and direction, it indicates priority and generates greater outcomes. As each organisations giving practices differ from one another, there is no single grantmaking strategy that fits all.

There are 2 major approaches to grantmaking, responsive grantmaking, and strategic grantmaking.

Responsive grantmaking style allows funders to be broad in their grantmaking approach, and more welcoming of ideas from organisations seeking grants. Requests are generally initiated by nonprofits, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but it does mean that within those areas it wishes to be responsive to the needs nonprofits feel most keenly. Grantors usually opt for responsive grantmaking when they are keen to keep themselves updated on the range of opinions and ideas flowing within the community. It can be a way to show support to the community when a funder is not interested, or able to put in the required effort and resources into a strategic approach. For some foundations, responsive grantmaking is simply the best fit for their missions – particularly those whose missions are very broad and highly localised.

On the other hand, Strategic grantmaking involves grantmaking with specific and clear goals along with pre-designed strategies on how these goals should be achieved. This is usually the approach taken by government or large research organisations. This strategy can also benefit foundations who are clear about their objectives and goals and wish to direct their focus towards addressing issues in a specific area.

In this instance, the funder drives the grantmaking agenda as opposed to grantees. Strategic funders typically see themselves as accountable for successful outcomes. For example, a strategic grantmaker may decide to focus on reducing the stigma of substance abuse and deploy strategies that include a state-wide communications campaign, increased support for Alcoholics Anonymous and policy advocacy to health insurance providers cover treatment. A strategic funding approach can also be a way to achieve more measurable impact, within an area of focus as opposed to giving out a variety of different grants across multiple sectors. Responsive and strategic grantmaking each come with a set of pros and cons, but, in truth, there will always be room for both grantmaking approaches.

Below is the list of important steps to consider when designing your grantmaking strategy-

1. Identify and specify your focus

One of the first decisions funders should start with is to determine the problem they are attempting to solve. Often, the issue that funders chose to focus on is based on internal criteria. This may include addressing organisational goals, a public mandate; an existing grants program; or the shared value of foundation members. These parameters may range from broad outlines of intent to specific identification of a subject area. Once an organisation is clear on its focus then it can work to determine which strategic approach would be the best fit.

2. Analysing & Determining knowledge gaps

This step will help in understanding where the “funding gap” exists in the identified issue. Conducting research using primary and secondary resources to analyse these gaps will give provide context around- 1) why the need exists, 2) number of individuals impacted by the issue and how much they are impacted, 3) what actions are currently being taken by the government bodies or other charitable organisations towards supporting the issue.

This research data will direct your efforts and funds in the right direction and will assist in making the desired impact.

3. Interact with the community

Simple steps such as encouraging feedback from the community are it from grantees or unsuccessful applicants will provide valuable information on the grantmaking process. This will allow for key insights on the happenings around the community as well as allow for changes to the grantmaking processes to be considered.

4. Consider the constraints of the grant

Grants may be large or small, short-term or long-term, and general or specific in purpose. Organisations may choose consistent guidelines for each grant or base them on special circumstances. Other ideas include capital grants, scholarships, and program-related investments. It is important to consider what is the best fit for the intended outcome.

Once the above steps have been considered, it should begin to become clear which grantmaking strategy aligns best to either a strategic grantmaking approach or a responsive grantmaking approach.

Implement Strategic Grantmaking with OmniStar

A good grant management system like OmniStar ensures you can concentrate on your grantmaking efforts by simplifying the complex processes, automating repetitive tasks, and its access anywhere, anytime feature.

Contact an OmniStar expert today.

Zarthost Boman
Written by: Afifa Qureshi July 2021

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