Sourcing grant recipients: four possible models

Achieving the best possible outcomes from your grants program depends on your ability to attract appropriate proposals and identify the best among them. Decision-making processes range from open competition (where anyone can apply) to direct selection, where you don't accept unsolicited applications but rather seek out grantees you believe can deliver your objectives. Each process has its pros and cons.

What's in a process?

A fair and transparent selection process requires careful definition of your objectives and requirements, and well-defined selection criteria.

Being clear about your objectives and requirements will help you to consider who might be able to deliver them. It might quickly become clear that there is only one suitable candidate, or it might be that any number of community groups could do the best job of delivery. Issues to consider in designing a selection process are:

  • the nature of the program and the desired outcomes for clients;
  • the complexity of the program and program risks;
  • the environment in which the program will operate;
  • the capacity of the community sector to both respond to a call for applications and to deliver the service;
  • the funding that is available; and
  • the time and resources available to implement the program.

Open competitive selection

This process involves advertising the program widely and assessing grantees against set criteria.


  • allows open competition
  • high degree of transparency
  • can attract new and previously unknown providers.


  • can be costly in terms of time and resources
  • competition can work against local communities seeking cooperative approaches.

Restricted competitive selection

This process involves inviting a number of providers to submit applications and assessing them against set criteria. This may be appropriate where there is a limited number of providers; you are seeking a specialised service; the funding pool is small; or time is constrained.


  • can be efficient where the market has previously been tested
  • allows targeting of providers with specialist knowledge or skills
  • can be less costly than an open process in terms of time and resources


  • does not bring new or unknown providers into the open
  • less transparent than an open process
  • may limit diversity in service provision.

Direct selection

Direct selection involves making a targeted approach to one potential provider, asking them to provide a service or prepare a proposal for consideration. This method may be useful where there is only a small number of groups with the capacity to provide the service you want.


  • you can work directly with the provider to develop specific proposals
  • workable within restricted timeframes and with limited resources
  • can take account of the capacity of the provider to respond to requests for submissions.


  • does not bring new or unknown providers into the open
  • less transparent than other models.

Multi-stage selection

A multi-stage process combines several of the models already outlined and might look something like this:

  • Stage one: a competitive selection process engages a wide range of applicants.
  • Stage two: targeted selection is used to fill gaps identified in stage one through community capacity building and the fostering of partnerships.
  • Stage three: innovative pilots test new ideas and models.


  • can identify new providers and areas in need of capacity building
  • can ensure the best possible service delivery.


  • resource-intensive
  • requires accurate analysis of community need.