Take Nothing for Granted

A few years ago I was invited to review grant proposals for the United Way of Dutchess & Orange Region. I said “yes,” because I rarely say no. I could tell there was some technicalities involved but I, typically, waited until much too late to figure it out and spent two nearly sleepless nights. If you should be asked to review UWDOR grants, read the instructions and follow them! Your life will be so much easier.
Nonetheless, I struggled through my first year of grant reviewing and somehow managed to finish, I think. That first year, if I had to mark myself as a reviewer, I’d have said I was a “fail.”  Another year came around and Melissa Clark was again kind enough to ask me to review grants.
Melissa Clark wades through the 30 or so grant reviewers, their affiliations, and in some amazing alchemical manner is able to assign us grants to review without predispositions that would cause unfairness.
Sometime in March, the steady drumbeat of emails from Melissa arrive in the inbox. The grant portal will be opening on such and such a date and you’ll have so many days to review your grants. It always seems as though there is eons of time allowed, “no problem” you say. “I’ll have mine done early this year.” This. Never. Happens. 
For some reason known only to the grantmaking gods, the time allowed flows past in a wink. The categories can include a wide variety of projects and programs and the reviewer has access to acres of materials that the applicants are required to submit. Please bear in mind that I and my fellow reviewers have 4 or 5 grants to review. Melissa Clark and her team have read them ALL! This is unimaginable. 
Finally, you finish and submit your reviews and await notification about the in-person review sessions. This year, because of the coronavirus crisis, the reviews were not held in person and instead resulted in Zoom sessions of 30 or so reviewers. This was the first year that I was able to attend the final reviews and I found it rewarding and revealing how the many reviewers bring so many different, and informed perspectives. 
In the words of the New Testament, “many are called, but few are chosen.” The same applies with UWDOR grants. These are tough times and there are many needs that urgently require our support. It may seem hard that not every program and project cannot be funded, and it is. But one thing I can promise you is that the process is exceptionally well run and completely fair. I just wish there was money for every single one to be funded. That requires generosity on the part of our companies and our friends. When you see how carefully the funds are allocated, I think you’ll find UWDOR is a very worthwhile way to contribute to your community. I know, I do.

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