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Grantmakers Guide to Co-Reviewing with Unfunded List

For a more inclusive philanthropy co-review proposals with our Evaluation Committee.

We designed Unfunded List to be a universal reviewing committee and after receiving hundreds of proposals over 5 years we have proven that we can read and review any proposal, from anywhere, on any topic, submitted to any funder. We believe that anyone who writes a proposal is serious and deserves to be taken seriously by serious people. We also believe we can co-review with any grantmaker, from anywhere, on any topic, in concert with any funding process. Do you have a funding program that you are involved in? A giving circle, family foundation, or office pool? Do you want to be a more inclusive philanthropist? If you are interested in receiving a wider array of submissions while providing value to everyone who submits, we would welcome a discussion about co-review with you.

During co-review, a grantmaker conducts their process as they normally would and makes decisions about funding awards and declinations. Simultaneously, our evaluation committee thoroughly reviews all of the same proposals. We do not choose winners, but instead we provide helpful and candid feedback and suggestions for each applicant, along with evaluation and recommendations for the grantmaker. We are excited about our experiences with co-review and would love to see the practice expand to inclusive philanthropists throughout the philanthropic world.

Entrance to the world of philanthropy often looks like a closed door, so Unfunded List tries to be as open, inviting, and inclusive as possible. We review all proposals we receive in any stage of development. Because our review is so open and flexible, we are able to work with any grantmaker on co-review since we can easily adapt to their preferred proposal format.

In order to be able to review such a wide array of proposals, we have built up a vast committee of trained and experienced evaluators. Based in Washington DC – a city filled with talented and educated people – we could easily find all of our evaluators locally, but we value perspective so we put a great deal of effort into recruiting evaluators globally. We offer our evaluators training resources, one-on-one coaching when needed, and host events to help first time reviewers become effective evaluators who can provide candid and helpful advice. We currently have over 500 evaluators in our pool and we recruit new evaluators every week.

Our diverse pool of evaluators allows us to review the equally diverse batch of proposals we receive each round. Furthermore, we often seek new evaluators with specific expertise during review rounds. For instance, because many of the proposals from our co-review partner SOLVE at MIT relate to health security and the pandemic, we actively recruited PPE supply chain experts, health funding experts, and disaster response professionals to provide helpful feedback to these efforts.

We match each proposal with the evaluators best suited to help, and every evaluator receives proposals based on their interests. We used a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to build custom software we call “the Matrix” to improve our ability to match proposals to reviewers and source reviews. The original version of our software was a google spreadsheet which I designed to be a universal rubric. It was featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2016 and has since been one of their most downloaded digital resources. 

Since founding Unfunded List in 2015, I have spoken with many inclusive philanthropists ranging from professional program officers at large foundations to fifth-generation members of family foundations. I have also spoken with the authors of hundreds of unfunded grant proposals. Many of these funders are looking for ways to support new, high-quality proposals from communities that have not traditionally been funded. Social entrepreneurs from those communities are looking to craft high-quality, impactful proposals to submit for funding so they can get to work. Co-review is an opportunity to bridge the gap between these communities and build a more inclusive philanthropic universe for the betterment of us all. 

To discuss co-review, email

If you are interested in reviewing proposals as a member of our evaluation committee you are encouraged to sign up. Reviewing with Unfunded List is a great opportunity for professionals to stay up to date on innovation trends while using their own skills and talents to help create a more inclusive philanthropy sector.


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