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The Maine Arts Commission relies on teams of reviewers to help make decisions around the funding of grants and fellowships. Materials in this section have been developed to assist reviewers in their work, but can be accessed by anyone interested in how Agency applications get evaluated.

Reviewers are selected based on their knowledge about the materials they will be reviewing, their ability to articulate their opinions about applications, their capability in evaluating applications in a fair and unbiased way, and their availability to attend a review discussion after properly familiarizing themselves with all application materials.

If you are interested in becoming a reviewer for the Maine Arts Commission, please complete a reviewer form. Letting us know your interest does not guarantee that we will be able to use your talents. However, you will be considered when review opportunities present themselves.


Learn more about Details, Expectations of Reviewers, Preparation, Evaluation, Discussion, Scoring, and Reviewer Links.

Reviews for the Maine Arts Commission are conducted through the Grants Management System; the same system that the applicants use. Evaluation, scoring, and notes are all managed within the system.

Once selected, a reviewer will need to set up an account in the directory to access the system. The system is intuitive, but the Using the Grants Management System help-ink in the Grants Help page will provide additional guidance.

Each grant review process is overseen by a Maine Arts Commission staff member. Staff members are not reviewers. They will ensure that the process runs smoothly. Each review team includes three or more review panelists. 

To begin the process, each reviewer will receive a batch of applications ahead of time – generally two to three weeks - so they can read and evaluate them, make notes, and pre-score.

The Maine Arts Commission evaluation rubric is consistent for all Agency grants. Applications are analyzed by scoring components, instead of in a holistic manner. There are several review criteria that align with application questions, and each one of the criteria gets its own score. These scores are combined for each reviewer, and the reviewers scores are all added together and averaged to create the final score of the application. This final score is used to determine the caliber of the application and inform funding decisions. Reviewers do not recommend funding. Funding is determined by the scoring of grants in all programs and is based on available funding.  

Our philosophy for reviewers is that the review team shall provide helpful and constructive comments of the grants they read. For the time they are meeting, review teams serve as mentors and partners of each applicant organization or individual. Funded or not, the Maine Arts Commission review process strives to be educational and helpful to each grant applicant.

  • Become familiar with the Evaluation Rubric for all Maine Arts Commission grants.
  • Have a strong working knowledge of the scoring criteria for the grant program you are reviewing.
  • Participate in the panel discussion.
  • Enter notes and scores into the Grants Management System.
  • Recuse themselves from any grant that poses a conflict of interest.
  • Recognize that the review panel meeting, discussion recording, notes, and evaluations, and mean scores are public (although individual scores are not).
  • Ensure that scoring and comments, while subjective, are fair and based on the review criteria of the grant program. 

Reviews happen throughout the year but the majority of them are held from April to June. If you are interested in serving as a reviewer on a Maine Arts Commission panel, you can sign-up through our reviewer sign-up page.

  • Make sure your schedule can accommodate the workload of reviewing applications. Reviewers will often need several hours a day, for several days, to properly evaluate all of the application materials.
  • Make sure you can comfortably navigate the technology of the review environment.
  • Make sure you will be available for the review discussion.
  • Make sure you have filled out all of the required forms and paperwork (including the Conflict of Interest form or a Vendor Form if you are eligible for a reimbursement).
  • All reviewers must read and evaluate all of the applications before the meeting.
  • If you find that any application holds a conflict of interest for you please let the Maine Arts Commission know before the start of the meeting.
  • If you have questions about review material, contact the Maine Arts Commission. Do not contact the applicant about their application.
  • Be aware of the scoring criteria. All of the questions and criteria for the grants can be found online through the Grants Overview page.
  • Remember you are evaluating an application, not a person or a project. The application should convey excellence in the way it is constructed and what materials are included. It should give reviewers confidence and understanding about the project without any confusion, guesswork or assumptions.
  • Remember that the applications being reviewed have only met a minimum requirement of completeness to be eligible. There may be some confusing, mis-aligned proposals in the group. Score appropriately. 
  • Reviewers are encouraged to make concise, direct, thoughtful, comments about the application’s strengths and challenges in the note section; with an awareness that their notes may be shared with the applicant.
  • Notes should be written so they quickly prompt reviewers to connect with their ideas and opinions during the review discussion.
  • Reviewers should pre-score the application as they evaluate it, prior to the meeting. These scores can be changed anytime prior to the conclusion of the review discussion.
  • Grant application meetings will have reviewers discuss each of the narrative questions point-by-point in terms of strengths and challenges. At the end of the discussion the reviewers will score each narrative question. While the conversations are public, the scoring is private.
  1. An application is accessed in the GMS on the reviewer’s laptop.
  2. The application is introduced to the group by the meeting facilitator.
  3. Reviewers engage in an evaluative conversation about the application.
  4. The meeting facilitator guides the conversation based on review criteria. 
  5. Reviewers score each of the applications review criteria separately.
  6. The scores and notes are saved and the next application is introduced by the meeting facilitator
  • For scoring, the largest number is equivalent to the best score. 
  • The Maine Arts Commission uses a 7 point scoring system. It sometimes helps to think of 4 being an average application and increasing/decreasing from there depending on quality. 
  • It is fine to be a tough scorer or an easy scorer, as long as you are a consistent scorer throughout the process.
  • If you have a very positive or very negative perception of an application, the score should reflect it. It is also encouraged that the reviewer notes offer clarity around strong perceptions.
  • Panelists evaluate the quality of the applications and rate projects through the scoring process. Panelists do not directly make funding recommendations or decisions.

The Commission Board reviews the minutes and approves the process. Their approval releases funding to be allocated. Awards are not official until approval by the Commission Board.

Reviewers new to our Grants Management System should read the Grants Management System Help document.