Grantmakers work hard to create application requirements and processes that provide their boards and staff members with the information they need to make the best funding decisions. Unfortunately, these processes often unknowingly place a staggering burden on grantseekers, and nonprofit leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated and fatigued with application requirements and practices.
Can grantmakers take proactive steps to reduce these burdens? Can application processes be structured to be simple for grantseekers but still provide the information funders need?
We’ve outlined 5 best practices that grantmakers can adopt to improve the grantseeker experience:
1) Move from paper to online
Paper application processes are outdated and won’t be coming back anytime soon. We live in a digital age, and grantseekers are craving more accessibility and simplicity. Paper processes can be painful for many reasons (you’ll find some here), and with the rise of online grant application systems, organizations can now make it significantly easier for grantseekers to submit and track their grant applications.
But while moving to an online application is a great thing, it needs to be done right. The right online system should be simple and intuitive for the end user while providing a comprehensive experience, allowing for online submission for each stage of the application and reporting process, from letter of inquiry to final report.
2) Implement a screening stage
Screening stages, sometimes called eligibility quizzes, allow grantseekers to quickly and easily determine whether they meet the minimum requirements for a grant before they complete a more lengthy application, and save both grantseekers and grantmakers a tremendous amount of time. A proper screening stage should dynamically match grantseekers to grants for which they are strong candidates and prompt them to complete the full application, while preventing those who are ineligible from moving forward.
3) Escalate requirements by stage
A well-designed grant application process should look like a funnel and contain multiple stages. Your information requests and application tasks should be relevant to the specific stage that the grantseeker is in, and at each stage of your process, you should only ask for the information you need to make a decision on whether the applicant should be moved to the next stage. After each stage is complete, proposals should be moved forward or removed from the process. A multi-stage structure will make your application much more digestible and easy to complete for grantseekers.
4) Use smarter application forms
When creating your online application forms, ensure that you have the ability to:
- Implement field validation so grantseekers submit their information in accordance with your requirements
- Allow applicants to re-use information from one application form to another, helping them avoid redundant data entry
- Implement branching to collect different information from applicants based on the information they provide
- Allow applicants to save and continue their applications, without losing the progress they’ve made
There is nothing worse than completing an application, hitting submit and not hearing anything. In today’s day and age, there is no excuse for not communicating with grantseekers. Clear, timely and relevant communication is the unsung hero of a well-run application process, while also being a pillar of courtesy. Smart and relevant communication will help you reduce unnecessary support requests and ensure that applications are completed quickly and properly.
Send emails immediately when forms are completed, applications are received and deadlines are approaching. To reduce administrative burdens and streamline your process, look for opportunities to set-up automated confirmation emails, reminders, and updates at key milestones. Automated emails and notifications will keep grantseekers in the loop and on track.