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PEAK Grantmaking

How Improving Your Grant Application Experience Can Deepen Your Impact

Sponsored by Blackbaud

You may be aware of the recent 100 Forms in 100 Days campaign recently completed by GrantAdvisor and the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG). This was a study to improve the grantseeker experience, by examining commonalities across grant applications. To achieve this goal, they asked for 100 grant applications to be submitted by foundations in a 100-day period, including many of the types of forms our Blackbaud Foundation Solutions customers are creating and offering their grantees.

Blackbaud took part in this campaign because we champion this kind of data-collection initiative the goal of which was to help improve a process that can and will dramatically affect the entire philanthropic sector.

Our foundation solutions team cannot emphasize enough how important the grant application process is to your prospective grantees. Applying for grants can be an intimidating, time-consuming, and cumbersome process for individuals and organizations. Consequently, you need to have a comprehensive, cloud-based grants management solution that provides an intuitive, user-friendly, online application.

For those of you who may not yet have a sophisticated grants management system (GMS) with the functionality for online applications, your grantmaking process will greatly benefit from a streamlined, paperless application process that eliminates the burden of error-prone applications, saving valuable time for both your staff members and your grant applicants.

Your online application is oftentimes your first introduction to an organization and the start of a trust-based grant. Applicants are looking for ease and convenience when they visit your organization online. They want to log in, submit their request with confidence that you’ll have what you need to consider their grant, and exit so they can move on to their next task.

With that in mind, here are six ways you can commit to making the most of your grant applicant experience:

  1.     24/7/365 access. Make sure your online applications can be accessed through any web browser and on any mobile device at all times. Be sure that your applications are universally accessible and that they look great whether they’re being viewed on a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer any day and at any time. These technological features and designs put people first. They are flexible enough to work the way people want and expect it to work.
  2.     Personalization and convenience. With the efficiency of a completely-paperless process to save your staff members valuable time, you should be able to easily build a configurable application, enhanced with your organization’s logo and branding and even embedded media. Embedded videos can provide grantseekers more information about the award they’re requesting, or even an explanation of what they can expect from your organization throughout the application process. And providing additional valuable resources as attachments—uploaded directly to your application(s)—will enhance the visitor’s experience even further, as all your supporting documentation is available in one place.
  3.     Custom fields. Wouldn’t it also be nice if your application form offered a variety of field types, from short and long text fields to fields that are specifically designed for currency and to make calculations? With the right grants management system, collecting any type of information you may need to review and approve funding requests is easier than you think.
  4.     Auto-fill too? Some GMS and grantmaking solutions even offer a feature that securely links your online applications with GuideStar for Grant Applications, allowing grantseekers to fill information directly from their organization’s GuideStar profile. Applicants can review their completed application before submitting it for review, and if they missed a required field, the system will trigger an error message when they attempt to submit their application, letting them know what information is still needed.
  5.     Online application eligibility quizzes. This feature is worth its weight in gold. It gives you the ability to use custom questions that prescreen grantseekers and ensure that they meet any predefined criteria that you’ve set for a specific award before the grantseeker begins the application process. And, if your organization has multiple funding opportunities available, eligibility quizzes can also be used to automatically direct applicants to the appropriate award application based on their responses.
  6.     Gathering and storing that valuable data. The best GMS systems will automatically send a confirmation email to the grant applicant once an application has successfully been submitted, and the system will store every bit of information gathered through your online applications. This will enable you and your team to access, export, sort, filter, and report on individual or aggregate data directly from within the system.

A seamless experience for your grant partners—from their first grant application to their final program report—fosters a positive relationship with you. And a positive relationship will keep them coming back, meaning your investment in a GMS that provides this experience will generate returns, again and again and again!

So, as 2022 approaches, consider how your organization could achieve more impactful grantmaking by using technology that not only caters to your applicants, but gives you and your grantmaking team intuitive access to data, configurable workflows, and unprecedented collaboration tools so you can make decisions based on what matters most: your organization’s mission.