You expect a lot of the individuals and organizations that apply for your grants, because better granting means greater impact. You trust them to come with big ideas and clear vision. You want them armed with budgets, schedules, plans, and actionable objectives. You look to them for ways to invigorate a community, further a cause, inspire a generation.
You also need them to explain all of the above to you so that you can understand the mission, approve the project, and give the grant. With so much riding on this and so many other items already on their to-do list (and, surely, on yours), why do so many organizations make the application process complicated?
With an investment in a grant management software platform with a submission portal, your applicants can focus on what they are applying for vs how. A simpler process, the ability to stop and start as needed, and a destination that keeps all their project components organized will result in better applications, and in the long run, bigger impact.
Reason #1: User profiles
Submission portals are accessed using a name and password, just like any user-based system you have used online. With grant management platform submission portals, applicants simply hit apply, create a login, and get started. A personal profile quickly collects the identifying information you need and becomes the base information for any application they may submit to that day or in the future. The log in ability also gives applicants the opportunity to save their work, take a break, and then return when refreshed.
Reason #2: Qualifying questionnaires
Remember that profile we just mentioned? Add in some qualifying questions to make it even more valuable. Your full form will only display if they meet the basic criteria, ensuring applicants don’t waste their time completing an entire application just to be turned away instantly.
Reason #3: Clear process steps
Applying for a grant can be a lot of work, and often applicants don’t know exactly how much until they are too into the process. Help them plan, gather materials, and turn in the A+ application you know they can deliver by laying it all out from the get-go. Portals allow your homepage to be a clear map of the work ahead, broken into clear steps like “Project Objectives,” “Background Research,” “Budget,” “References,” etc. Applicants can easily open and close each step to see what’s required, save as they go, and quickly see how much more they have to complete each time they log in. They can even request some items, like letters of reference, from directly within the portal.
Reason #4: Quicker turnarounds
The applicant flawlessly gets through the process, you easily see all the data you need, and the reviewers get access to their own portal where all the information is displayed beautifully. With less missteps, no one accidentally misplacing files, and reviewers being reminded to finish their scoring, your entire end-to-end process length could be curbed significantly. Which means a quicker answer for your applicant, and grantees getting started on amazing things faster.
Reason #5: Easier post-award follow-up and reporting
The beauty of a submission portal doesn’t end when the application process does. That login that got a grantee started can carry them through the full lifespan of their grant. They can take surveys on their progress, submit progress reports or budgets, sign for payment disbursements, and more, all from the same portal. So much easier than trying to manage that all via email … for you and for them.
A better application process for your grantseekers ultimately results in an easier management process for you. It’s time you start expecting a lot from your software too.
This post originally appeared on PEAK Grantmaking’s blog, October, 9, 2017.
Natalie Hirsch is Director of Product Management at WizeHive; in this role she has spent over five years working to improve the way that foundations manage their work.