Designing a grant application that is easy for applicants and still effective at gathering the information you need is a challenging, but critical part of the grant process.
Your grant application form has to have a clean design and each question should be clear in what it’s looking for. In addition to its content, the form should be short enough that the applicant can fill it out in a reasonable amount of time, and it must be designed in a way that makes sense. It also must be long enough to gather enough information. Finally, it must be accessible and inclusive to applicants.
Obviously, you need some information from applicants about what they’ll be using the grant award for. Therefore, it is important for you as the grantor to determine before writing a form what information you need from the applicant, and include relevant questions. In order to avoid repetition, your form should be planned out carefully so that all relevant information is gathered, but only once. This will avoid frustrating your applicant and save them time and energy.
It’s important to make sure your form isn’t too long, especially if you have a history of getting very few applicants. By asking only the questions that are necessary or rolling a few questions into one, you might find that your application rate increases. Even if you get a lot of responses with a longer form, it’s possible that the applicants will repeat themselves, skip questions, or otherwise show signs of fatigue. This could weaken their proposal and ultimately cause an otherwise qualified applicant to be denied. In order to best judge an applicant, it makes sense to keep the form length short, ideally under 30 questions.
Being aware of and minimizing overbearing requirements will reduce applicants’ frustration. It will also help you retain worthwhile applicants. Many grant applications are unnecessarily frustrating and painstaking for applicants, taking away from the time applicants could be using to do good in the world. You can deter applicants with innovation, drive, and passion by making your application too demanding and specific.
Is the form a good representation of your organization? Does it stand out to applicants that you might be especially interested in working with? Design encompasses both the basic layout and visuals of your form as well as some of the more important content-related aspects. By designing your form to do something like communicating with your applicant if they exceed a word limit, you save them time and energy. Being able to customize your application form is a particularly helpful asset in making your organization stand out by adding logos and graphics, as well as making your forms user-friendly.
Mistakes to Avoid
While attention to detail is valuable, make sure you aren’t missing out on a quality applicant over a minor formatting detail. When choosing an applicant, focus on:
- Quality and importance of the work
- Ability to create a logical budget
- An emphasis on solutions rather than problems
- Outside the box thinking
Don’t miss these valuable qualities for an applicant who can package a mediocre application with all the right fonts and spacing. The prettiest application doesn’t mean it is the best applicant.
The Right Medium
In today’s digital age, an increasing number of applicants prefer to use electronic means to apply for grants and scholarships. By using a medium that makes your application accessible from anywhere, you’re likely to get more responses.
By using an online grant management software to create and host your application, you give your applicants the freedom to do their application when and where they please. It also makes reviewing the applications easier on you. It allows you access applications wherever you are in the world instead of having to lug around a heap of applications.
In today’s grant market, it’s difficult to know for sure how many applications you’ll get. It could be 20, or it could be 2,000. Designing a form that will allow you to search, categorize, and organize your submissions could save hours and even weeks of work for your organization. Following the above guidelines and suggestions will also ensure that you receive applications that are fully filled out with relevant information. This makes the decision process easier when the time comes to select a grant recipient.
Still not sure where to start? There are online libraries full of sample grant forms that could give you an idea of what your grant form could look like. But why not use software to help make your job easier? The customizability, organization, and communication tools afforded by grant management software are invaluable when facing a high number of grant applications. The time and energy you’ll save your staff will mean more work gets done in the long run, furthering your mission.