The Best Alternative to OpenWater

If you’re looking for an alternative to OpenWater software, here are the top reasons to consider Submittable.

Submittable and OpenWater are both software that all kinds of organizations use to run positive social impact programs, such as grants, scholarships, and awards. They share core capabilities, including a robust form builder, collaboration and judging tools, and integrations and reporting.

However, there are key differences between the platforms. Submittable has been releasing more and more features designed to service the full life-cycle of a typical funding program, including funds distribution and impact reports. OpenWater, by contrast, has pivoted to creating tools to facilitate virtual conferences, including streaming live and pre-recorded sessions and scheduling tools. 

No matter your program, if you’re comparing Submittable vs. OpenWater, here’s what you need to know. 

Features at a Glance

Collecting applications
Real-time applicant collaborationX
Drag and drop form builder
Conditional logic
Submission fees
Branded applicant portal
Custom domain and CSS
Communication and review
Email templates
Bulk notifications
Review forms and scoring
Side-by-side reviews
Blind review
Multiple rounds of review
Gallery with public voting
Funds management
Funds dashboardUnknown
Funds trackingUnknown
Funds distributionUnknown
Reporting and compliance
Custom in-app charts and graphsUnknown
Custom reports
Data exports
API access
Single Sign On
Candid (Guidestar) integration
PCI compliance
GDPR compliance
SOC2 compliance
SOC2 Type 2 complianceUnknown
HIPAA complianceUnknown
FERPA complianceUnknown
Virtual conferences
Live and pre-recorded sessionsX
Conference schedulerX
Attendee chat facilitationX
Technical support for all usersX
Code-free customer-facing platformX
Average uptime99.9%99.5%
Overall Capterra rating4.8/54.8/5
Capterra likelihood to recommend94.3%91.2%
Number of Capterra reviews9841

Here are seven top reasons to consider Submittable.

1. Submittable is better for grants and funding programs

Grants management is what Submittable does best. Submittable has thousands of customers creating grants, including governments, foundations, corporations and more. In response to COVID-19 in 2020 alone, nearly $2 billion in grants were awarded over Submittable. 

FeaturedCustomers Grant Badge

In fact, Submittable was named Overall Best Grant Management Software out of seven “market leaders” by FeaturedCustomers. (OpenWater was not listed as a market leader.)

As part of Submittable’s commitment to supporting our customers, we create resources, such as guides, webinars, video series, and blog articles, to help our customers apply best practices in grantmaking:

We get lots of positive feedback on these resources, like this anonymous survey response following a workshop on best practices for collecting demographic data:

This was such a valuable workshop! I really enjoyed the way the information was presented as well as the ability to put what we learned into action.

Submittable webinar participant, April 2021

In total, Submittable has over four dozen resources available on topics related to grantmaking.

OpenWater provides resources on their website as well. But of the 31 publicly listed, none is about grantmaking. Moreover, the top 13 are all about virtual conferences, making clear where the focus of the company has been of late.

2. Submittable is easier to use

From building applications to implementing automated workflows to reporting on results, Submittable is a platform that can accomplish complex things, without ever being complex itself. 

Customers—even self-described, less-than-tech-savvy customers—rave about how easy Submittable was for them to figure out. 

It’s one of the only computerized experiences where I know how it works, don’t have to call my kids for help, etc.

Barrett Warner, Editor and Publisher, Free State Review / Galileo Press

Form creation was easy to figure out. I was a little filled with dread the first time, but as soon as I started working in the form builder, it was just really intuitive. Same with the response templates—it’s simple to find everything I need. As only a semi-technical person, that’s empowering.

Mariah McPherson, Executive Director, New Belgium Family Foundation

It’s so user friendly. I struggled with a lot of other form builders before finding this and I’m so impressed.

Fellowship Director in the Entertainment Industry

On the other hand, on software review sites, customers warn that OpenWater is not always an intuitive platform: 

[OpenWater’s] navigation is not particularly user friendly. There are a lot of features, but they can be difficult to find, because they are hidden down different rabbit holes. It’s not always intuitive to use.

Review on software review site Capterra

There is a learning curve [for OpenWater]. You can do so much and as a result it takes some time to understand. So don’t expect that you’ll be up and running in an afternoon.

Review on software review site Capterra

In a recent survey, 4 out of 5 Submittable customers described Submittable as “easy” or “very easy” to use. 

Submittable is rated more highly for ease of use on software review site Capterra, receiving 4.7 out of 5 stars compared to OpenWater’s 4.3.

3. Submittable never requires coding (ever)

OpenWater supports many capabilities that require the customer to be a software developer or have programming knowledge. Coding languages administrators can use throughout the OpenWater platform include C#, Javascript, HTML, and CSS. 

By contrast, there is no need for customers to use or understand code to achieve the full functionality of the Submittable platform. 

Level up your social impact program

Contact our team to see what you could accomplish with Submittable.

4. Submittable has tools to track and distribute awards

As part of its end-to-end grant management tools, Submittable has robust capabilities to both track and distribute funding to awardees. Customers find this helpful not only for grants, but for all kinds of programs which provide direct funding, such as scholarships, fellowships, and awards. 

Submittable’s funding tools include: 

  • A graphical dashboard that provides a high level view of funds awarded, paid, and available. 
  • A Send Payment Now button that triggers a payment with a single click.
  • Partnerships with global and domestic financial institutions that securely disburse funds in as little as 48 hours. 
  • A transaction log to document every award and payment.
  • Tax compliance, including sending 1099s to awardees.
Submittable’s Funds dashboard helps organizations stay on budget.

OpenWater’s website and Help Center do not have any information available on any funds tracking or distribution abilities.

5. Submittable provides technical support for everyone

Submittable’s award-winning customer support team proudly provides support to everyone. This includes support for all of your:

Submittable was an Appealie Award winner for customer success in 2020.
  • Administrators
  • Reviewers or judges
  • Applicants

OpenWater provides support for what it terms “supported administrators.” For technical support for judges, individual supported administrator licenses must be purchased for each one. 

OpenWater does not provide technical support for applicants. In fact, the very first article in the OpenWater help center, in a collection called “Getting Started,” is all about managing applicants, with tips on how your organization’s administrators can help applicants do things like recover a forgotten password. 

With Submittable, by contrast, all technical support for applicants is provided by the Submittable customer support team. One-third of Submittable clients report that they now spend less time answering applicant technical questions compared to before using Submittable. 

Your support folks are so friendly and fast! If our users are having issues, we can just refer them to support and know the issue will be resolved ASAP.

Aja Bain, Program and Publications Manager, American Association for State and Local History

6. Applicants can collaborate in real time in Submittable

Submittable and OpenWater both offer the ability for applicants to collaborate together on group applications. However, only Submittable allows for real-time collaboration, giving applicants the ability to see real-time field presence of their fellow collaborators.

Applicants can see each other’s real-time field presence when collaborating together in Submittable.

7. Submittable better-protects the data integrity of all users

Submittable takes the protection of the integrity of user data very seriously. This includes data of administrators, as well as judges and applicants. 

OpenWater gives administrators robust capabilities to change and manipulate the data contributed by other users, including judges and applicants. OpenWater administrators have the ability to “impersonate” any applicant or judge. They can then take actions such as: 

  • Submit an application 
  • Submit an application with a fee, issuing an invoice to the applicant
  • Edit an applicant’s profile and demographic details
  • Change an applicant’s password
  • Change a judge’s password
  • Change a judge’s score of an application 

In fact, an OpenWater administrator can edit a judge’s score of an application without even using the “impersonate” tool. 

In Submittable, data contributed by administrators, applicants and reviewers is protected from manipulation by any other user. 

When might OpenWater be the best choice?

Submittable and OpenWater are equally effective platforms for many events-related activities, including:

  • Collecting presenter submissions
  • Accepting booth registrations
  • Selling tickets 
  • Hosting an online gallery for public voting  

However, just as Submittable is the clear choice when it comes to grants management or opportunities that provide funding, OpenWater is a clear winner for hosting virtual conferences, providing capabilities for hosting the event itself that Submittable does not support. These include:

  • Live and pre-recorded sessions
  • Conference scheduler
  • Attendee chat facilitation

Therefore, for organizations looking for a tool that can host their entire virtual event, OpenWater is probably a better bet. 

Learn more about Submittable

Submittable’s social impact software helps organizations around the world easily launch, manage, and measure their programs. Learn more about how Submittable can simplify your workflows and help you start making a difference fast, by watching a demo

Methodology: This article is compiled from publicly-available information from OpenWater’s website, Help Center, training courses, webinars, and other resources, as well as independent software review sites. Submittable’s customer survey was live from January 5 to February 3 of 2021 and included 743 respondents. 

Natalya Taylor

Natalya is the director of product marketing at Submittable and is focused on helping organizations get a ton of value out of the platform. She is a bookworm, adventure enthusiast and card-carrying cat lady as well as a writer and yogi.