Right-Sizing Your Grant Application


Imagine you’re a nonprofit and you’ve found the perfect grant. It serves your mission, and the award amount would cover operating costs for a new initiative. And then you discover its application requirements would actually offset the award amount since you can’t justify the time commitment required in spite of the funding’s allure. Reluctantly, you close out of the application.

As a grantmaking organization, what can you do to prevent this situation? Whether you’re an established grantmaking organization or new to the process, “right-sizing” your grant is essential to keep the right applicant from abandoning the call. “Right-sizing” is a popular term for ensuring your grant application and reporting process appropriately correspond with the size of the award you offer.

As you create an application form, keep these things in mind to evaluate if it’s “right-sized.”

Consider the grant applicant

You want the most capable applicants, and you also want to respect their time. HR studies have shown that qualified applicants tend to abandon onerous application processes for jobs in favor of more efficient hiring processes. It figures that grants applicants will guard their time similarly.

To keep quality applicants engaged, it’s a good idea to vary your application process in order to suit the grant size and type, as well as the grant-seeker. With application management software and digital forms, you can use conditional form logic to help determine applicants’ eligibility, saving time for both you and the applicant.

Check your net grant

PEAK’s Project Streamline urges grantmaking organizations to consider the net grant: the award amount minus the cost of time and energy to obtain, manage, and report on the grant. The more time the applicant spends earning and maintaining the grant, the less the grant is actually worth to their organization. As a funder, you want to keep the net grant as high as possible so your funded organizations can accomplish more.

Eliminate redundant questions

Submittable stores submitter information, like your applicants’ contact information, so you don’t have to include those details on your form. Instead, you can focus on the information you really need in order to make funding decisions.

Plus, if you have repeat applicants, it’s likely you’ve already got what you need. Information about organizations you’ve funded before remains in your Submittable archive.

Ask the minimum

Require only the information you truly need to make your decision about funding the applicant. For example, the Knight Foundation asks for only 300 words as the first part of their Cities Challenge.

Consider what you could ask for later, like information related to outcomes reporting. You can always use additional forms to follow up, and grantees can submit updates and supplemental information. That means grantees won’t spend time entering information before it’s necessary, and you can spend less time sifting through applications.

The long-read:

PEAK Grantmaking Project Streamline “Right-sizing the Grantmaking Process” guide is a great resource for everything “right-sizing.” The guide warns that “right-sizing” your process might create more work for you in the short term as you reconsider your application, but in the long run it’ll keep your process efficient for everyone.

Anna Zumbahlen

Anna Zumbahlen lives in Missoula, where she works behind the scenes at Submittable, teaches poetry in the schools, and edits Carve, a quarterly literary magazine.