The Applicant Perspective: Data from Grant Seekers

2020 profoundly changed philanthropy. There were fundamental shifts in how grantmakers awarded funds and also who applied for support. Because Submittable software connects foundations, nonprofits, and government entities with grant seekers, grant applicants, and awarded grantees, our team saw adjustments to the field, on both sides, firsthand.

While we gratefully analyze annual client surveys and manage special projects focused on the funder perspective, we query applicants and submitters less often. So this spring, our team sent out a short questionnaire. We wanted to know about recent grant applicant experiences—and, specifically, what role had Submittable played? 

Here are a few key highlights from the data. Big thanks to our grant applicant survey respondents, to those working to simplify the grant application process (in crisis and beyond), and to so many funders that stepped up in a major way to support community during 2020 and 2021.

Grant Applicant Survey highlights

1. More than half of all respondents were new grant applicants

58% of survey respondents (110/189) had never used a grants system besides Submittable.

Graphic that says "More than half of all respondents were new to grant applications and software"

Perhaps not surprisingly, the same 58% (for this question, 94 respondents out of 163) had never applied for grants at all before 2020. 

We asked respondents who had used other systems to identify benefits that Submittable offers. 77% (61/75) said Submittable was easier to use than competing platforms.

Graphic that says ""Over 2/3 of respondents who had used other grants platforms preferred Submittable's ease-of-use."

They also noted an appreciation for the platform’s time-saving capabilities, accessibility, design, mobile-responsiveness, and reporting tools.

2. A majority applied to grants for work-related support

73% of respondents applied to grants to support professional projects (32%), an organization they run (28%), or an organization where they work (13%).

Graphic showing grant applicant survey respondents that applied for work-related support

Respondents most often reported grant applications for their small businesses and organizations where they volunteer.

The Covid shutdown and reopening required funding I did not have. So the grant helped me recoup costs and allowed me to make changes to my business to be in compliance with new regulations and make repairs I hadn't been able to afford.


Because respondents could select more than one option for this question, we received 261 total responses, meaning that 72 responses were additional. That explains why 50% of respondents also shared that they applied for grants to recoup lost income or meet personal needs.

Graphic that says "More than half of respondents also applied for grants to recoup lost income or meet personal needs."

From this we can estimate that one half or more of all respondents applied for grants for both professional and personal reasons. And a small group (6%) sought grants for personal projects.

3. A good system makes a big difference

Survey respondents repeatedly described what a relief it was to apply for grants using an intuitive platform.

Chart showing 95% in a pie chart

We were honored to discover that 95% of respondents reported that they would recommend Submittable to funders and grantmakers. 

Here are a few kind words people shared:

I am grateful of the opportunity to apply for the grant. In the past I would have never applied, I thought I would not qualify and also thought it was very complicated. Submittable opened my eyes to a world of opportunities now. Thank you.

—Shirley King, CEO of Shikindezynes


Thanks for all the amazing opportunities Submittable has afforded during these difficult times.

—Carnelle Howell, Howell Consulting Services


I really like the ease of the way this system works. Filling out grant applications can be a lot of work so the fact that this system helps ease the process is valuable.

—Gayelynn McKinney, COO of Beatstix Music

How Submittable helps grant applicants

Graphic showing three main Submittable benefits for grant applicants

Survey respondents shared positive feedback about Submittable in three main categories.

1. Ease of use

Our team was grateful to hear from many respondents that the application experience was clear, accessible, and user-friendly.

The system was very user friendly and easily accessible.

—Brandi Webb, CEO of Glam Avenue LLC


Easy platform to use and comprehensible.

—Mark Tetpon, Alaska Native Artwork


It was very user-friendly and I would highly recommend.

—Paquita Poole, Owner of Rena's Couture

2. Award-winning support and great resources

We asked grant applicants to tell us about their experience with customer support and Submittable resources such as help articles, the blog, and videos.

Among 59 people who engaged with help resources, 95% rated Submittable positively, with selections of Excellent (75%) or Good (20%).

This was a wonderful and easy experience and I appreciated the support. Keep up the good work, small business owners definitely need platforms like this!

—Jennifer DeLoach, Owner of Blur Boutique

Regarding respondent experience with other Submittable resources, 88% of responses were positive, with selections of Excellent (59%) or Good (29%).

Very helpful in learning the way grant applications work and I was awarded two because of it.


3. Organization and opportunities

Submittable helps applicants easily keep tabs on the status of their applications, in addition to connecting grant seekers with promising opportunities through features like Discover

Using this platform made things so easy and organized—even now I am waiting to hear about another grant for equipment and I can just visit the platform and check on the status of my application… You have made a difficult time very easy—thank you.

—Laura C Hopper-Fish, Chef/Owner at Laura & Tony's Kitchen


I had not known about Submittable previous to our grant application to the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. But I liked its ease of use and finding other possible grant opportunities. I'll definitely keep checking in to look for new opportunities.

—Dennis O'Connor, Director of Finance and Administration at MediaVue Systems

Improving your process with Submittable

For funders of any kind, including foundations, nonprofits, corporate funders, and government agencies, Submittable has everything you need to streamline your grants process and maximize impact. Take it from your applicants—ease of use and great support are a huge bonus, especially during trying times. Find out more about our grant management software today

Methodology: Our team received 189 responses filled with great feedback. The survey targeted individuals who had applied to two or more different grant opportunities through Submittable between June of 2020 and March of 2021. Survey recipients responded to four required questions (around three minutes to complete) and 20 optional questions (requiring five to 10 minutes). All quotes were used with explicit permission from respondents. One respondent, selected at random, received a $100 Visa gift card.

Rachel Mindell

Rachel Mindell is a Special Projects Editor at Submittable. She also writes and teaches poetry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.