According to a recent report of over 2,500 reviews of foundations on GrantAdvisor.org, grant application management consumes 20-30% of grantmakers' time. What are the top sources of pain? Not being able to see the full application, the time taken to apply is disproportionate to the funding awarded, and the inability to save the application and work on it later.
Simply put, it's time to #FixtheForm.
Let's discuss some key ways to streamline the application process to improve how you can review and respond to applications while maintaining visibility and traceability.
What makes for a good application experience?
Depending on the grant size, the number of grants, and the type of grants, the pool of applicants can get considerable and present challenges to ensure you are receiving and reviewing each one correctly and effectively. Without the right process, you can spend more time sifting through paperwork than reviewing applications. A good application experience relies on the following key pillars:
- Transparency: This pillar applies to the grant management team and the applicants (i.e., clarity on what is needed and what is received). Communication is a significant part of the process. If you have a grants management system that relies on manual communication methods, you will encounter delays and bottlenecks in getting the correct information. You want a grants management system that can provide clear instructions on what is needed and when it is required. Additionally, you want to be able to quickly communicate when something is missing or needs correction.
- Consistency: How often are you answering the same question over and over? How many times does the same document have to be created? If these questions come up during the process, you will want consistency in your system. You want to have a standardized set of responses, documents, notifications, and other pieces to avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time. Templates are the key to consistency and will help guide the applicants on what is needed and ultimately save you time and effort.
- Automation: When we talk about automation, we often think about a solution doing everything automatically for you. While some pieces happen automatically, automation is more like the ability to move through your process without having to determine assignments and next steps. You want to push the process forward and ensure the next person gets the notification that it's their "turn" to work on something and ensure it's happening within the timeframe you need. Automation takes the guesswork out of the equation and routes it appropriately every time.
What to look for in a grants management application process?
With the above three pillars in mind, here are a few key features that will help you improve how you create more transparency, consistency, and automation when receiving and reviewing applications.
- Eligibility Filtering: Ensuring the organization can meet your criteria before they even begin. This eliminates the pool of applicants that do not align with your vision and goals.
- Grantee Portals: Provides a gateway for the grantee to view the progress on their application and gives you visibility into any additional requests you may have. It creates true transparency for both the applicant and your team.
- Tracked Communications: Any communication needs to be connected to the process (i.e., emails, notes, additional requests). Everything is connected within the system, so you won't need to create clutter by utilizing another communication solution.
- Ability to Include Multiple Media Types: Many are leveraging video and similar media to add more detail to the application process. Having the ability to give more options can make for a richer experience and provide another way to review grantee applications.
- Bulk Updates to Applications: It can be time-consuming to make changes or communications to each application; bulk applications can significantly improve the communication process for both parties. If you have to push out new instructions, you can do it in one mass update rather than individually.
Each process will vary, depending on the size and scope of your organization's grantmaking operation. After all, complexity is relative to the challenges your team faces. Adding any of these features to your application process will help you improve transparency, consistency, and automation within your grants management system – saving time and increasing productivity in your operation.