4 Ways Funders Can Help Grant Writers Submit a Great Application

Grant writers are often the unsung heroes of the application process. They parse the grant documentation to understand if their organization is a good fit, they gather information from throughout the organization, and they mold it into an engaging story about the important work the organization is doing.

By taking a few steps to make your grant applications more accessible for grant writers, you will have more complete, more customized, and more on-time applications. During our webinar with Blackbaud Product Manager Brenda Noiseux, she shared the feedback she heard when interviewing grant writers as part of our update to the Blackbaud Grantmaking application portal. Here are four ways you can make your funding program better for the people who will be completing it.

1. Know What You Are Asking 

One thing that came out loud and clear is that applications can take a lot of time to complete. As funders, you know what information you need to make a decision. But it never hurts to review what information you’re asking for and whether it can be shortened or be collected in a different way.

The first step to knowing what you are asking is to look at your application. Try to fill it out yourself. Are any of the questions duplicative? Is there information you can get from a previous question, from a previous application, or from an outside source such as Candid? Record how long it takes you to complete it. Does this seem commensurate with the amount of funding you are providing? You may check in with a few trusted grantees on the amount of time it takes to complete the application.

Also review your formatting guidelines and templates. Do you provide templates so grantees understand exactly what information you are looking for, such as financials? Think through whether these templates should be required or if your applicants can submit the same information—which they probably have from a different grant application—in a different format.

2. Make Deadlines and Processes Transparent

To be clear is to be kind. And it also helps your grants managers from having to answer the same question over and over.

When grant writers are clear on when the application is due and what it requires, it helps your organization as much as it does the grantees. With grant deadlines and processes, err on the side of repetition. Grant writers are usually juggling multiple grant applications at the same time, so keeping those details in multiple places will save them time when having to verify how yours needs to be submitted, for example.

Include information on your processes and deadlines wherever you think grant writers will look. That includes in the application portal, on your website, partner websites, and on your social media channels. Anywhere a grantee might find information about the funding source should link to or outline the deadline and requirements.

When your organization is launching a new program, run the requirements by a trusted grantee to make sure the process is clear. This will save you from answering a flurry of emails once it launches, and incorrectly submitted applications at the deadline.

3. Allow Space for Collaboration on the Application

Grant writers rarely work in a vacuum. They are typically pulling information from different parts of the organization and trying to chase down information from other busy people. Having access to the entire application at once allows them to work more efficiently, instead of having to go back to the Executive Director three times as they get to different sections.

To help grant writers provide the best response, make sure the potential grantee can access and print all the questions on the form before submitting the application. When they can see everything you are asking for, they can create a better story that encompasses all the data points you want.

4. Stay Up to Date on Industry Trends

From #FixtheFormto trust-based philanthropy, the conversations around giving continue to shape grantmaking. Monitor changes in both philanthropy and technology so you can determine what makes the most sense for your organization and grantees.

Even if your organization isn’t ready for a full participatory approach to your grantmaking, for example, understand the core tenets so you can address questions and get feedback from grantees. It will help you understand why you get certain questions from potential grantees and allow you to make an informed decision if you do decide to incorporate it into your grant programs.

This idea also applies to technology, including functionality in your grant management software, new channels for communicating to your stakeholders, and opportunities to automate your systems. You don’t need to be an expert in these changes, but you should know enough to decide if you need to establish an internal policy on usage (generative AI) or are open to team members experimenting (short-form video).

Incorporating Feedback into Blackbaud Grantmaking

 Discovery sessions with current clients and their grantees who use the application are one of the primary ways the Blackbaud product team learns how people use our product and how we can improve. Feedback from these sessions drove a lot of the updates for the application portal, coming to general availability in 2024. Learn more about our discovery process and what we learned by checking out our on-demand webinar, The Path to Centering the Applicant Experience.