Tips & Tricks

You’re ready to move your application online… but where do you start?

Ross May

Congratulations! If you’re thinking of moving your application online, you’ve already made the first step towards an easier and more efficient process. Whether you manage a grant, scholarship, award or other program, online is becoming the preferred method to both apply for and manage application programs.

Take grants, for example. In a recent study with Foundation Center, we learned that 80% of nonprofits prefer to apply for funding online.

But moving to a fully online solution can be daunting, especially if you’ve managed the application and review process the same way for many years. Here are three easy steps that will help you make a smooth transition.

1. Take a step back and assess your current process

What’s the easiest way to get started? Taking a look at what you already have! Looking at your current process through a critical lens will allow you to understand what works well, and what could be improved. Take a moment to decide what you’d like to keep, and what you’d like to change.

While you’re evaluating different areas of your program and process, you can also consider the outcome you’re looking to achieve and the overall mission. Ask, ‘what needs to change to streamline this process?’ and ‘what impact does my organization want to have with this program?’

To start generating ideas, here are a few examples of what a time-consuming and difficult process may include:

• A tedious application process involves a lot of moving parts and a handful of requirements that take time and resources from the applicant. Applicants want a clear, fast, and easy to use process that allows them to put their best work forward.

• A difficult review process can be caused by inaccessibility. With an offline process, reviewers are unable to complete their requirements easily or from different locations, and communication is limited. Reviewers want accessible tasks that they can complete wherever, whenever.

• A time-consuming administrative process typically includes redundant tasks and manual document processing. It can also include repetitive motions such as sending follow up emails or reminders. These tasks eat up extra time that you could be using to monitor and improve your programs and grow your reach.

2. Identify what you need (and what you don’t)

Now that you’ve pinpointed areas for improvement and have an idea of what you need for a successful application program, you can start taking a look at online solutions, with a wishlist in hand! Getting started isn’t as difficult or expensive as you may think, but it sure can be confusing.

There are a handful of solutions that, on the outside, appear to be very similar. Remember: you have a wishlist, and you know what you’re looking for! This is a great opportunity to evaluate different solutions based on what you need, instead of gravitating to the one that touts the most features.

Here are a few time-saving features to consider:

• Automations that save time, one-time tasks that eliminate redundant data entry, and autosave features all contribute to a better application process. The easier the application process, the more applications you’ll receive!

• Mobile accessibility and automated reminder emails contribute to a better overall user experience, and can motivate your reviewers to complete their tasks accurately and quickly.

• And for yourself? A built-in data management system, a user-friendly interface, and a powerful reporting tool contribute to a better, and more efficient, administrative experience.

3. Ask the right questions for your success

Once you’ve evaluated your current process and compared various online tools that will help you achieve your mission and program goals, you may be trying to decide which one is the best fit for your organization. Once you make a decision however, there’s a lot more that needs to be done in order to get your new application and review process ready to launch.

Additional services such as setup, program build, training, and customer support can ensure the success of your program not only in the first year, but for years to come. Setup and program build can help make your job as an administrator easier. Training and customer support will amplify the experience for all your users. Since these are all important aspects of a successful program, you’ll want to know if the services are included, and if not, how much they cost.

Here are a few questions you can ask:

• Does [vendor] help with the setup of my application?
• Is training provided to users? If training is provided, where and how?
• Does [vendor] provide customer support?
• Are the above services offered free of charge, or at an additional cost?

And that’s it! Assessing your current application process allows you to ask the right questions when evaluating online solutions. Targeting areas for improvement and setting goals will help you put your mission first, and identify key features that will streamline your overall workflow. At the end of your evaluation, keeping additional services top of mind will ensure that your transition goes smoothly, from start to finish.

If you think it’s time to streamline your application process or you’re interested in more ways to modernize your application and review process, leave us your information below and we’d be happy to answer any questions that come to mind!

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