Online grant forms – easier or harder?

Maureen Ryan, Founder and CEOIn recent years, more and more foundations, community agencies (i.e., United Way), corporations and State and Federal government agencies have moved to an ONLINE format for submitting Letters of Inquiry and full grant proposals. There are some nuances to the online format that you should be aware of as you prepare your narrative.

Most funders using an online format will require you to take a preliminary “Eligibility Quiz” to make sure that your organization is qualified to submit a proposal/letter. Once past the Eligibility Quiz, you will need to sign up to use the online format by establishing a login and password. Part of the login questionnaire will ask you to include your Employer Identification Number. If you don’t have an EIN number, you will not be able to proceed with the login and gain access to the online application. Proposal content is placed in “boxes” with character or word limitations (i.e., 1,500 character max). Limited characters or words means you need to be concise in your wording of each section. Be sure to capture main points in as few words as possible. Questions also may or may not be aligned to the traditional structure of a grant proposal – often a funder includes questions related to specific areas of funding interest (i.e., education, elderly, veterans, economic development). Some online forms will include instructions/directions on the type of content they want to see in each box. Always follow the guidelines!

When approaching an online grant proposal form, print out the application and set up a Word document as a “working document.” Use the Word document to establish your content and use the Word Count tab to check number of words or characters. Remember, if you are citing research in your narrative, the online form usually does not have space for footnote citations – you’ll need to include the citations within the narrative (which will take up some of your character spaces). Once the sections have been written in the Word document and you’ve met the character limitations, then you are ready to copy the content into the online form and submit.

Frequently, you’ll put just as much time into a brief online form as you would in a more thorough proposal you compose as a full document. The most important thing to remember is that you will not be able to include all the supporting information you want – make sure to be selective and concise when making your case.