9 Tips for Submitting Online Applications
Increasingly, funders are making the choice to only accept online applications. This may make it easier on foundations to receive and review proposals, but it provides a unique set of challenges for grant writers. Here are some tips to help you avoid the most common online application mistakes:
It may seem like a no brainer, but when you first create an online account, write down the username and password. You don’t want to be locked out of your account on deadline day. If you ever apply for another grant from the same foundation, you may also be able to use the same log in information. Take the time to bookmark the log in page to save time later on.
2. The Writing Process
Take the extra step to write all of your answers in a Word document first. Save the Word document to your computer, so that you have a back up copy in case the online application’s session times out or you lose power and all of your progress in the online application is lost. Take advantage of Word’s spell check feature and send copies to coworkers for proofreading before submission.
3. Know Your Limits
Pay close attention to the word or character counts allotted for each question. Note that some applications will count spaces as characters, while others don’t. You can keep track of counts with Word by highlighting the desired text and then going to Tools>Word Count. Word will display the word count and character counts with and without spaces.
4. Undo Formatting
Online applications often do not accept special formatting or characters. Keep this in mind when writing, and avoid using formatting like bold and italics. Instead of using traditional bullet points, try using hyphens. Online applications also won’t accept visuals, so translate any essential images into text well in advance of the deadline.
5. Cater to Computers
For many larger grants, funders may use computers to scan applications first. Computers look for keywords in the proposal that match the funder’s objectives. Don’t jam you proposal with keywords to please the computer, but do try to use similar language to that of the request for proposals. If the foundation seeks to fund “professional development”, then most uses of the words “professional learning” or “professional growth” in your proposal can be changed to “professional development”.
6. Cut Back
If you find you’re bumping up against those pesky word limits on certain questions, check your previous answers to make sure you haven’t included any redundant information. See which questions have extra space to spare, and try weaving bits of information into those answers to free up room in other sections.
7. Preserve Formatting
If you’re submitting attachments, consider converting them into PDFs. This will preserve any formatting in the documents.
8. The Early Bird Gets the Worm
Numerous applicants rushing to submit their applications on deadline day can bog down the online application. Beat the crowds and avoid late submission due to any technical difficulties by submitting a little early.
9. The Finish Line
After submitting, make sure that you’ve received a confirmation email. If the application allows you to review all of your answers before or after submitting, print out a copy for your records. Also, write down any identifying information, like your application number.
Online applications don’t have to be a stumbling block. With the right preparation, grant writers can become confident in their online applications. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below!