Sunday, February 07, 2010

Applying for Grants Through the Grant Donor's Online Grant Application Wizard or Program

It used to be...as is true with everything, that all grant applications were submitted by printing out documents (the grant application and proposal) and either mailing that or having it delivered by courier. Today, though, especially due to the green movement, many grant donors require that nonprofits applying for grants do so through a virtual portal, of some kind.

Grant donors that require that applicants apply online often have their own grant application wizard or application web pages on their website. Some use a grant application service that allows the grant donor to specify which questions they want the applicants to be asked, but does not require the grant donor organization themselves manage or house the grant application program on their own website (or servers).

Every grant donor is a different organization from the other, having different questions for applicant nonprofits, or requiring different formatting, or requesting different attachments from one another. Usually, when a grant donor requires that applicants apply online, they provide the list of all of the questions that the applicant nonprofit will be asked online, ahead of time, before the time that the agency is applies. It is very important that applicant nonprofits print this list of the actual questions before applying. Using these actual questions and the grant donor's giving guidelines will allow your organization to prepare and write the actual answers to each question (in Word or some similar word processing program) before actually applying. You can then simply copy from Word your already completed answers and paste those into each grant application question's response box or prompt. The benefit of having completed the answers for each question asked, in advance, is also that you and whomever else you ask to review the final drafts of grant submissions to look these over, too, beforehand. It is tempting, in the online grant application prompts, to compose on the fly or edit as you apply; but the danger is not only making errors that go unnoticed (and do not get fixed before submitting your organization's application); the danger is that if they require a limited number of words per answer you may be taking up word count (space in the answer) that could be better used to make an additional compelling point or two. It's better to apply on line already having completed each answer.

If a grant donor does not allow the applicant to get the list of questions, beforehand, (and this is extremely rare) log into the grant application program or wizard, going through the entire application, and print each question out before actually answering them. If even this is not possible - copy and paste from a grant application that has already won your nonprofit a grant having beforehand edited and tailored a copy of that to the grant donor organization's giving guideline's requirements.

Sometimes grant donors requiring that applications be submitted online have a word limit, per response. This word limit should also be built into your nonprofit's responses to each of their questions, in advance.

When a grant donor requires that applicants apply online they may require that the applicant upload the required grant application attachments (which can be anything from the list of the current board of directors, to the most recent annual report, to the financials, or the proposed program's budget). They may also allow applicant organizations to mail their attachments into their office and require that they reference their application when doing so.

Many grant donors will give the applicant organization some kind of confirmation message after the grant writer is done submitting the nonprofit's grant application online. It may be a unique confirmation number or code, or just a simple message saying something like, "...your grant application has been received, thank you...". It's good to note, maybe on a printed out copy of your actual grant application submitted what date and time you submitted the grant application, online, and also note any confirmation number or even generic messages they use to confirm your submission has been received. You won't have to remember any details for each application submitted because you'll have record of these (and these copies and records should be filed into the grant donor's file). If there's any question, in the future, whether your organization actually submitted an application successfully (or on time, maybe) even if you only note their confirmation message, verbatim, you can prove that whomever submitted the grant application got all the way through the process such that they received this direct quote (confirmation) from their grant application system.

If, during the grant application submission process online, you have any difficulties with the actual grant application program or if you have any questions about the application questions or requested attachments; follow the directions that explain how to get assistance, on the grant application wizard or web pages. If they direct the applicant to not contact the grant donor organization, but instead the company that manages the application wizard, then do what they direct. If the grant application wizard's web pages do not provide any clear direction, check the grant donor's giving guidelines for directions. If that does not state what online applicants can do to request assistance, then call the grant donor's main office number.

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