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Creating Better Online Application Forms

By Kate Caldecott

Is it possible that creating a better application form could result in receiving better applications? While the primary purpose of the application form is to collect the information you need to assess if you want to fund the applicant’s program, the application process also:

Using what we know about SmartyGrants, about potential applicants and about the best practices for online forms, you can create an application form that will make it easy for the applicant to give you the information you need. As always, you’ll want to begin with the end in mind. What kind of applicants/projects are you hoping to attract? What would success look like? What performance indicators will you want grantees to report on later? Getting the application form right is the first step in making these things happen.


Better grant application forms



The Infrastructure of SmartyGrants Forms

Fields are the building blocks of forms. When you begin building forms in SmartyGrants, you’ll want to think ahead about the different fields you will need, particularly your choice lists, standard fields and contact types.

Once you have your choice lists, standard fields and contact types in place, you’re ready to start building your form.

What Should You Ask?

Ask what you need to know – no more, no less. The longer your form is the more intimidating it will be to the person filling it out. You don’t want to scare away potential applicants or cause confusion that will result in errors. Don’t ask for the same information in more than one place. If you want the information you’re collecting to feed through to other forms (for example, if you want the acquittal form to refer to the number of people that they said they would serve in the application), make it a standard field. Don’t ask the applicant to calculate – instead use calculated fields.

Do ask about eligibility. AIGM recently reported that a staggering 54% of grantee survey respondents reported having pulled out of a grant application before finishing it. Forty-three percent of those did so after realising they were ineligible in the first place. That represents a lot of time being lost by the very people we are partnering with to try build a better world. One thing you can do to prevent this situation is to put in an eligibility screening page at the beginning of the application and use conditional logic to only enable the rest of the form if the applicant is eligible. No need to copy your entire Guidelines into the page, just ask the things (preferably formatted as single choice questions) you need to know to verify that an applicant is indeed eligible.


How Should You Ask It?

Nothing is more important than clarity when creating an application form. Making it clear what information you are looking for will increase the likelihood of your getting useful answers. This in turn, will make your assessment process easier and more accurate, which will help you fund the right projects. So what can you do to make your application questions clear?

Don’t be afraid of using the features SmartyGrants offers. Creating a clear, concise application form will help your applicants give you the information you need. If you would like assistance creating your application forms, please contact me at Kate@katecaldecott.com.au or 0447 227 598.



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  • Kate Caldecott worked with me on Australia Post’s Our Neighbourhood Community Grants program. She assisted with the grant process design and SmartyGrants grant management implementation.

    In working with Kate, I would describe her as being: passionate, knowledgeable, dedicated to community with a willingness to going the extra mile, above and beyond. It is always a pleasure to work with Kate.

    - Erin McKenzie, Community Events and Partnerships Advisor, Community Relations Australia Post
  • This is the perfect opportunity for me to thank you, in particular, ….. for the outstanding customer service you have all provided. You have not only helped us use SG effectively, but kept the panic at bay. There is lots more to learn about what SG can do and I’m sure we will be in regular contact …….

    Thanks to you all – you are fabulous!

    - Debra Slater-Lee, Programs Manager State NRM Office (WA)
  • Being a complete newbie on all aspects of Smartygrants I was daunted by the task of being completely responsible for the outcome of a major grant funding round at the Shire. I did the training and it still did not make much sense to me until I had my first session with Kate. The way in which Kate was able to clarify, explain and help me understand the rationale and functions of the system was brilliant, her manner always patient and professional, and her willingness to transfer knowledge and information commendable. Thanks to Kate I am now a confident user of Smartygrants

    - Marilyn A Gippsland VIC
  • Kate’s involvement in the final stages of the major review of two of Sunshine Coast Council’s funding programs added significant value to our work. As well as identifying additional sources of information for analysis, and suggesting enhancements to data presentation, Kate provided a professional critique of the review, validating our analysis of the review findings and the options identified in our report to Council.

    - Margaret Cattanach Team Leader Community Connections Community Services Sunshine Coast Council