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THE GRANT MAKING BLOG

Smarter Grants: WISER Forms

By Kate Caldecott

Why Form Design Matters

You already know that your forms determine the information you will have for assessing applications, and determining program success. Well-designed forms do more than that though. Well-designed forms:


Making Your Forms WISER


The Behavioral Economics Team of Australia recently held an event on how to design better forms. The goal was to bring the science of behavioral insights to bear on government. This means we have to recognize that human do not always do what’s logical, or what’s in their best interest. As humans, we often opt for what’s easiest (or at least for what seems easiest). Simple decisions we make in creating our forms – where important questions or information is placed on the page, the order of options on choice questions, whether or not we use defaults, and whether we ask “opt in” or to “opt out” – can have a surprising impact on the responses we get.

Form design is never neutral. How you frame your questions will drive responses one way or another. In order to ensure you’re using that power responsibly, and promoting the behaviors you want to see, consider using the WISER framework.




WISER Form Design

 

WHO



Think about your applicants and grantees. When was the last time you asked them for feedback on your forms? Do you do a pre-application workshop – and if so have you noted which parts of your application form generate the most questions and cause the most confusion?

 

You’ll also want to look at completion rates. If a lot of applications are being started, but not submitted, that may indicate that your process is overly complex, or that you’re not communicating eligibility criteria as early as you should be.



If you are in the process of updating your guidelines, converting from paper to electronic processes, or starting a new program, then this is a great time to pull together a focus group and find out what the pain points are for your potential applicants.


INTRO



Bring attention early to things that your applicants really need to know. This includes:



When considering what information needs to be most prominent, remember to think from the applicant’s point of view.


STRUCTURE

Pay attention to layout. Forms, especially long ones, can become overwhelming and confusing. To ensure that your forms are clear:


EXPRESSION

One of the simplest, and yet most effective ways to improve your forms is to use plain language. Instead of asking for how many outputs, ask how many people will be served. And instead of asking about outcomes, ask what will be different. Use direct pronouns, we and you. Cut out any unnecessary words.

 

TEST

You need to constantly test and adjust your forms. The end of each round is a great opportunity to see what went well and what could be improved. Check application submission rates and reach out to those who started an application but didn’t submit. Gather feedback from your grantees and your program officers. Assess whether or not you collected the data needed to conduct a meaningful evaluation.

 

Then adjust your forms and start again.

 

If you would like assistance designing your forms, please contact me at Kate@katecaldecott.com.au or 0447 227 598.

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