0447 - 227 - 598


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



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.


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.


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


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.



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.


See how your grant program stacks up. Together we'll review your grant program, how SmartyGrants can benefit your organisation, and how your program is performing.



Learn the 7 steps to build a stronger and better program evaluation. In this special Guide Kate Caldecott takes you step-by-step through the process to ensure that your Program Evaluation hits the mark.



  • 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