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3 Tips to Streamline Grant Approvals with Formstack

Stefanie Jansen |
January 11, 2024
Min Read

Grant cycles take time. From the months it takes applicants to prepare, research, draft, and submit to the time it takes grantmakers to review, respond, and award, the process is inherently lengthy.

Among the top five sectors of giving entities (including education, healthcare, and the arts), there are over 447,000 grantmaking foundations. Each one receives hundreds to thousands of submissions. And while each foundation has its own grant timeline, it typically takes between 30 days and 18 months to complete the process. 

Then according to GrantStation’s 2023 State of Grantseeking Report, 70% of grant proposal writers receive their award within three months of notification. Delayed receipt of award monies, taking four months or more, was reported by 30% of respondents.

But does it have to take so long? While grant review today is still largely manual (and even paper-based), online submission, cloud software, and automation are making it easier to award more funds in less time.

An efficient, yet fair grant review typically includes these four steps:

  1. Establish guidelines and parameters of the application. Put the work in up front to make grant guidelines crystal clear and eliminate extra work later on. Set goals and principles for how your committee will review submissions. For example, “We prioritize efficiency in reviewing applications.” or “We examine each application thoroughly.” to provide transparency and set expectations. 

  1. Accept applications. Most grants now offer online-only submission. However, some still require snail mail delivery, either for lack of application software or bulky physical materials (e.g. video presentations). 

Tip #1: Save time and headache with an online grant application form

  • Build in pre-qualification steps to reduce time manually qualifying applications during the review process. Use checkboxes and radio buttons to verify applicants fall within your required criteria (like individuals vs. businesses or students vs. graduates). Then, have applicants legally confirm the accuracy of the information with an electronic signature at the end of the form.
  • Give applicants a way to attach critical documents with easy File Upload. Files stay secure thanks to AWS hosting, yet shareable with other important applications through integrations
  • Grant applications are known for being lengthy. Give applicants the option to Save and Resume as they chip away at it instead of submitting piece meal or giving up completely.  
  1. Review applications. Now comes the hard part. While human review by a committee is crucial to any grant process, you can still streamline the process with helpful workflows. 

Tip #2: Automate review and approval workflows. 

  • First, let applicants know their proposal was received with an automated Confirmation email. Let them know the next step in the process and when they can expect a response.
  • Use Data Routing to automatically send new submissions to the right departments or committee member(s). 
  • Prevent bottlenecks and keep reviews moving with a no-code automated Workflow. Each committee member can review, edit, and comment on the same form—then, send it on to the next person or step in the process. 
  1. Administer awards. Here’s where your mission shines. Notify the grant recipients with a call, email, or letter. Then, announce and celebrate grant winners with an event or press release. You can even use the data you collected from submissions to automatically send regret letters to unselected applicants.  

Tip #3: Automatically generate important documents using submission information. 

However you choose to notify grant recipients, there’s no need to manually search through applications to create confirmation letters or award certificates. Pull in sensitive data like student ID numbers, addresses, and intellectual property, and generate secure, yet tailored documents to applicants. Getting ready for another year of grants? Search among last year’s non-winning applicants to easily inform them of the next grant cycle. 

Fund More Mission-Critical Projects with Formstack for Grants

You have a lot to give—but it can cost significant time and energy in the process. Fund more nonprofit, student, and community work by streamlining the grant application, review, and awards process with automated forms and workflows from Formstack. 

Get started optimizing your grant approval process with our pre-built templates or try Formstack free with a 14-day trial


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Stefanie Jansen |
Stefanie is a marketing writer with specialties in blogging, website writing, and copy editing. She has worked with a number of tech companies and has experience in the areas of email, marketing campaigns, and employee engagement. Connect with Stefanie at word4wordwriting.com.
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