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Nonprofit Grant Seeking: Tips for Online Applications

More and more foundations are inviting or requiring nonprofit applicants to apply for grants online. Online application systems vary widely, but a few things you should keep in mind are:

  • Well before any deadlines, check the funder’s website to see if you need to create an account prior to submitting a proposal. This procedure can take a few days.

  • Plan ahead by gathering documents you want to include with your proposal and by setting up your electronic signature if one is requested on the application.

  • In the foundation’s instructions for applicants, pay attention to whether you can save your work in the online system and come back to finish it later. If you can’t, draft your proposal and edit it before you start working on the foundation’s online form.

  • Check to see whether the funder specifies a word count or character count. Track the length of any drafts you write so you don’t have difficulty fitting your sections into the online form.

  • Some online applications consist of a series of questions that aren’t revealed until you’ve logged into the system and begun filling out the form. When writing such a proposal, set aside a generous amount of time to concentrate on each answer.

  • If the funder’s online system allows you to upload a PDF of your proposal, do so. You could have problems with using the Track Changes function in Microsoft Word to mark edits, and — even if we’ve saved a final, clean version of the proposal — having those edits reappear when the document is uploaded.

  • Always look back over your drafted proposal before pushing the “upload” or “send” button. If possible, save it for a day to read with fresh eyes.

  • Submit the proposal at least 24 hours before it’s due to allow time to address any technical difficulties. Online applications can be tricky. Some don’t work on certain web browsers. Others get overloaded and time out your submission. It’s best to prepare ahead so if you encounter difficulties, you still have time to try other approaches or contact the funder for more information.

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