A big part of winning grant funding is writing application forms. That’s fair enough – to apply for money you should be able to meet the requirements of the funding scheme. However every funder has a different form with different questions to ask, so writing multiple applications places a huge burden on charities applying to funders and takes up resources that could otherwise have been spent on helping people.
So what if all funders used the same form? That would be great for applicants, you could just fill out one form but it might be quite hard to achieve. Every funder has a different mission they want to achieve, a different way of working and a different way of seeing the world. This difference is naturally translated into different requirements in their application processes. There’s a risk that the only way you could get them to all agree would be to make a form with so many questions it wouldn’t really help reduce the application overhead.
If we could somehow redesign how this system works we could remove a big burden from charities and unlock resource to deliver their missions. And by taking a system- rather than product- level approach to this problem, we might be able to do it while also allowing funders to keep a diversity of questions and application processes.
What might this be?
What if there was a common data standard and extensible ontology for grant applications that would allow funders to build processes and forms that, while individually tailored, share a common underlying framework? This could allow applicants to take ownership of their applications, building on past applications, learning from successes and failures and transferring information between different funders.
- Applications could be transformed from one funder’s format to another’s with just a click, and applicants would only need to add in the extra information specific to an individual funder
- Application management platforms between applicants and funders could allow applicants to track and manage all their applications in one place and start new applications by building on existing ones rather than starting from scratch
- Funders could learn from each other, reusing common application processes and questions and reducing the effort to set up new schemes or programmes
- Funders could share data not just on what gets funded but on the whole funding process, identifying common patterns and learning what works.
- If shared standards were adopted by the providers of grant management systems, this could be built in to systems. Or there could be middleware which translates existing data formats into the shared standard.