CommUlinks of Colorado conducted a survey of grant writers and foundation grant makers
to collect information about user experiences with paper and online grant applications. They
reported the findings February 2013 in a document titled “Report on paper vs… online grant
submission systems.” With CommUlinks’ permission, Grant-Writing-Proposals.com is sharing a
summary of the findings below and a link to a copy of the full report.
CommUlinks of Colorado:
Report on paper vs… online grant submission systems
There were 82 responses from nonprofits to the portion of the survey about using online vs.
paper grants systems. Unfortunately, there were only eight responses from grant making
foundations to the foundation section of the survey, but they did provide valuable information.
Survey respondents were located in Colorado (63.4%) and outside of Colorado (36.6%)
The survey shows there is a disparity between what users of online and paper grant systems
prefer to use compared to their views about ease of use:
63.1% of all respondents prefer online grant systems over paper but only 44.6% agree or
strongly agree that they are easy to use compared to 64.5% who agree or strongly agree that
paper systems are easy to use.
There is a vast difference between how professional, contracted grant writers responded to the
same questions about preference and ease of use, compared to staff working inside nonprofit
Only 40% of contracted grant writers prefer online grant systems to paper. Only 33% of
them agree or strongly agree online systems are easy to use compared to 71.5% who agree or
strongly agree that paper systems are easy to use.
70% of nonprofit staff respondents prefer online grant systems to paper. Only 48% of them
agree or strongly agree online systems are easy to use compared to 62.6% who agree or strongly
agree that paper systems are easy to use.
Positives and negatives about online systems (all respondents):
The best things about online systems are that they are ecologically friendly (80%) and use less
paper (72.3%). Only 29.2% said they take less time and 29.2% said they are easy to edit.
The worst things about online systems are that foundations use different systems (72.3%), it
takes a long time to cull down paragraphs to meet character/word limits (72.3%) and some
systems are difficult to use and not intuitive (72.3%). Many (56.9%) find it difficult to share the
grant proposal with others in the organization before it is submitted.
Positives and negatives about paper systems (all respondents)
The best things about paper systems are that they are easy to share with others in the
organization (79%) and easy to save for reference and use later (75.8%).
The worst things about paper systems are that they use so much paper (75.8%) and copying
grants and attachments take a lot of time (62.9%).
Click here to read the full report including CommUlinks recommendations to foundations
considering a conversion from paper to online applications.