Funding story: Online applications

Electronic applications are not as widespread as they could be, but the method is set to become more popular.

Not many grant makers offer you the chance to apply online for grants, but it would be surprising if the trend were not to become more popular.

Not everyone is keen on the method, however. At least one grant maker that has explored online applications has found that applicants do not like them. One of the reasons for this is that it is difficult to put in joint applications. Two other funders exploring the online option are doing so in different ways and with different levels of take-up.

The City Bridge Trust started giving applicants to its main programme the option of applying online in March. Few have actually used this option so far, however. Conversely, the Rayne Foundation - which also introduced online applications in March and shifted completely to an online system last month - finds that very few applicants prefer to make printed applications.

Emma Le Poidevin, website and information officer at the City Bridge Trust, says: "We needed our online system to fit in with our existing system. As soon as an online application comes in, it gets treated in the same way as a conventional one does. The conventional application form is very detailed, and we felt that we needed to duplicate that online."

The Rayne Foundation did not have to modify an existing system because it had never used a formal application form before March. "We decided to move pretty well solely to online," says Tim Joss, director of the foundation.

"We felt it would be more convenient for the applicants to be able to apply online. And now that anyone can get access to the internet, we didn't feel we would be excluding people. Even very small organisations that don't have computers can go into any public library. Our e-guide and printable guidelines are on the website too."

The first-stage application that the Rayne Foundation is using is brief: it requires only a 250-word project description.

It may be that, in future, briefer application processes attract more online applicants. For the moment, however, it is interesting that online applications have not already become part of the mainstream.

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