01. Understanding The Application Form

The CommunityForce system allows for two different application forms processing scenarios. These scenarios are based on how many funds an organization has and the relationship between the application and the funds that an organization has.

A) One Application with multiple funds connected to that one application (referred to in this guide as 1:Many ) – If you have one application process that allows the applicant to apply to multiple grant funds using that one application or you may only have a few grants active concurrently. (used most often by Community Foundations and Individual Foundations)

B) One Application per each individual fund (referred to in this guide as 1:1) – you have multiple grant/student grants/fellowship funds, and each individual fund has a separate application process, or processed by separate departments within your organization. With this process multiple applications are active concurrently with each other. (used most often by Colleges and Universities)
Before setting many of the administrative setting you will need to determine which process applies to your organization.

Before setting many of the administrative setting you will need to determine which process applies to your organization.

1.1 How the Application Form Appears to an Applicant (Applicant View)

Below is an example of the applicant’s view of the ‘application’ on the applicant dashboard. Additional sections for award acceptance, post acceptance etc. will be displayed if the applicant is offered an award and accepts it.

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1.2 Getting Started Checklist

If you are doing your own implementation or working with the Implementation team we suggest that you collect the following information together before designing and creating your form. The following list is not all inclusive is just a recommendation based on our experience. The Implementation Team will require the majority of this information prior to your Process Review and prior to them getting started with your Implementation.

1. Written Documentation of your Process (whether it is one application or multiple applications)

a) Process Map
b) Written Procedures
c) Timeline

2 Documentation could include the following items:

a. Who needs to updating and reviewing your Form before publication
b. Current process on how you distribute your Form to potential applicants
c. Marketing efforts behind your Form
d. How you communicate with the Applicant during the process
e. Applicant process – list of supplemental materials and resources they may need to complete your Form.
f. Staff Intake Process

g. Review Process

1) Rubric
2) Committee Structure
3) How they currently review
4) Are they ready to read online?

h. Award Process
i. Notification Process
j. External Database – load data into external system/pushing data into CF System

Before you begin to build your Form online be sure that you have the following for each Form

  • Fund/Competition/Award/Grant Information
  • Reports
  • Committee Members
  • Progress/Final Report Process
  • Donor Interaction

After reviewing all the information, develop a new process and a new timeline to follow. Keep in mind with your timeline; you may be eliminating certain steps that free your time up. However, you are using a new process and technology you are unfamiliar with. Allot yourself, and your reviewer’s time to get use to the new process and new technology. You should plan and anticipate that you may have roadblocks.

1.3 Creating an Effective Form

Let’s face it: No one likes spending a long time filling out a form. Most people hate to do a lot of typing. Keeping your form short and simple, eliminating unnecessary elements that no one needs is a good start. Ask yourself: “Can I do without that information?” If the answer is “yes”, don’t use it.

1.3.1 User’s Perspective

When creating your application form, think about it from the User’s Perspective. A good design is a simple design. Keep in mind that people read from top to bottom and left to right. Your design should reflect a natural placement of elements. A scattered application will just drive a user to become confused and typically they will not complete filling out the form.
Before starting to build your application in our software we suggest you take a good look at your existing form whether it is a paper application or an online form. Think outside the box, think about the user experience.

1.3.2 Design with a Purpose

A good way to create an effective form is to use as many presets as possible. Eliminate text fields and replace them with check boxes, radio buttons and drop down menus wherever you can. That way you control the data that is brought in. Running reports will be easier and the data analytics will stay consistent. Fund criteria mapping will be more effective and less confusing for the system to find the match.

Think of form as a method of communication. Your application may be asking for quite a bit of information, but you don’t have to throw it all at your users in one section.

Organize your Sections:

  • Divide long sections into smaller sections. Using multiple sections for a longer form looks less intimidating to a user than having to scroll down a long page of fields to fill out.
  • Use conditional logic to show and hide sections that are relevant to the user.
  • Where necessary provide clear and specific instructions. This helps reduce user confusion, but also ensures that the data is accurate and what you are looking for.

Organize your Questions:

  • Group similar relevant data fields together. Set logical question sequence. There is a natural flow in the way the user expects to answer questions.

For example: the user’s personal details like Title, Name/Last Name, Gender and Date of Birth should be grouped together.

  • Highlight questions that conditional logic could be used to show and hide fields that are relevant to the user. Providing only relevant questions makes a form easier to fill out and ensures maximum conversion.
  • Simple input, look for common entry questions and define defaults in dropdown lists, radio buttons and checkboxes. This makes data entry quick and easy, reducing the time a user is required to complete the form.

For example: when asking what state they live in, provide all the states in a dropdown list for the user to pick from the list.

Be sure to format requirements for fields such as phone number, dates or emails.

  • Only make fields mandatory where information is specifically required for your objective.
  • Make sure that you have questions that match to your review criteria. To be able to match your criteria to a fund in the system, make sure you asked the question. Again this works most effectively when the questions are asked using preset radio buttons, checkboxes and dropdowns.
  • Don’t forget to review your decision making criteria or scoring rubric. Make sure that the information your reviewers need to score on is actually present in your application.
1.3.3 Build and Review your Online Form

After you have taken a good look at your application form making sure that you have broken the application down in to manageable sections and they contain all the appropriate questions.

The application also should be highlighted for required fields, conditional logic and criteria. Now you are ready to starting building your application.

Make sure that you test your application form before you publish it. Review your instructions to make sure they are clear and precise, fields are correctly formatted and everything is working the way you expected it to. Don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar.

1.4 Overview of the Application Form Screen

When you login to the System as an Administrator the first screen you view is the Home Screen

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  • Click on the Application and Form Icon to view the Applications List.
  • The Applications page lists all of the applications and their associated grants/scholarships for the Administrator’s Sponsoring Organization(s).
  • From this screen you will create New Applications or Clone Applications using the button options on the right in blue. You can edit the set up details of an already existing application.

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  • To reduce the list, search for a specific application use the search by fields.
  • Icon on the left is Select. Placing a check mark in the select box will allow you to move this application to the Archive list. Archive applications when you are finished with the process and no longer need to view it in your list view. When you archive an application it is no longer viewable by the Applicant regardless of their application status.
  • The red X on the far right is a delete application feature. Applications should only be deleted when there are no applicants.
  • Click on the application name to edit the application set up, set up application details, sections and questions.

The Application Form – including questions and responses, uploads, downloads, links, and requests for references etc. – may be completed on-line by the applicant. The overall objective for the application management system is to provide robust functionality that is flexible, customizable and optional.

  • Questions are organized into sections (typically topics like Student Information, College Information, and Financial Information etc. which appear as sections or folder to the applicant. There are a broad variety of question types for the applicant responses and to provide information to the applicant.
  • Sections are organized into Section Types (Application, Award Acceptance, Post Acceptance, Requests, and Admin (private to the Grant Administrator). Section Types determine how a section deadline is treated – Application sections must all be completed prior to submitting the application etc.

Sections are also associated with the applicant statuses that are pre-loaded into the system are:

    1. Pending Submission – application has not been submitted yet
    2. Request(s) Pending – application was submitted but is missing Request Sections
    3. Submitted – application has been submitted
    4. Additional Info Requested – application has been submitted and released back to applicant
    5. Withdrawn – applicant has withdrawn application
    6. Under Committee Review – application has been assigned to a reviewer
    7. Not Selected for Awarded – application has been marked not selected for award
    8. Awarded – application has been awarded
    9. Award Accepted – applicant has accepted the award
    10. Award Declined – applicant has declined the award
  • This association determines at which statuses the section appears on the applicant dashboard.
  • Within the application, the sections and the questions each have separate setup options. Each needs to be completed intentionally in order to achieve the desired result.
  • Sections and questions are determined by the Grant Administrator within a best practice framework (some sections and questions are mandatory) which ensures reporting consistency across all Schools, Departments, Programs, Institutes and Councils that have Grants.
  • The question the applicant sees may be phrased with as many words as desired. In addition Grant uses an abbreviated version of the question as the column title for reports and exports to Excel (the report name) and as a database reference (the XML name). Typically, the report name and the XML name are the same except the XML name does not allow spaces.
  • Applications are specific to an academic year. They may be copied to create the application for the new academic year. In addition, sections from one application may be copied to another application.
  • Applications can be assigned a Sponsoring Organization. A Department Administrator may only view the applications for their organization.
  • Application Items marked with an asterisk (*) denotes a required field.
  • Applications can be assigned a Sponsoring Organization. A Department Administrator may only view the applications for their organization.
  • Application Items marked with an asterisk (*) denotes a required field.

Once you create the initial application, you can access the additional setup features using the Application’s dashboard.

In the Applications Dashboard you have access to set up your Pre-Qualification Questions, Sections and Question for the actual application, Submit Application online message, Request Section Instructions to the applicants, Manage Text Tabs to create additional information tabs with the applicant’s application dashboard, and make changes to the application’s General Information setup features.

When you first click on the Setup Applications Icon a listing of current applications will appear, if you already have applications created. If you have not created any applications the listing will be empty.

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 Search By: You can search for an existing application by entering all or part of the Application Form Name, Grant Name that it is linked to, or search for a listing of all applications for a specific Sponsoring Organization and clicking on the Search button.

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Export To Excel : allows you to export the listing to an Excel format

Archive : allows you to mark an application as archived by selecting the box next to the application and clicking the Archive button. Archiving removes the application from the active listing so that the listing in not extremely long.

Active/Archive – sets the view listing to view only the active applications or to see only archived applications; the default for this setting is Active.