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Euan’s Guide is the disabled access charity. They’re best known for their disabled access review website, described by Ian Rankin as “Trip Advisor with wheels on”. They also make tens of thousands of accessible loos safer and run the UK’s largest and longest running access survey.

Use this Guide if you need to track grant applications and manage grant reporting. Use it for potential, in-progress and completed applications. Then use it to schedule reporting actions on successful applications. You do not need technical skills to copy the steps in this Guide. The 'Further information' section includes a template from Euan’s Guide that you can reuse.

Steps to managing grant applications and reporting using Airtable

Review your current process for managing grant applications. Note where it doesn’t work or could be improved. Use this list to help you with Step 2.

Consider also doing some user research with anyone involved in your grant application and management process. You could do some informal interviews over an afternoon or run a longer, more in-depth process.

Euan’s Guide were using spreadsheets to track and manage their funding applications and grant reporting. This method had 3 problems:

  • Spreadsheets lacked functionality and flexibility

  • Version control was sometimes an issue

  • They couldn’t control who had access to what parts of a sheet, meaning they ended up with multiple files showing similar data.

They saw an opportunity for improvement, if they had a better tool.

Choose your platform carefully. Develop a list of what you need it to be able to do. Prioritise items on the list in case you can’t find a tool that meets every criteria.

Add any accessibility needs to your list. For example, do any of your team use screen-readers?

Make a list of software options that could meet your needs.

Consider what support each company offers to learn that software e.g. are there good user guides on their site? Does YouTube have videos showing you how to use it?

You could be more systematic and use NCVO’s plan for choosing new tools or software.

Try out the options with the most potential by adding old data to them.

Euan’s Guide needed a tool that would:

  • Enable grant application tracking

  • Enable commenting as a way for the team to communicate about application progress

  • Date stamp any changes or comments

  • Integrate with other software - for example, Dropbox

  • Notify users about new activity via email and Slack

  • Be accessible

  • Give admins control over who has permission to view what

  • Automatically update in real-time - so they didn’t end up with multiple files.

They considered Notion and Airtable.

They chose Airtable because it looks and works like a spreadsheet but has more power than Notion’s databases. Its permissions are easy to control as data views can be customised for different people viewing or using a table. Views also make it easier for people to see particular data they need without the distractions of data that isn't relevant to them.

Airtable met the rest of their needs. Accessibility was important as they have team members who use assistive technology (screen readers and eye gaze technology).

They checked Airtable’s data security - to be sure it met GDPR regulations.

Airtable also has a rollback feature which means you can revert to an earlier version of data, for a limited time. This is useful if anyone accidentally overwrites or changes some data.

It was also affordable for them as a small organisation.

Test Airtable more. Run it alongside your existing system for a few weeks.

Use YouTube videos to help you understand what you can do with it. Or use Airtable’s knowledge base to learn and find out how to do anything you get stuck on.

Airtable also offers free templates. These can be useful. Euan’s Guide have provided a funding applications template you can test out (click ‘Copy base’ to use it for yourself).

Let any colleagues involved in grant applications and management know you are testing Airtable. Ask them to try it. Then ask them about their experience.

Euan’s Guide tested a free trial of Airtable by running it alongside their existing spreadsheet system. It quickly became apparent that it was easier, more powerful and more pleasant to work with than a spreadsheet. Some staff were unsure about it to start with but soon appreciated its benefits.

They also found that:

  • It worked best on a laptop or desktop. Mobile screens are too small for anything but small data updates.

  • It can be frustrating that it doesn’t work offline. But they have managed this without any problems.

Set up a new base in Airtable. Then add a table to it. Add potential funders to the table's first column. Then add contact and text fields. Add any other field names to match those in any spreadsheets you already use. 

If you are managing your application data using a spreadsheet you could use Airtable's import feature to move all data into Airtable. Sometimes it is good to clean up your data first.

Example base showing a table of funders added added.

After setting up their first table Euan’s Guide set up new views for that table to enable team members to easily see:

  • New potential funders added to the table

  • All funders according to size of grant they offered.

Add other tables. These tables can interlink and share data. You don’t need to repeat data. Consider:

  • Potential applications

  • Applications in progress. This table could include: applications, status, value, decision date, success/unsuccessful, decision notes, and links to an actions table.

  • Failed applications (or this could be a view in your 'Applications in progress' table)

  • Successful applications/grants we are reporting on

  • Actions - a table of all actions needed, populated by 'in progress' and 'successful applications' tables

You can also set views up so different people can view different data, if needed.

Example table showing grant applications in progress. The view of this table is customised to show pending applications filtered by status.

Euan’s Guide set up 3 main tables:

  1. Grant applications

  2. Funders

  3. Actions

They comment on records. This facilitates conversations about specific data on the table. They find it very useful.

They also use Airtable’s views feature. It allows team members to see different segments of data organised in particular ways to help them with their work. For example:

  • One person needs to be able to see and edit particular data in a table, while also being confident they aren’t messing up how the data is organised and displayed for anyone else

  • Board members need to see an overview of grant applications in progress. They only want key data, not all the details.

Airtable lets you allocate tasks to people when collaborating on an application.

Add actions against each in progress application or successful grant. For example, add reporting dates and the people responsible to your successful grants table. You can also set up a view of each person’s actions.

Example table showing an action to report to a funder and when its due

Euan’s Guide use the actions table on a day-to-day basis. It helps them know what needs doing and when.

At the start of every month they review their applications in progress, plan any new applications and check what needs reporting on over the next 3 months.

Before each Board meeting they check that the applications in progress table is up to date.

Airtable lets you log notes of anything you’ve done on any record in any table.

You may decide to do this, or not. You could set up a folder elsewhere to store emails but you might want to add notes from phone calls to individual records.

Euan’s Guide add notes of phone calls but not emails to application and reporting records in their tables. They put emails in a Dropbox folder rather than copying its contents into an Airtable record.

Develop how you use Airtable. As you become more confident you could:

  • Add more useful views - for example so you can see when funding starts and ends

  • Add a read only view of certain data from a table to your website

Use read only views when you want to ensure data can’t get accidentally changed or deleted.

You can also continue to import actions or records from one table into another. In this way tables automatically update and you don’t need to store the same data in more than one place. You can also do this across bases.

And you can use Airtable to support other internal processes and functions.

Euan’s Guide has experimented with Airtable. They now use it for several internal functions:

  • As a whole team planner, so that everyone can see priorities at a glance (for example events, awards, key dates). This works well with the Timeline view particularly for sharing with the Board.
  • To plan and manage marketing activity, including as a comms calendar and press mentions repository.

  • To collect and organise testimonials - using the forms function on their website and other places.

  • As their expenses and holiday request systems. Both these use the forms function

They tried to use it as a single source of truth for everything to do with website statistics (for example, tracking performance statistics) but that became unwieldy.

Further information