Wish we'd gone with OpenWater
Updated February 22, 2023

Wish we'd gone with OpenWater

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 4 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Submittable

Our organization uses Submittable as the primary submission portal for grant applications, reviews, award notifications, and reporting. Our company runs over 30 different grant programs/cycles a year.
  • Applications are easy to build.
  • It's very user-friendly for applicants and reviewers (most drawbacks are for internal staff).
  • Support is usually quick to respond and they are all very friendly. Their staff in general are always great to work with – which is (and was) a huge selling point.
  • Their blog posts and guides are informative and extremely on point with where philanthropy should be/is heading – human-centered, trust-based approaches.
  • The organization is clearly leaning into/improving/advocating for accessibility, equity, and inclusivity in the submission and review processes.
  • They are continually adding features or making small updates based on user feedback.
  • If wanting built-in CRM functionality for ongoing management of awards and applicant communications, this won't be the right fit. There are not umbrella profiles for applicant organizations with contacts and submissions housed underneath; each application is wholly freestanding.
  • Emails frequently get caught in spam/junk/quarantine folders, regardless of safelisting the domain. Because we can't 100% rely on all system communications reaching the submitter or reviewer, we often handle communications externally instead or have to do additional follow up, which is added time and something we anticipated the system would streamline.
  • The level of implementation support is unfortunately a place where we feel we were misled following the demos. We anticipated more hands-on and extensive assistance that would remove the bulk of the burden from our grant program managers, but this wasn't our experience. The indicated support was a major factor for our company that led to our selection of Submittable.
  • Advanced reporting unfortunately doesn't live up to the name. There are several limitations that require extensive manual manipulation to get the report structure where you want; and it's not as intuitive or simple as other parts of the backend (such as form creation). Transparently, the reporting is by far the biggest headache for our program managers.
  • The #1 advanced reporting drawback is the data delay. Data received through any type of form is not immediately available upon submission for advanced reports (but oddly is instantaneous for standard reports). Additionally, the delay is inconsistent – sometimes three hours, sometimes 18, sometimes more. This impedes administrative efficiency for program managers and affects internal processing timelines; we have to build in extra days to prepare materials for reviewer meetings or any meeting where we may need a report quickly following submission. As a fail-safe given the uncertainty of up-to-date data, we now manually check and/or edit data once we've pulled a report into Excel. I personally have switched to only using standard reports and then build in time for a manual overhaul in Excel to get what I need in our preferred format. Despite the time this takes, it's always faster for me than waiting for data and then adjusting advanced reports.
  • Branding customization is limited, especially for organizations running multiple programs. Within our company, we support many clients who have their own brand and/or look; since they don't use our organization's branding, it can be confusing for applicants to have our company's logo anywhere near other applications. It would be nice to offer our clients their own branded landing page without paying for an entirely new account, considering we don't usually need a separate back end system.
  • The additional instructions for form fields appear under the response box rather than directly under the main question/header. This often results in applicants not seeing supplemental information, prompts, or guidelines until after they've provided their response.
  • Placeholder tags are limited. We'd truly love to utilize DocuSign for agreements but are unable to because we can't pull in all necessary field responses from the original submission.
  • The inability to edit an application for a submitter is a definite pain point. There may be something small, like a typo in their organization name, and everything following is impacted, e.g., all system communications where we use a placeholder tag for that field (another reason we can't use DocuSign). We've also had applicants mistype numbers somewhere and ask us to quickly update (in which case we'd keep their emails on file for record). Since that's not an option in Submittable, we open for editing and make them go through the work for something that could be remedied on our end in a matter of seconds. This hinders rapport with some applicants because the editing process can be confusing and frustrating for individuals who struggle with technology; and the back and forth to walk them through the editing process is time that could be spent elsewhere.
  • Not being able to see account emails and/or names of individuals for open submission drafts is a barrier. In our former system we could view basic information and personally reach out to applicants to ensure they didn't miss due dates. Additionally it enabled us to remove email addresses from reminder communications for those we knew already submitted and simply opened up an accidental additional draft. When we send these reminders in Submittable, we always get applicants reaching out panicked or annoyed because they already submitted but think this means we didn't receive it.
  • There's not an option to cc other emails when communicating with the submitter through the system. This can be limiting and requires us to move communications back into our personal inbox instead of keeping everything together in Submittable.
  • It's not possible to reassign submissions to a different email. This is needed in situations where a submitter has left an organization and a now defunct email was used for login as opposed to a generic company one (like info@). It makes future communications for reporting impossible through the system. There is such high turnover in nonprofits, especially in development departments, so this is an inevitable issue for many users.
  • Not all form fields are concealable – only those where answers can be inserted. It would be helpful to conceal text-only fields and dividers as there are moments when the content is obsolete to the reviewer. This is either because it's information there to guide applicants through the submission process OR because we've concealed all fillable fields in a section but then the section header and other text-only fields are still oddly hanging around. It can make the app look a bit off to reviewers and forces them to scroll through more content than they really need to.
  • Report structures cannot be duplicated and applied to different projects, which is vital for organizations with dozens of different funding programs or cycles throughout the year. This leads to so much extra manual work.
  • There's limited control over notification emails sent to assigned reviewers. You can't customize these, and if needing to quickly switch a submission back a stage for something, the second that submission is returned to the stage with external reviewers, they receive another email about that assignment, despite already getting the notice originally.
  • Submission PDFs are not customizable, which would be ideal to create clean and specific documents for sharing with board members or partners whom you won't provide access to in the system. Additionally, some reviewers like the option of printing, and the current formatting of the PDFs are not as reader-friendly as the online portal. Of particular note: rich text formatting doesn't carry over; monetary numbers throughout aren't comma delimited (this is an issue in the online reviewer view too) which can result in reviewers improperly reading a request amount.
  • Form uploads are not included within/at the end of submission PDF downloads. It's a lot of extra work to do bulk exports with zip files and then merge everything manually to get one PDF of submitted content for simplified recordkeeping and/or sharing with external parties as needed.
  • There are inconsistent/intermittent errors that occur when utilizing tables in applications, such as numbers disappearing entirely or not being calculated in the total if a $ is typed in originally. We've unfortunately had to find workarounds and make sure to add IFERROR formulas in the Excel file we upload to bypass the system errors.
  • There are numerous nitpicky things that cause difficulty on the back end. This is inevitable with any software or system; regardless, that doesn't make those quirks/limitations/etc. any less frustrating.
  • Improved applicant experience, for the most part
  • Simplified reviewer experience, for the most part
  • Certain limitations have required our staff to create workarounds and take more time for manual labor of tasks that should ideally be automated in the system
It's a pretty simple system. Easy to learn the basics of it.
As far as I know, it hasn't changed anything as relates to building stronger relationships.
OpenWater, in my opinion, was a better fit for our company when considering the holistic needs of each team and the dozens of programs we manage. Ultimately, Submittable was selected for various reasons that didn't all play out as expected, and I think the organization would have made a different decision had we known what we know now as far as limitations related to our needs and in the way the system operates.

Do you think Submittable delivers good value for the price?

Not sure

Are you happy with Submittable's feature set?


Did Submittable live up to sales and marketing promises?


Did implementation of Submittable go as expected?


Would you buy Submittable again?


For a company with few and/or simple programs who is needing a no-frills way to receive and manage applications, Submittable is a good system. For the most part, it is extremely user-friendly for applicants and reviewers and relatively intuitive for admins. For organizations who have complex grant programs or needs, desire a lot of customization, or want their submissions portal to function in a similar manner as a CRM...Submittable has a lot of limitations in functionality and design that would have me tell you to look elsewhere. When originally searching for the next system, I recall others (such as OpenWater) being a better fit for the latter.