Main Article Collection
As detailed in the article Introduction to Submission Portals: START HERE, the following table shows the core articles related to the submission portal in order of the recommended learning path, depending on the user’s knowledge and experience.
This article is intended for those who are new to submission portals.
- The Submission Portal: An Introduction
- Stages: Part 1
- Folders: Part 1
- Activities to Support These Concepts
The Submission Portal is a major feature of Zengine that is crucial to the functioning of grant, scholarship, and a range of other programs. At its most basic level, the Submission Portal is where portal users can submit their application and related information. This data can then be viewed and managed by administrators in a Zengine workspace, either by pulling up individual applicant records, or by viewing many records together in a data view.
This article will discuss the most important aspects of how submission portals interact with a Zengine workspace, and is meant for someone with little to no experience with using submission portals. If are already familiar with using and/or configuring submission portals, or are interested in finding how to make a specific change to a submission portal, please see the article Introduction to Submission Portals: START HERE (where a recommended article reading order, based on an individual’s experience and familiarity with Zengine, can be found) or Submission Portal Settings.
The Submission Portal: An Introduction
The main purpose of a submission portal is to provide a comprehensive way to collect and follow up with target end-user’s information. This target end-user is most typically an applicant to a specific program being managed in Zengine.
Submission portals are the single point of access for constituents to a program. In Zengine, submission portals are set up in specific ways, relative to a workspace, to collect information from applicants at various points in a program and provide them with status updates. Submission portals can also help administrators manage portal users through multiple stages of a program (such as Awards, Progress Reports, or other requirements) as well as request and collect information from outside collaborators (such as a letter of recommendation for a scholarship application).
To begin understanding submission portals, some terms used in Zengine need to be defined first.
- A workspace is a relational database within Zengine. The relational database has multiple forms, each having its own data and workflow processes.
A workspace can be made up of many parts including a submission portal, a review portal, reports, forms, and access to the data collected by the various forms.
- A program in Zengine is a complete cycle of data collection for a specific use or set of uses, from initial setup through reporting and analysis. A workspace is usually built around a specific program’s requirements and workflow.
- Workflow is a term used in Zengine to describe the steps of a program as a whole: from creating a login and Profile to reporting at the end of a program’s cycle.
- Stages are essentially checkpoints or milestones along a program’s lifecycle where application packages move, to complete specific program tasks.
- Steps are actions that need to be completed within a Submission Portal stage, and each step must have a form associated with it.
- A form is a vehicle that a program uses to collect specific data. Each form contains a set of fields (typically in the form of questions) which are used to collect that specific data.
- The set of data associated with a completed form is called a record.
- Folders are a function on a form that are used to display the status of a record in a program’s process, move records through a submission portal process, initiate the sending of auto-emails, track the completion status of review feedback, and more.
Submission Portal URL
Each submission portal is created with its own unique URL, or web page address, that is established when the submission portal is created. Portal users will access this URL to login and submit their information. This URL is separate from the web address that a program administrator would use to log into the Zengine workspace associated with the submission portal. See the article on Building a Submission Portal for more information.
Structural Components of a Submission Portal
A submission portal is the interface between the portal user (or applicant, in most cases) and the Zengine workspace. Portal users will go to a unique website, create a login email and password, and begin the first parts of the program workflow. As they enter the information that is requested, that data appears to administrators in the program’s workspace.
However, submission portals offer much more than just a method to collect data from portal users; they also structure a portal user’s experience through the program by ushering each user through a sequence of milestones or checkpoints in a program’s lifecycle. These are referred to as Stages. While the Stages in a submission portal can be customized to reflect a program’s specific workflow, a typical program may include Stages such as “Application Intake,” “Application Under Review,” “Award Acceptance,” and “Post-Award Progress Reports.”
Administrators can control which Stages a portal user can access through the use of folders, which are essentially statuses that can be assigned to a record. As the folders on a record change, so do the Stage which a portal user can access.
As portal users progress through Stages, they will be asked to submit information along the way by completing Steps associated with each Stage. Steps are related to forms that have been set up in a workspace, and reflect the questions (or fields) on that associated form. As portal users fill out the fields on each Step, that information appears to administrators on the related form in the program’s workspace.
When a portal user completes all necessary Steps in a Stage, they can submit their information and move to the next Stage in the workflow.
While that might be a lot to take in, please bear in mind that this description represents a high-level summary; the following sections explain each of these components, and how they interact, in more detail.
Stages: Part 1
On a basic level, submission portals are composed of a number of Stages and Steps. Stages are essentially checkpoints or milestones along a program’s lifecycle, through which application packages move to complete specific program tasks. New data may be added to an application package as it progresses through these stages. From the standpoint of a submission portal, when a portal user completes one of these program milestones, they will move to the next Stage.
A basic program may include the following Stages:
- Application Intake: a portal user completes and submits an application to a program
- Under Review: program administrators and reviewers assess the quality of the applicants’ submissions
- Not Awarded OR Awarded: administrators decide whether each application package will result in an award or not. Awarded portal users may be asked to accept their awards or submit additional information.
- Progress Reporting: awarded applicants may be asked to submit regular reports on the progress of their grant project, or other things.
Keep in mind these are just a few examples; which Stages are included in a submission portal (and what they are called) is completely customizable.
Steps are actions that need to be completed within a submission portal Stage by a portal user or applicant, and each Step must have a form associated with it. In most cases, these actions consist of filling out information for program administrators to use or evaluate. In other words, Steps are the tools used in a submission portal to collect end-user information.
As mentioned, Steps are associated with specific Forms (see Forms below) that the portal user will complete to submit information. That information will appear to administrators on the associated form in the Zengine workspace. Steps are added to certain kinds of Stages.
In the example image below, the Application Stage has three Steps: Application, Essays, and a Letter of Recommendation. When applicants have access to this stage, they must complete all three Steps before the Stage can be completed. When they complete these steps and submit the stage, they are placed in the next stage, Full Application Under Review.
Submission portal Steps have specific forms associated with them to collect desired data from portal users. These forms are used to store and manage data in the administrators’ Zengine workspace. When a portal user fills in questions or fields while completing a Step in the submission portal, they are actually completing their specific record for the form associated with that Step in the workspace.
At least three forms must be created in the workspace before setting up a submission portal. Each of these forms must contain one or more mandatory components for the submission portal to function properly.
Forms that are necessary for a submission portal:
- User Form
- The User form is a form that contains only an email field to capture applicant or user’s email, providing a unique login identifier. Other forms link to the User form, connecting all records related to that user.
- Mandatory field: a required text field that is validated as an email. (For more information on field validations, see the article Form Builder Overview -> Validation Options.)
- Profile Form
- A Profile is a form that collects a limited amount of user data that identifies that unique user. A Profile form should contain any information that the program allows to be changed if updates are needed, for example, basic biographical and contact information about an applicant, end-user, or organization (depending on the program type). Information on the Profile form can be updated by the portal user at any time in the submission portal, unless certain configurations are enabled by administrators.
- Mandatory field: a linked form field to the User form.
- Primary Form
- A program’s Primary form is used to drive the submission portal process in Zengine, and is usually the main/first form applicants will fill out to begin the submission process after completing the Profile form. In a typical program, this is called the Applications form.
- Folder statuses (see the section on Folders below) on the Primary form will control which submission portal Stages the portal user has access to.
- Mandatory field: a Linked Form field to the Profile form.
- Mandatory folders: the Primary form should contain at least one folder for each Stage that a portal user will progress through during the full course of the program (and may have more than one folder for some Stages). However, there must be a minimum of two folders:
- Submission in Progress (indicating the first required stage has been started but is not yet complete)
- Completed submissions
--- IMPORTANT ---
Please make sure the above forms are set up before setting up a submission portal.
- Additional Submission Portal Forms
- Depending on the program, additional forms may be part of the application package and will need to be created. One form must exist in a workspace for every individual Step in a submission portal.
- Mandatory field: a Linked Form field to the Primary form.
For more information about setting up a new submission portal, and the forms required, please see Building a Submission Portal.
Folders: Part 1
Folders are crucial to the underpinnings of Zengine, and it’s important to understand how folders impact a workspace and a submission portal.
Folders are a function on a form that are used to display the status of a record in a program’s process, move records through a submission portal process, initiate the sending of auto-emails, track the completion status of review feedback, and more.
Folders are not independent entities, but are set up and maintained by the form on which they were created. Folders on the Primary form of a submission portal have special importance. Each application package or portal-user submission will move through a defined set of successive Stages as they progress through a program in Zengine. The folders on the Primary form control which Stage that specific portal user has access to. In other words, folder changes on the primary form are what drive application packages through the full program workflow.
The most straight-forward example of this is when an application package moves from the Application Intake Stage to the Review Stage once a full application has been submitted.
In this example, there would be an intake folder on the Primary form that allows the applicant to access and complete any application Steps associated with the Application Intake stage. That applicant information is collected in the workspace as a new record on the form associated with each Step. Once the applicant submits those forms, that Primary form record automatically moves to the next folder, or process step in the program. In this example, the record would move to a Review Stage.
Records move through the folders in a program’s workflow until the program’s process is complete. Because of the importance of folders on the Primary form of a submission portal, administrators must plan out which parts of a program workflow correspond to which submission portal Stages and create a folder for each one. If a new Stage needs to be added to a submission portal, then a new folder must be created on the Primary form to indicate which Stage an applicant should be able to access.
For information on how to change the folder status of a record, see the article Viewing, Editing, and Moving Records → Moving a Record (section).
For information on adding, deleting, or editing folders on a form, see the article Form Builder Overview → Form Settings → Folder Settings (section).
Activities to Support These Concepts
With this information in mind, a new administrator can examine the Submission Portal Settings for an existing submission portal in their workspace to identify the Primary form folders associated with each Stage, and which forms in the workspace are associated with each Step. The activities below will direct you to locate this information.
Once you have completed this set of activities, you can continue learning about submission portals by returning to the article Introduction to Submission Portals: START HERE and begin making changes to your submission portal that are appropriate for a beginner-level submission portal administrator. Or, if you feel ready, continue on to learn more about intermediate-level submission portal concepts with our article Submission Portal Key Concepts: Intermediate.
Navigating to Submission Portal Settings
Begin by navigating to the Settings for a submission portal.
- Logged into a program as an administrator, navigate to the Settings & Tools section by selecting the cog wheel icon in the top navigation bar.
- Select the Submission Portal tile from the Plugin Settings section.
- Select the Edit button to the appropriate submission portal.
Note: if no submission portals are listed on this screen, a basic submission portal must be built to continue with this activity. Please see the article Building a Submission Portal.
Identifying the Folder Associated with a Stage
Once the submission portal Settings have been accessed, the folder on the Primary form associated with a Stage can be viewed on the General Settings tab on the Stage Settings page for the Stage you want to view. (Note that the images below use a submission portal that has been built out; the portal used for this activity may appear differently.)
- To edit the folder associated with a Stage, navigate to the Stage needing changes by selecting the appropriate link for the Stage in the Portal Sections panel on the left side of the screen. (Multiple stages are highlighted in the screenshot below, as your submission portal may have more than one.)
- Selecting a Stage in the Portal Settings pane will change the contents of the right panel and display the Stage Settings; this page will look slightly different for External Stages than it does for Required Stages.
(To learn more about the difference between Required and External Stages, see the article Submission Portal Key Concepts: Intermediate.)
- The main Stage Settings pane will typically open on the General Settings tab. The Stage Activity section will show the folder on the Primary form which will make this Stage active for a portal user.
The General Settings tab of Stage Settings for a Required Stage.
The General Settings tab of Stage Settings for an External Stage.
The folders associated with each Stage can be changed here as well. (For more information on changing the folders associated with a Stage, see the article Change Folder(s) Associated with a Submission Portal Stage (Intermediate).
Identifying the Form Associated with a Step
From the Submission Portal Settings, an administrator can also identify forms associated with each Step in the submission portal.
- Upon entering the Submission Portal Settings, administrators will see a pane on the left side of any screen called Portal Sections. This pane will show a linear list of the Stages and Steps a portal user will progress through over the full course of a program workflow. The image below shows an example of this pane. (The Stages and Steps are listed under Submissions.)
- In the Portal Sections pane on the left side of the screen, select the link for the desired Step that you want to view. (Steps are associated with a Stage, and are shown on the Portal Sections pane as indented further to the right.) Multiple Steps are highlighted in the screenshot below to show there may be more than one to choose from.
- Selecting a Step in the Portal Sections panel will change the contents of the right panel and display the Step Settings.
- If not already visible, select the Step Description tab.
- The form associated with this Step is identified in the yellow box next to Step Form at the top of the Step Description tab.