Ten must-haves for your grant management solution

publication date: Apr 25, 2012
author/source: Joan Benson
Progressive, grant-funded charities and nonprofits have heeded public calls for accountability, transparency and responsibility. They are responding by evaluating their technology and investing in grant management systems that help them meet demands for clearly stated outcomes and impact. Here in my final article in this series, I'll summarize the top ten characteristics to look for when you're evaluating grant management solutions.Joan Benson photo

1. Ability to track and measure success or outcomes

Both financial (dollars spent per hired training participant) and programmatic (meals served) tracking within the system are vital. Outcome measures involve regular, systematic tracking of the extent to which program participants experience the benefits or changes intended. Make sure your solution doesn't simply try to provide a work-around field or accounting code to handle these critical measures. Look for a solution that allows you to define, measure, and report on the key outcomes that make your program and organization the best investment for funders. 

2. Intelligence dashboards 

Get instant visibility of performance and results for any program, grant, or application. Know exactly where your programs and grant pipeline progress stand as soon as you login. Grant management solutions that include this instant visual will give you the ability to quickly communicate and make adjustments to programs or processes to meet your goals and outcome measures. You no longer need to wait for a program's end results, reacting after the fact with no ability to change results. With true success measures and intelligence dashboards, your organization will be poised for new levels of performance, credibility and success. 

3. "Right" reporting

The best grant management solutions take the unique requirements of the grant report recipient into account. They provide out-of-the-box reports to meet typical requirements and customizable reports for expanded capabilities. Look for a solution with a user-friendly interface and workflow that employees at all levels of experience will find easy to use.

4. Collaboration capabilities

Grant applications, program management and contact lists are inheritably collaborative. To capture the highest level of efficiency and improve collaboration throughout your organization, look for a grant management solution including integrated contact management that will provide an easy-to-understand flow of communication and a relational picture of your organization's network. The best solutions will use the communication and collaboration elements to help you keep track of deadlines, create budgets and better manage the grant pipeline. Look for customizable collaboration tools to deliver management efficiency, visibility, and shared access for key areas of responsibility.

5. Document management

Organization-wide document sharing will strengthen productivity, collaboration, and compliance. Look for a grant management solution allowing you to quickly store, access and update documents for each grant, relationship and application across the organization.

6. Advanced budgeting capabilities

Budget tracking is crucial to ensuring an organization fully uses the grant funding received, while also observing restrictions. Make sure any grant management solution you are considering includes budget building tools by item or dollars, quickly creates pro-forma budgets for grant applications, and integrates with your financial accounting solution to simplify and strengthen financial reporting.

7. Access

Grant writers and program managers are often offsite. A web-based grant management solution will allow staff members to maximize productivity and efficiency across the organization.

8. Grant application tracking

Complete date tracking, reminders, shared documentation and a common contact list will allow faster compilation of application components and, therefore, a higher funding ratio.

9. Internal controls

Strong internal controls will help ensure the highest levels of accountability and security, building your organization's credibility and ensuring donors' trust.

10. Seamless integration with fund accounting and CRM solutions 

Streamline reporting, strengthen collaboration, and fully utilize the strength of your networks and resources with fully integrated solutions. Providing up-to-the-minute program and grant balance tracking, indicators, and financial oversight will help set up your organization for success.

If your organization relies heavily on grant funding, you'll need an automated system that addresses every stage of the grant life cycle. The best grant management software products will help members of your organization apply for new grants; receive grant funds; budget, track and report on success measures; manage grant-related documents; develop lasting relationships with grantors; and earn grant renewals. By effectively managing the grant pipeline, a grant management solution can help ensure your organization applies for enough grants to fund its mission and provide a stable cash flow.

Joan Benson is a product marketing manager for Sage North America's Austin, Texas-based Nonprofit Solutions business unit. Benson has worked in the not-for-profit space for eight years and in product marketing/management for 15 years. She began her career in the accounting and manufacturing sector, where she developed expertise in cost accounting, operations, and product development.

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