What you should expect from grant management software

publication date: Feb 21, 2012
author/source: Joan Benson
Organizations expect technology investments to bring them efficiencies and productivity. Grant management technology is no different. The goal of implementing it is winning and retaining more grant dollars to support your charity. Joan Benson photo

A lot of work goes into each grant application, inquiry or letter of intent. In this article, I'll cover how technology can improve these processes and facilitate the collaboration that ensures more applications succeed.

Building and maintaining a grant pipeline

For every grant you've been awarded, there are often two to four applications, letters of intent or inquiries you've been denied. Think of grant funding as a pipeline. You have to put the right amount of applications in one side of the pipeline in order to win enough grants, producing adequate funding, on the other side. A steady flow is preferable and more reliable than a torrent of new funding followed by months of a dry, empty pipeline.

Organizational leaders and staff members often spend too much time poring over spreadsheets in order to track grant applications and deadlines, create budgets, allocate funds and report on performance. Using spreadsheets to manage grants can be inefficient, error-prone, and labour-intensive. That inefficient use of time can take away from the opportunity to research new grants, properly manage existing awards, and develop stronger grantor relationships. It can also distract from measuring success, reporting performance and ensuring mission success.

A good grant management solution makes the application process much easier and helps you escape the chaos of reactionary grant applications. By automating your entire grant process, it helps you apply for grants, track and receive funds, budget, and report success measures. That enables better collaboration within your organization. You're more responsive to grantors and gain immediate insight into program performance and success.

The right grant management solution can cut your analysis and reporting time by up to 50%. Consolidating and storing all relevant information in one place provides easy access to grant information, program details, performance measurements and key contacts. Alerting functionality and dashboards are a must for quick assessment and oversight.

Using technology to manage your grant process will also help ensure you have a steady supply of grants in each stage of the grant life cycle - application, distribution, and renewal - to ensure sustainability of your programs.

Grant pipeline infographic
FIGURE 1: The grant pipeline

Removing collaboration barriers

A grant management solution can give you greater transparency across programs and easier access to meaningful reporting. For example, staff can check on how each program is performing against relevant grant objectives, or instantly compare the actual expenditures with the budget for each grant. Better reporting and analysis facilitates more informed executive decision-making, stronger grantor relationships and mission success.

Central storage of related documents

A good grant management solution should include electronic document management to help you organize and secure important grant records. There are many details and documents to track with every grant: applications and proposals, contact information, reporting periods and indirect cost rates. Document management provides a central electronic file storage system for all the documentation for each grant and lets you quickly access and share the information whenever you need it.

Easy, in-depth reporting

Failing to follow grant-specific reporting requirements can jeopardize current grant funding or prevent your organization from earning a grant renewal. Multiple grants with unique reporting periods can confuse even the most competent, organized staff.

Grant management software simplifies reporting procedures, enabling you to produce financial updates and report on success measures quickly and easily, as well as track grant spending across multiple fiscal years.

Look for a solution offering out-of-the-box reporting with built-in charting plus scoreboards that track your progress and successes. Whether you need a report to share with your staff, your grantors, your board of directors or even an outside auditor, having grant management software puts the information you need at your fingertips.

On-demand performance information

It's easy to lose track of the big picture when you're working through the busy, day-to-day tasks of delivering services. But to ensure that your programs are successful and protect future funding, you must be able to access a high-level view of performance and share it with other members of the team.

Look for a grant management solution that includes business intelligence tools such as real-time dashboards so you can get a quick, graphic representation of key performance indicators any time. By keeping an eye on success metrics, your team can improve collaboration on projects and ensure your organization is performing well enough to secure both new grants and renewals.

There are two key factors in winning grants: completing on-time, accurate grant applications and demonstrating past mission performance. Whether grants are already a major part of your funding streams or an emerging part of your fundraising strategy, using technology to manage the grant pipeline will allow you to strengthen your credibility with funders, improve efficiency and collaboration, and increase funding.

In next month's grant management article, I'll discuss technology and collaboration, tracking and reporting as they relate to proposed, awarded and actual budgets.

Joan Benson is a product marketing manager for Sage North America's Austin, Texas-based Nonprofit Solutions business unit. She can be reached by email or through her Twitter handle, @Joani_B_. Benson has worked in not-for-profits 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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