publication date: Jan 19, 2012
author/source: Joan Benson
The current, protracted economic downturn means that more
than ever before, your charity must keep costs low and pursue all appropriate
sources of additional funding. Acquiring, managing and reporting on grants can
be time-consuming and inefficient, yet vital as you face increased competition
and strive to provide additional financial accountability and success measures.
Organizations that apply for new grants in fits and spurts
(often after losing a grant renewal) can quickly find themselves in a serious
cash flow crunch. To smooth out funding, you need to continuously apply for new
grants and carefully manage the relationships with existing grantors.
Where are the biggest gaps in the grant management process?
According to an online survey
conducted in June 2011 among Sage customers in the U.S. and Canada, only 17% of
respondents were "very satisfied" with their organizations' grant management
The biggest reason for not being very satisfied was a lack
of integration, centralization, or organization. Other common reasons for a
lack of satisfaction in the grant management process include a "lack of communication/collaboration,"
"tracking issues" and "reporting issues."
Figure 1: Sage
Nonprofit Insights Survey, June 2011 Reasons for not being "very satisfied"
with the grant management processSpreadsheets, home-grown
systems don't measure up
In most organizations, leaders and talented staff members 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.
A lot of administration time is spent on each grant, and it's troubling for
A grant application process that takes nearly a full work week
means many organizations will lack sufficient time and staff to win enough
If organizations are unable to focus on measuring success,
reporting performance and developing a good relationship with grantors, it
diminishes the chance that existing grants will be renewed.
Time wasted in an inefficient grant management
processes actually reduces the net worth of the grant if it's received.
Some charities attempt to solve the spreadsheet dilemma by
turning to a volunteer or consultant to build a solution for "free," or they purchase
a solution not readily used in the marketplace but built for a similar organization.
These actions lead to two main problems: the functionality
of the custom application, and the technical support (including upgrades)
thereafter. Typically a custom solution is built around a specific set of
requirements, so it hasn't benefited from thousands of users' input. Much of
the development time is spent on the same basic functionality that other grant
management packages have mastered.
With increasing pressures to meet stringent reporting
requirements of grantors, donors, and auditors, will spreadsheets or home-grown
solutions be able to measure up?
technology's ultimate goal
What makes grant-seeking so time consuming? Most
grant-funded nonprofits need more than one grant to operate. They must interact
with multiple grantors, each grantor with its own application guidelines,
questions, requirements and grant award dates. Nearly all grantors require
financial and demographic reporting from organizations to demonstrate mission
performance, but the way grantors wish to view that data may be different for
Grant management technology can help organizations apply for
grants, track and receive funds, budget, and report success measures. It can
automate your grant application process, reminding you of critical due dates
and managing key documents so you have easy access to important information.
You can check your budget to ensure that existing grant funds are fully used
and forecast expenditures for remaining periods within a grant.
With grant management software, your entire team can share a
view of all activity related to a given grant to foster better collaboration.
Everyone can understand the budget, expenditures and performance results
related to a grant. Having the right software means you won't have to wait when
you need answers, so you can act quickly and decisively on the issues important
to your organization.
goal of grant management technology is for you to efficiently and effectively
apply for - and win - more grants, demonstrating performance and managing every
stage of the grant life-cycle, from application to budgeting, reporting, and
The new normal: high grantor
transparency and responsibility are no longer buzzwords, but a rallying cry
from the public. The charities that will be most successful in communicating
their mission, telling their story and raising the funds needed are the ones
that will have strong policies and procedures in place, including audit trails
you're going to invest in anything in the next six months I strongly urge you
to first make sure your financial system is in order, and second, consider
investing in your grant management processes. With the
increasingly flexible and sophisticated grant management systems available,
more charities are making this a top priority for 2012.
my next article, we'll take an in-depth look at the characteristics and
benefits you should expect from a grant management solution.
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 nonprofits 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.