Blog Post by CharityHowTo Expert Diane H. Leonard, GPC
You successfully wrote and submitted a grant application. And you GOT the grant! Handstands, cartwheels, and high fives for your whole organization!
But now you have to implement the proposed work you outlined in the grant application, and you have to manage not just the program, but also the finances, and the required reports.
And as you successfully start writing and managing one grant, you begin to build bigger grantmaker relationships and a grant portfolio for your organization building on your grant success.
Only now, the management of deadlines, relationships, and the decisions on all of your applications becomes more complicated and might even earn you an award in Philantrak’s old “Ugliest Spreadsheet” contest.
Should Your Nonprofit Purchase Grant Management Software?
Indeed, the grant management field is an incredibly important niche within the fundraising and donor management software environment. It’s evolved dramatically over the past decade.
Yet grant management software is often intermingled in articles about grant management software targeted to grantmakers for helping them to MAKE grants and targeted to grantees for helping them to MANAGE grants.
So it isn’t a surprise that when you Google “Grant Management Software,” the top results are a mix of pages and sites targeted to both the grantmakers and grantseekers.
The Big Question Is…
If your nonprofit organization has grown to the point where there is a good return on investment (ROI) for purchasing a subscription to a grant management software designed for grantseekers/grantees and if so, which software is best for you.
There are numerous great products that exist to help nonprofit grantseekers manage their grant process, but they all are designed with a slightly different perfect client in mind.
So you need to know your organization’s goals for using grant management software before you make any subscription purchases.
You should look for things like ROI descriptions by the companies.
How Do You Decide On Grant Management Software?
Below I’ve outlined three big-picture questions to help guide your decision with discussion points.
The reality is that the decision will be different for each organization where the ROI tipping point is and which software is best based on the mix of grants in the organization’s current and planned grant strategy.
I originally created three questions as part of Grant Management Software: Friend or Foe, a CharityChannel article published in February of 2014. I’ve listed them below and expanded upon them based on changes in the grant seeking industry and also the resources available about the various grant management tools.
I’ve added a number of supporting links to help you in making a decision about how to select a grant management software that is right for your nonprofit organization.
1. Is grant management software appropriate for your nonprofit *now*?
- Are you currently obligated by a grantmaker to use a specific grant reporting or accounting software package due to committed funding? If yes, is there a reason that you want to double track your contracts?
- What percent of your annual revenue is from grant revenue? How many grants are you managing on an annual basis? Is the number significant enough to justify the purchase price of grant management software?
- Are the grant funds received from a mix of foundations, state, and federal funds? Are they more heavily in one of the three categories than another? Will a software package help you to organize and manage your varied grants more consistently?
- Do you have internal policies in place to ensure collection of all grant-related records and the utilization of grant management best practices? Are those responsible for collecting records committed to using a grant management software package?
- What aspects of your current in-house tools work well for you and which would you like to see enhanced?
- What sort of dashboards and material are regularly requested by your colleagues and/or your organization’s leadership that you are manually spending hours creating, pulling, or massaging to present via reports and dashboards?
2. What barriers to the successful implementation of grant management software, if any, exist within your nonprofit?
- Is your organization happy with its current donor management software program? If so, what would be the benefit of adding grant management software and how much training time would be required?
- Does the donor management software program have a specific grant module add-on? If so, what is the additional annual expense? How would the module enhance your organization’s management of your grant strategy, deadlines, and relationships?
- Do you have a functional in-house tool that is successfully helping to manage grant applications and awards? If so, why buy a software application at this time?
- How does your organization share information on a day-to-day basis? Are you using a cloud-based program for sharing basic organization information? Or are you still relying on emailing attachments to and from colleagues?
3. Which grant management software package is best for your organization?
- What is your ability to host your product on an internal server versus the need to have hosted web-based products? Have you weighed the advantages and potential disadvantages of a web-based product?
- How many users do you anticipate wanting to have any access to the software? How many users do you anticipate regularly using the grant management software?
- Can your organization afford to purchase the software and can you include the annual users’ fees in your annual budget? If not, how will you pay for the continued services and upgrades?
- Have you considered the reliability of the software company’s support staff to assist you as you learn the new package? Will their support staff continue to be available throughout your subscription contract period? Is the support email only? Or is it both phone and email?
- Does the software company provide additional technical assistance to nonprofits like blog posts and/or webinars? I have served as a guest blogger and webinar presenter for grant management tools like GrantHub on more than one occasion.
The reason is that every nonprofit organization answering the questions above will have a unique combination of answers. Therefore, the right grant management software solution for your nonprofit can only be identified by stating with your “Why” and getting to the point that you can articulate your goal for using grant management software.
Just as with any subscription-based tool, there are numerous solutions and in actuality, numerous RIGHT solutions.
Then, armed with the questions and details I’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices and focus all of your efforts on integrating the new software into your grant seeking process.
Looking To Learn More About How To Implement Each Of These Tips In Your Grant Seeking Process? You Can Learn More From Diane’s CharityHowTo Trainings Here.
About The Author
Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, is an experienced and respected grant professional who has provided grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope for more than a decade.
In addition, Diane is an in-demand speaker and trainer on the topics of grant readiness, grant writing and grants management and regularly provides her expertise to audiences ranging from national conferences to boards of directors for small, nonprofit organizations.