A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Lending Support: Keeping Your End Users in Mind

Support, aid, assist, champion, encourage… however you put it, to support = to help. This is a subject I’m pretty passionate about. In fact, exceptional client service and support is our top priority here at Foundant, and we hire employees with this in mind. We can always train someone to use our grantmaking software, but it takes an ingrained sense of integrity for someone to truly “get” what it means to offer support that’s second to none.

But effective support doesn’t just live in the technology industry. Any organization can benefit from listening to their end user’s experience, asking how they can do better, making themselves available through the easiest means possible, and more. In the philanthropic sector, improving your level of support might mean saving valuable minutes, hours, or days for a nonprofit with limited resources.

The Technical Side of Things

Technical assistance is probably the most obvious form of client support. It can be offered in numerous ways, from phone support to live chat to online tutorials and documentation. At Foundant, we use all of the above. We also survey clients who have been in contact with our support team using a tool called GetFeedback. We pay close attention to the results from these surveys and make sure to adjust any problems we might identify.

For grantmakers who use an online grants management system, support might mean putting together some step-by-step instructions in an easy-to-access PDF or landing page like these examples from a few of our clients:

Anything you can do to make the application process easier will help eliminate wasted time and show that you’re invested in helping your applicants achieve success. Your support doesn’t need to be complicated or overly detailed. Simple instructions and a willingness to help will do the trick.

Support Beyond the Application

Beyond how to apply, funders can advise on a wealth of information, including grant cycles, eligibility requirements, funding focus, reporting, and more. Funders also have the inside scoop on building strong relationships with funders (including those outside your organization), overcoming boundaries, hosting successful site visits, and more. Getting that information out of your head and into an easily accessible resource could make a huge difference for your grantees.

A blog or news page is the perfect venue to communicate advice and real-world stories that might help your applicants better navigate their funding searches. Several of our clients host these types of resources on their websites, which creates a perfect “local” hub of both general and geo-specific information:

Transparency Is Key

Ever wasted time reviewing a grant application that should never have been submitted? Keeping your eligibility requirements, application process, and deadlines readily available can only help—both you and your applicants.

But don’t just slap a link in the corner of your website. Make it as obvious as possible (think blinking red neon). Okay, maybe not that obvious, but you get my point. The first place grantseekers will look is your website home page, so give them a link that’s obvious: Should I apply? or GRANT REQUIREMENTS or Is my nonprofit a good fit? Catch their attention and tell them what they need to know.

The Gifford Foundation simply calls its informational page “For Grantseekers,” keeping it obvious that this is where grantseekers should look to get the information they need. Similarly, Community Foundation of the Great River Bend calls it “GET A GRANT.” Where else would applicants look when landing on this site?

Keeping the End Game in Mind

In the end, what matters most is that we’re working together to better our sector, whether that’s Foundant’s client success managers or technical support teams helping clients find success with our software, or grantmakers finding ways to make the application process easier and less time-consuming for their grantees.

If you have ideas or suggestions that have worked well for you, please share in the comments. Another key part of support is not keeping the answers to ourselves.

Mark-LarimerMark Larimer leads the Client Services and Marketing teams at Foundant Technologies. Foundant is an Outside Magazine Best Company to Work For and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Company providing grants management solutions to over 850 grantmakers of all types and sizes. Mark’s high-tech career includes time with Extended Systems (acquired by Sybase) and RightNow Technologies (acquired by Oracle) prior to becoming a founding partner of Foundant in 2006.

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