Grants Management Initial Questions
The first step toward determining if your foundation will benefit from a grants management system requires discussing your priorities and parameters:
- What does your foundation want to track? Exponent Philanthropy members tend to track some or all of the following:
- Contact information for grant applicants and recipients (organizational and individual)
- Basic application information (e.g., amount requested, amount approved, compliance with application requirements)
- Key dates (e.g., application received, grant approved/declined, grant agreement received)
- Grantee applications and reports; is it important that grant applications and reports be available to complete and submit online?
- Board/staff comments on proposals; do you want the ability to evaluate applications securely online?
- Evaluation and impact data; does your foundation want to track the outcomes of your grants as documented through stories, anecdotes, or even numbers?
- Financial data; are you interested in integrating your grants management and bookkeeping systems?
- What kind of reports do you need? Who should see this information and when, and how do they prefer to receive reports?
- Can you create a system in-house, or does it make sense to purchase a software package (be sure to consider the technical skill of your staff and board)?
- What is your budget?
Depending on your answers to these questions, the best system for your foundation may be a simple paper record, basic spreadsheet, full-fledged database, or software package specifically designed for grants management.
Considerations for Computerized Grants Management Systems
If you’re considering computerized system (whether you develop your own, work with a technology consultant, or purchase a software package) here are more questions to explore:
- How will information be transferred from your current system to the new one?
- How easily can the system be customized?
- How easily can the system produce the reports you need?
- Can the system grow if you increase your volume of grants, grantees, or system users?
- Does the provider offer technical support? Does this service cost extra?
- How will the information be secured?
- Can you export the information to other systems?
“The most important factor in our ability to get work done is the use of an online grant review/rating system,” says Mary Anthony, executive director of the 1772 Foundation. “This allows 80% of the grants discussion to take place prior to the board meeting. It also gives board members more flexibility in how and when they do their review work.”
Choosing a Grants Management Solution
Once you have a firm handle on your needs and options, choose the best system for your foundation:
- A paper system might use file folders along with a way to track basic contact information and grant status (e.g., index cards)
- A customized computer-based system; you can create good grants management systems in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, and other programs
- A grants management software package; some of the brands that Exponent Philanthropy member use include ACT, Arlington Group, akoyaGO, CAMT, Closerware GrantMaker, CyberGrants, FoundantGLM, Foundation Source, MicroEdge, NPO Solutions, PhilanTrack, PowerNet, and PowerOFFICE for GrantMakers
Exponent Philanthropy doesn’t endorse a single software package, but Exponent Philanthropy members do qualify for discounts on some products.
Once you’ve lived with the system for a while, don’t hesitate to refine it to better fit your needs. And be sure to share your experiences with Exponent Philanthropy members and staff. Keep other small foundations from reinventing the wheel!