Grants Management Software: How To Get Buy-In Before You Buy


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iStock-825151062-494407-edited.jpgFor foundations big and small, grants management software not only streamlines your operations, but can also give you a new perspective on your organization's work. From revealing insights through data to automating processes to improving operational transparency, the right software can be a critical component to achieving your mission.

Unfortunately, convincing leadership of the benefits of better technology isn’t always easy. They ask, “What’s wrong with the way we do it now? We’re doing well; we don’t need to buy new software.”

But, in general, if all the organization’s grants can’t be managed easily using a single Excel sheet, leaders should consider turning to a grants management system to simplify the process — yet many do not.

We know. This can be frustrating; knowing that the right software can drive their organizations to new heights but struggling to communicate the benefits to the decision makers. Especially if you don’t have a tech background, outlining the benefits of better software in plain language can be a daunting task. Don’t worry. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to acquiring the technology you need to be the most effective you can be.

First, Know Your Audience

Who are the decision makers at your foundation? The answer will vary from organization to organization, ranging from directors of the grants and program teams to executive level IT and evaluation staff. And of course executive directors, presidents, and board members will have a major role to play with any technology investment.

How to Get Buy-In Before You Buy

Each member of your organization will benefit from new grants management software in unique ways. It’s your job to understand what value a new system brings for each one of your team’s decision makers. If they aren’t sold on a new system, chances are you won’t get what you need to do your job better and ultimately make the kind of impact you know you can. Here’s how to get buy-in from each member of your foundation.

1. Grants Management Staff - Communicate how grants management software will help grants managers enhance processes while balancing unique program needs and compliance. The right system can give grants managers confidence in the integrity of their data, empower staff with better reporting capabilities, and automate administrative processes that take up valuable time.

Point out specific software benefits like 501(c)(3) status checks, which matches EIN numbers to a 501(c)(3) registry; reporting improvements, like ad hoc reporting, standard report modification, visual reports, and templates; and workflow setups, which enable grants management staff to design the workflow processes that work best for their organizations.

2. Program Staff - Show program staff teammates how grants management software lets them access, develop, and share knowledge of historical processes and cross-program data. With better software, they can develop more effective strategies for more meaningful impact and manage grantee relationships with ease. Grants management systems foster trust between program staff members and grantees through easier reporting processes, more timely interactions, and clearer goal-setting.

Specific advantages of grants management software for program teams include comment sharing among reviewers, role-based interfaces, custom outcomes reporting, and reminders and tasks based on foundation schedules and events. In addition, easy-to-use interfaces make it easy to manage relationships, records, and systems while instant internal communications systems eliminate project delays.

3. Executive Staff - Executives care about high-level information, which the right software can provide. Show executives how grants management systems provide transparency into programmatic, financial, and grantee data so executives can make well-informed decisions more quickly. Grants management software empowers executives to join review processes from anywhere, enhancing relationships with grantees and partners through access to historical knowledge.

Executives care about features like grant summary tracking; grant review workflows; customized favorite reports, actions, and queries outside the larger sets; intuitive labels so they don’t have to dig for the right data; and management views to access board members and leaders by role. For the finishing touch, talk about project management capabilities — such as meeting and agenda organization among users — and real-time updates, which show executives how important information evolves.

4. Board Members - Grants management software makes it easy for board members to focus on big-picture thought leadership rather than administrative tasks. They can gain new insights and stay involved with grantmaking, even between scheduled meetings. Thanks to immediate access to relevant data, they can make better recommendations more quickly.

When talking to board members, argue the merits of features like mobile access; specialized management views, as with the executive team; and role-based interfaces, which provide board members with a holistic view of only the information that matters to them.

5. Evaluation Staff - Through grants management software, evaluation staff team members receive a central repository for all their data. From grantees and external resources to cross-department collaboration to configurable dashboards, better systems give evaluators improved access to data and partnerships. With those benefits, evaluation staff can stay committed to a focus on ongoing learning and building core capacities across departments.

Evaluation staff, like executives and board members, can benefit from role-based interfaces. In addition, various reporting abilities — like outcomes reporting, visual reports, and ad hoc reporting — speak to evaluators’ need to have the best information in clear, usable formats. With in-app social communication and real-time record sharing, evaluators can get everything they need to keep operations running at peak efficiency.

6. IT Staff - Provide IT teams peace of mind by championing the security and infrastructure merits of the new system. Cloud hosting options, where available, provide additional layers of security and functionality. Cloud-based grants management software also lifts IT maintenance burdens, freeing staff to focus on upgrades and end-user experiences.

When speaking to IT staff, highlight the new system’s accounting integration abilities, data integrity and security, robust documentation and technical manuals, and provider training. Depending on the system, you might also be able to discuss API benefits, integrations with other software, automated updates and backups, and systemwide audit trails.

Having Better Conversations

Grants management software makes it easier than ever for foundations to achieve greater impact and measure their efforts. Each member of your organization benefits from better software not only within their own silos, but also across teams and even outside the organization, streamlining processes and empowering teams to build stronger relationships and make smarter data-driven decisions.

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