The grants management process can vary depending on the size and scope of your organization. It is not uncommon to start with a simple approach involving simple tools, a combination of systems that are either stitched together or siloed (or for some, no system at all).
At some point, as the scale of your giving increases, there is a tipping point in which productivity and quality will suffer because the current solution simply is falling short. This article will outline the triggers that will tell you when it's time to "level up" your grants management system and some key questions that will give you the power to convince your team it's time.
While it may seem obvious, let's answer the following question: "what is a grants management system?” Simply put, a grants management system gives you visibility and control over the process of receiving, reviewing, awarding and tracking grants (as well as the organizations that are using them). What's important to realize is that a proper grants management system will do all this in one place, and all activities related to the process (e.g., communications, meetings, notes) all happen within the system. That should be priority number one when leveling up; if you have to "leave the system" to get the job done, it's not genuinely managing your grantmaking process.
OK, with that out of the way, let's outline some triggers to determine when it's time – and how to pitch why it's time – to move to a new grants management system.
Growth and scaling the level of giving can add more complexity to managing grants. The more grants you have, the more applications and time it takes to review and manage. Ask yourself, how often are you answering the same questions with each applicant? How much time do you spend searching for answers to questions from program management teams? Complexity often comes from something other than the process itself but from the size of grantees within the process.
Additionally, if you constantly switch between multiple systems to complete your work, you’re losing more than you are gaining. Look for a solution that will enable you to reduce complexity through a centralized grants management platform with all these answers in one place. If you need to ask applicants questions, you can do it directly from the system, and if you need to find something quickly, you can effortlessly search and pull up the answer without any digging.
Tip: Our team spends 8 hours per month just looking for the right data and answers, which a new grants management system would cut that time down to 2 hours a month.
Repetition and Redundancy
Nothing is more frustrating than doing the same thing twice (or 30 times). When repeatedly creating the same documents for each grant management process or answering the same question from applicants (30 times), the repetition can be a time suck for moving the process forward.
You want to look for a grants management system that will remove redundancies; if you've done it once, you shouldn't have to do it again. Look for a solution that enables you to upload templates and documents to the system and automatically populate the applicant's information. Similarly, if you have the same answer to multiple applicant questions, then you should be able to create a bulk reply and knock out those 30 identical questions with one solution.
Grantee reporting comes in big here; a standardized report template with instructions that outline exactly what you need and when you need it – these are the triggers to know when to level up.
Tip: The grants team spends 4 hours a month building new documents that could be templatized and instantly shared.
The grants management process isn't a one-person show; it requires everyone on the team to work through their part of the process to be effective. And in that process, there will be a need to collaborate to find the right information and complete any due diligence to ensure you arrive at the right decision. You will know if you need to level up if that communication is happening outside the grants management system and if it is taking longer than it should.
You want the communication between various team members to be as seamless as the process itself. In other words, this means having the ability to generate an email directly within the grants management system or chat directly in the system (with request notifications). If it's time-sensitive, then it should have due dates associated with it.
And lastly, would the ability to search the system and find the answers quickly be more beneficial than a string of emails and meetings if it's something that can easily be found? If these triggers happen, it's time to make the change.
Tip: Our team spends hours in meetings with other teams working to stay aligned. With a new System, we could save time and improve clarity within a grants management solution.
These are just a handful of triggers that can help you identify when it's time to level up your grants management software solution. Whether you've reached the level-up tipping point in your operation or see the benefits of investing in a more efficient solution, having the right tools will help to make a case for upgrading your organization's grants management system. For more on this topic, check out our detailed guide on advocating for a new grants management system for your organization.