*Diane’s note: You are used to our team talking about how both pre-award and post-award work connect to create an organization’s overall grant readiness. In fact, we were just talking about this in our most recent webinar about How to Be Exceptionally Grant Ready with Lucy Morgan from MyFedTrainer.com. That’s why thinking about the key types of tools to help you with your grant management work is so important. While each organziation has unique goals and needs, there are four broad TYPES of tools for you to consider putting in your grant related toolbox.
Managing multiple grant applications at once can be challenging for even seasoned nonprofit professionals. Grant management requires keeping track of multiple moving parts, including deadlines, points of contact, unique application requirements, financial reports, and other documents that vary by grant.
Ultimately, there are too many components to the grant management process for a nonprofit’s team to handle multiple applications without the proper tools. These software tools allow teams to communicate effectively, stay organized, and ensure each grant application stays on track and is submitted before its deadline.
In this post, we will explore four software tools your nonprofit can leverage to better manage your ongoing grant applications:
- Your CRM
- Grant Management Software
- Internal Communication Tools
- Accounting Tools
When implementing a new grant management tool, ensure your team members have time planned into their schedules to familiarize themselves with the software. While new software applications can significantly improve your team’s efficiency in the long run, be prepared to see an initial slowdown. To overcome this, consider whether each software provider offers onboarding services and how robust those services are.
1. Your CRM
Your nonprofit’s CRM hosts a wide range of your organization’s data and management tools, making it an essential part of your grant management process. Some CRMs have more robust grant management features than others, though most sophisticated CRMs will equip nonprofits with the following tools:
- Native and third-party applications. Many CRMs either come with or can integrate with a variety of grant management applications. When investing in new grant management software, ensure that it will integrate with your CRM to keep all of your data organized.
- Custom workflow options. Highly customizable CRMs like Salesforce NPSP and Blackbaud CRM allow nonprofits to organize their data management, internal communications, calendar, task management, and other workflow features to their exact preferences. This can be especially useful for large nonprofits with multiple offices as it ensures all team members will be on the same page regarding your grant applications, even when working remotely.
- Donor profiles. To keep track of each grantmaker’s preferences, consider using your CRM to create unique donor profiles to monitor your relationships. Take note of each grantmaker’s preferences, your current relationship with them, and how closely your nonprofit’s goals align with their mission statement. Doing so will help your team target the grants you are the most likely to win and make deliberate, focused progress to position your nonprofit to win other grant opportunities in the future.
Before choosing any new grant management tools, first assess your CRM to understand what tools you already have and how new tools will work alongside your CRM. Determine your current grant management workflow, what part your CRM plays in it, and if there are currently any holes in that process that could be solved either by a new strategy or a new software solution.
2. Grant Management Software
Specialized grant management software allows nonprofits to oversee every part of their grant application process. When reviewing available software providers, create a list of must-have features your team will need to manage your grants. For example, most nonprofits will need grant management software that comes equipped with:
- Calendars. Grant calendars allow teams to visualize their grant applications’ timelines and ensure they have a sustainable plan for the year. Grant calendars also play a key role in an organization’s overall grant management strategy, allowing grant management teams to prioritize their tasks based on upcoming deadlines and overall importance.
- User permissions. Consider how many of your grant team members will need to be logged in to your grant management software at once. Additionally, take note of which team members will need access to which parts of your grant management software. Creating user accounts with limited access can help ensure your nonprofit maintains effective data security.
- Post-grant management. After receiving a grant, your nonprofit will need to conduct post-grant management. This includes tracking the allocated funds, documenting how you plan to use those funds, planning any check-ins your organization will need to have with a grant officer, and determining your eligibility for a grant renewal.
For some software solutions, it may be necessary to work with a consultant to onboard your team and integrate your software. DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit consulting firms recommends factoring consulting costs into your overall budget when purchasing new software. Before signing any agreements, ensure you understand the cost structure and the services it covers for both your new software and your consulting firm.
3. Internal Communication Tools
Applying for a grant requires a team, and streamlining your internal communication processes is necessary for reducing data silos, staying organized, and maintaining responsibility. If your nonprofit has team members working remotely, internal communication tools can help you stay in touch and avoid delays due to miscommunication.
When assessing internal communication tools, look for solutions with features that prioritize user-friendliness, efficiency, and organization. Specifically, ensure your software has tools that include:
- Automation options. To speed up your internal processes and overall workflow, look for software that can automate certain tasks. For example, you may invest in a solution that allows team members to add deadlines to their requests and will automatically send reminders in the days leading up to the deadline.
- Task delegation. With large grant management teams, it’s not uncommon for minor but important tasks to be overlooked or have no clear individuals assigned to look over them. With task delegation, your team can ensure every aspect of your grant management process has a designated team member responsible for seeing it through to completion.
- Meeting management tools. Recording options, note taking, and document sharing all ensure your team is on the same page before, during, and after meetings. Your grant management team should have designated processes for ensuring everyone prepares for and follows up after meetings in a timely manner, and your software should help facilitate these processes.
Streamlining communication processes is an ongoing concern for many nonprofits. Your nonprofit may find additional assistance by attending webinars and panels dedicated to communication, leadership, managing remotely, and technology’s place in your nonprofit’s workplace culture.
4. Accounting Tools
Grants are a financial matter, and your nonprofit will often need to provide various reports about your funding to grantmakers from your initial application to your potential renewal request. Specifically, nonprofits will need to maintain transparency with grant officers to ensure all awarded grants are being properly allocated.
Assess nonprofit accounting tools for solutions with features such as:
- Program budgeting. As grants are a part of your fundraising strategy, your organization will need to factor them into your annual budgets. Ensure you have budgeting tools that allow you to easily factor potential grant wins into your budget. This allows you to present clear plans to grantmakers about how you will use awarded funds and why they are essential to your programs and initiatives.
- Restricted funds tracking. Most grants will have strict stipulations for how they can be spent. Your accounting software should allow your nonprofit to note any restrictions and appropriately allocate funds with regard to various stipulations and requirements.
- Bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is relatively more straightforward than other accounting processes, and it can be overseen by a trusted volunteer, such as a board member. An accessible bookkeeping tool with a user-friendly interface can make it easier to assign this responsibility to individuals at your nonprofit.
Jitasa’s guide to nonprofit financial management advises nonprofit organizations to invest in nonprofit-specific accounting software. For-profit businesses have different needs than nonprofits, and accounting tools for a general audience may not be able to accommodate your nonprofit’s needs to manage restricted fundraising sources like grants.
Once your nonprofit has established relationships with various grantmakers, grants can be a reliable source of revenue. Ensure that your applications are correct and submitted on time and that they make effective use of awarded funds. By considering the various grant management tools available for your nonprofit, you can build these relationships easily.
About the Author:
Carl Diesing, Managing Director – Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.