4 Myths about Applying to Family Foundations

There are over 80,000 foundations in the United States.  According to the Foundation Center, about half of those foundations are family foundations.  In 2011, there were 40,456 family foundations, and that number has increased since.  That same year, family foundations gave a total of $21,329,932,023 in grants, also nearly half of all grant funding.

private foundation grants

Family foundations are therefore both a prevalent part of the foundation funding world, and a critical source of funding.  The most recent State of Grantseeking report indicated that private foundations (which are not all family foundations, though they frequently are) were the most frequent grant funding source, with 78.5% of all nonprofits that received grants getting one or more grants from a private foundation.

So it's important for grantseekers to understand family foundations as a component of a grant portfolio and fundraising strategy.  Here are 4 myths about applying to family foundations:

  1. Family foundations only award grants to pre-selected organizations.  Many family foundations indicate that they do not accept unsolicited requests.  It's certainly the case that many foundations only give to pre-selected organizations.  But that's not the case across the board, even in some cases where the foundation indicates that it does not accept unsolicited requests.  If the foundation indicates that it does not accept unsolicited requests, do not send in a grant proposal.  But try to find out if the foundation's staff members (if the foundation has staff) or a board member would be open to a conversation to learn about your organization and how it would be a good fit for the foundation's grantmaking goals.  Not all foundations will be open to this, and by all means do not push it if the foundation does not want to meet with you, but in many cases, family foundations in particular simply do not have the bandwidth to handle a lot of unsolicited requests.  But they may well be interested in learning about new organizations, and may then invite an application or an LOI.  Be sure to follow whatever guidelines for communication the foundation prefers.
  2. Family foundations only award small grants.  Family foundations vary widely in terms of the size of their asset bases, and, in turn, the amount that they award in grants.  They also vary in terms of the number and size of grants they award.  Leaving aside the Gates Foundation, family foundations range from supporting one grantee to hundreds of grantees.  While some family foundations will give one large grant to one grantee, and others will give several small grants to a handful of grantees, the size and range of family foundations means that many of them are providing sizable grants.  The best way to find out what's possible with a particular foundation, if past grant information is not available on that foundation's website, is to look at the foundation's 990PF (the tax returns filed by private foundations) for the last two years to see how many grants the foundation awarded and the sizes of those grants.
  3. Family foundations only give locally.  Community foundations give locally - that's what they were designed to do.  In some cases, family foundations will be very dedicated to the community in which the donor or donor family grew up or currently resides.  But there are two trends that suggest that family foundations are increasingly giving nationally and internationally:
    • Donor interests are changing.  Foundations are able to determine their giving focus, and award grants to organizations that meet whatever criteria they set (and legal criteria, of course).  Family foundation interests and giving priorities are as varied as the interests of the donors who established the organizations.  It's not at all unusual for even a small family foundation to be making grants to organizations that are geographically distant from the foundation's office.
    • Family foundations are increasingly getting the next generation of family members (and sometimes even a third generation of family members) involved in determining the foundation's giving priorities.  Those second and third generation family members frequently don't live in the same area as the person or people who established the foundation.  In many cases, the foundation will still grant where it is located, and also grant to organizations that the next generation family members get to know where they live or where they have traveled.  Again, the best way to find out where a foundation grants, if it isn't listed on the foundation website, is to look at that foundation's giving history as reflected in its 990PF forms.
  4. With a small family foundation, it's easier to get a grant since the application process is less rigorous.  The fact that a family foundation is small doesn't mean that it's not sophisticated about its grantmaking, and it's a mistake to think so.  Some small family foundations are among the most engaged grantmakers, thinking strategically about how their giving, no matter how big or small, can have the greatest impact.  Thinking strategically doesn't necessarily mean having onerous requirements; some are very forward thinking in learning about potential grantees and developing relationships, and you can help them by doing your part to develop a good relationship.  Some family foundations have requirements that are not right-sized for the grants they are awarding, though the same is true for all types of foundations.  As with any grant pursuits, it's worth thinking about the net grant (the grant funding your organization will actually receive after the costs of applying for and managing the grant are taken into account). 

One common theme highlighted through the points above is that each foundation (whether family, corporate, community, or independent) is different.  It's incumbent upon the grantseeker to do research to find out about the specific foundation's giving priorities, preferences, requirements, etc. 

The other key theme that cannot be overstated is that building relationships is key to grantseeking success.  Regardless of the size of the foundation, who is on the board, and what the foundation's giving priorities are, building a relationship - and maintaining that relationship - is critical to getting a first grant, and to then getting subsequent grants.  Put yourself in the shoes of a family foundation board member or staff member.  Are you more likely to be receptive to a great proposal from an organization represented by someone who is a total stranger to you, or to a great proposal from an organization you've been hearing about because someone from that organization has taken the time and made the effort to engage with you about how the organization fits with your giving priorities and the foundation's grantmaking goals.  Relationships matter.  And your relationship-building responsibilities do not end once you have gotten the grant.  Keep building the relationship by keeping the funder in the loop throughout the life of the grant, and beyond.

Learn how PhilanTrack can help you build and manage relationships with family foundations and other funders. 

Request a demo


Image: Data from the Spring 2014 State of Grantseeking
Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 28, 2014, 10:30 AM

5 Signs Your Nonprofit Should Invest in Grants Management Software

Your organization relies on grants as a source of funding.  You would like to get more grants.  It would be great if all of your grant-related information could be stored and accessed more efficiently to save you time so that you can find more grant opportunities and write more grant proposals.  But grants management software costs money.  How do you know when the time is right to spend money on grants management software?

signs you're ready for grants management software

Here are five signs your nonprofit should invest in grants management software:

  1. You missed a report deadline.  You received a grant over a year ago and dutifully sent a thank you letter to the funder, and proceeded to do great work with the grant funds.  Things got busy, as they always do, and you realized, too late, that you missed the deadline for the annual progress report the funder had requested.  It happens more often than nonprofits would like to admit (just ask a funder), and can jeopardize your organization's relationship with that funder and chances of getting another grant.  And it doesn't need to happen.  With online grants management software, you can enter progress report due dates as soon as you receive the grant, see those due dates on a calendar, and even receive automated email reminders prior to due dates to help ensure you never miss another deadline.
  2. It takes hours to find the information needed to answer a question from your board or ED about past grants.  Nonprofit boards and other stakeholders (e.g., your executive director, if you're not the ED yourself) may ask you for information about how many grants you've applied for this year versus last year, or how many you've received this year for each program that is supported by grants.  Most nonprofits use a combination of Word, Excel, their email and calendaring software to track grant information.  With that combination of tools, tracking down the answer to even a relatively simple question can take a lot of time.  With online grants management software, you can filter your list of grants or proposals to see what was submitted or awarded when and answer your board or ED's question.
  3. You contacted a foundation without realizing someone else in your organization had already reached out to that foundation.  You may have several people working in your development department.  Or you might say, "Department?  We don't have a development department!  We just have me!"  Either way, you may be in a position where more than one person from your organization is interacting with a funder.  Perhaps one of the program staff at your organization had a conversation with a foundation's program officer, but didn't tell you about it.  If you then talk to that program officer, wouldn't it be great to know that your colleague had already had a conversation?  With online grants management software, you can track all interactions with funders, from the time that they are prospective funders that you're thinking about approaching.  That way, anyone at your organization who is interacting with your funders can see a complete record of who said what when, avoiding potentially embarrassing situations with funders, and helping everyone stay on the same page.
  4. You spent hours trying to track down part of a past grant application that had the perfect phrasing for a proposal you were working writing.  So many grantwriters have this experience: you're working on a proposal.  You come across a question and think, "I had a great answer to a question like this when I wrote a different proposal.  Which proposal was it?  Was it the one I wrote last month?  Or the one six months ago?"  Then the grantwriter spends hours trying to track down the proposal that had that perfect language so that the answer can be copied and pasted into the current proposal.  Reusing responses from past proposals can be a great way to save time by not reinventing wheels with each new proposal, as well as a way to create some institutional memory in terms of how the organization positions programs, outcomes, etc.  But the process of tracking down that perfect response from a past proposal can be really time consuming.  That's where grants management software comes in.  With PhilanTrack, once you have answered a question once, you can easily reuse past responses by clicking a "find similar questions" button in the grant proposal you're working on, reviewing past responses, and clicking "use this answer" to use that perfect phrasing in the current proposal.
  5. You have an ugly grant tracking spreadsheet that only one person in your organization knows how to use.  It's ok.  Most nonprofit organizations have one - a spreadsheet (or several spreadsheets) that tracks which proposal was submitted when, who's responsible for the next task, what reports need to be submitted when, which requests were declined and maybe what to do differently next time, contact information for funders, etc.  The problem is that it's hard to use, and it's particularly hard for someone who isn't deeply steeped in it to use.  Excel wasn't designed to manage grants.  And if the one person who knows how you use that grant tracking spreadsheet leaves the organization, much of the organization's institutional knowledge about grants can leave with them.  Online grants management software provides exactly what you need to manage the whole grant process and track all of your grant-related information.  And when there is staff turnover, all of the organization's grant-related information is stored in a safe online location that a new grantwriter or development director can access.

Do you think your nonprofit might be ready for grants management software?  See how PhilanTrack can help your organization. 

Request a demo


Image adapted from https://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/3843456676/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 07, 2014, 10:34 AM

"Best for Community Impact" - B Corporation Honor

Best for the World Community Impact 2014

PhilanTech is honored to have been named to the "Best for the World - Community Impact" list again for 2014.  We joined 85 other companies in 60 countries in being recognized as companies doing the most to improve the lives of our customers, suppliers, and neighbors.

Read the full press release here.

Receiving this honor for the second time, along with also being named to the "Best for the World - Overall Impact" list for the second time this year, means a lot to us.  We exist to help social sector organizations maximize the social impact of their programs by helping them redirect resources from grants administration to service delivery.  We care deeply about supporting organizations doing good work.  But we also care deeply about being an organization that does good work, and we believe in the power of businesses, not only nonprofits, to create positive social impact.  Our mission and our values align with those of our clients, and we're honored to have those values recognized through our inclusion in these "Best for the World" lists.

Learn more about how PhilanTech can help your organization increase its social impact through grantmaking or grantseeking.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 23, 2014, 04:15 PM

16th Annual Grant Professionals Association Conference!

This is a guest post from Kelli Romero, Membership Director at the Grant Professionals Association

GPA logo

“Building Bridges”…with other grant professionals at the 16th Annual Grant Professionals Association Conference!

GPA Portland

In October, the 16th Annual Grant Professionals Association* annual conference will be in Portland, Oregon (October 15-18, 2014). This year, the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) has cooked up a host of new and exciting workshop sessions and special professional levels of expertise to suit every non-profit and grant professional.

This is a must-attend event for anyone involved with grant proposal preparation and grant management. An extensive workshop list offers expert advice from some of the professions most successful and accomplished grant writers/managers. Workshop topics are wide ranging and are targeted to individuals with varying levels of experience of beginner, mid-level, and advanced.

Workshops will identify the skill track and SIG that aligns with the topic of the proposed presentation. Skill tracks include; Proposal Development – Planning, Grant Construction, Grant Management and Reporting, Communication Skills, Professional Ethics, Resource Knowledge/Grant Research, etc.

Workshops cover topics such as:

  • State of Grantseeking and Its Implications for Grant Professionals – presented by PhilanTech’s own Dahna Goldstein!
  • Overcoming Fear & Loathing of Online Grant Applications
  • Grant Proposal Fundamentals
  • The Power of Social Media for Grant Professionals
  • The Impact of Revised OMB Rules on Your Federal Program
  • Implementing Grant Compliance with Your Back Against a Wall
  • Practical Considerations of Direct vs. Indirect Costs

Several workshops focus on specific fields, such as education, human services, government and faith based organizations.

The conference will also feature some special experiences, which include the Night at the Museum held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). This premiere special event will feature a trolley ride to OMSI, heavy hors d’oeuvres, a hands-on exhibit and networking with your colleagues. You don’t want to miss this event! This is a limited seating event. Please make sure you secure your seat today by registering online at the GPA website. Ticket prices are $60.00. To purchase tickets, go to: Night at the Museum.

This year’s conference will highlight some keynote and featured speakers as well as some wonderful sponsors and exhibitors, such as PhilanTech!

Who Should Attend:

Grant Writers, Grant Managers, Grant Consultants, Grants Officers, Grant Coordinators, Development Directors, Executive Directors, Government Relations Officers, Financial Officers. Any level of experience, beginner to expert.

In today’s extremely competitive world for grant awards, the organization that invests in the professional development of its grant professional increases its odds of receiving grant funding tremendously. The opportunity to meet and learn from this caliber of presenters will not be matched at any other venue. 

Registration for this conference is a small investment for the return of knowledge and increased competency that will be realized after attendance at this premier event. To find our more information about the conference or register go to: 16th Annual GPA Conference

*The Grant Professionals Association (GPA), a nonprofit membership association, builds and supports an international community of grant professionals committed to serving the greater public good by practicing the highest ethical and professional standards. Founded in 1997, GPA has grown to close to 2,000 active members representing all 50 states and internationally. More than 50 chapters have formed in the past five years.

GPA logo and Portland photograph are owned or licensed by GPA and used with permission.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 15, 2014, 11:30 AM

GuideStar Partnership - Grant Management Software

GuideStar logo

PhilanTech is delighted to announce that we have partnered with GuideStar to offer discounted access to PhilanTrack® online grants management software for nonprofits to GuideStar Exchange Gold and Silver participants. 

The GuideStar Exchange provides an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and share information with potential donors.  Nonprofits can claim and update their reports to provide program and mission information, financial information beyond the information in the organization's 990, and more.  By providing more information, nonprofits can become Bronze, Silver or Gold participants, and receive increasing benefits for providing more information.

With PhilanTrack, GuideStar Exchange Gold and Silver participants can:

  • Find funders: Search currently-available funding opportunities, research past grants awarded by potential funders, and research contacts in the funding organization.
  • Write proposals efficiently: Easily reuse content from past proposals when writing new grant requests and avoid reinventing wheels in each new grant proposal.
  • Manage funder relationships: Track contact information and interactions with funders and prospective funders to build relationships and institutional memory.
  • Track deadlines and requirements: Track deadlines for proposals and progress reports and receive automated email reminders about them.
  • Store grant-related documents: Store your organization's 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, annual reports, and other documents requested by funders in PhilanTrack's document library.
  • And more!

GuideStar Exchange Silver and Gold participants can access discounted access to PhilanTrack by going to their "Manage Nonprofit Reports" page, then logging in and clicking "Benefits" to access the relevant discount code for Silver or Gold participants.

Learn more about the GuideStar Exchange.

Learn more about PhilanTrack for grantseekers.


GuideStar and the GuideStar logo are registered trademarks of GuideStar, used with permission.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 09, 2014, 10:35 AM

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the World Cup

I admit it.  I didn't really care about soccer before June 12, and I now have World Cup fever.  And I'm not even American (or a citizen of any of the other countries actually represented in the World Cup).  But it's been exciting to watch and follow, and to witness (on TV and social media) the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the World Cup

What's been most exciting has been the upsets, the underdog stories of those countries that should not have made it through to the round of 16, but have prevailed nonetheless.  Those stories, and the World Cup in general, offer some valuable lessons for grantseekers.

  • Learn the rules, and follow them.  For the uninitiated, soccer's stoppage time can be confusing, as can corner kicks vs. goal kicks.  Once you learn the language of soccer, once you learn the rules, it's much easier to follow.  The same is true of grantwriting.  There are good practices to follow, and many grantmakers will have their own rules.  Grantseekers that don't play by the rules set by a funder they're approaching have little chance of success.
  • You have to play the full 90 minutes (plus stoppage time).  When games are frequently decided by a goal, teams that only play hard for part of the game aren't likely to prevail.  The same is true for grantwriting in two ways: don't wait until the last minute to put together the grant proposal.  Things can go wrong at the last minute (a bad bounce in soccer, or the inability to reach the one person in your organization who knows the answer to a key question for the grant proposal), so it's best to work on grant proposals progressively.  The other way in which the need to play the full game is true in grantwriting is that every part of your grant proposal needs to be equally strong.  If you write a great needs statement but have a weak budget, your proposal is unlikely to be funded by many grantmakers.  A proposal that is consistent and compelling throughout will go much further.
  • But don't give up if you're down a goal near the end of the match. There have been several great stories of games that came down to the wire - games that were tied until the very end, or games where one team was down and then rallied in the last minute or two of play, or even into the stoppage time.  In grantwriting, if a grant seems just out of reach, stretch to go just a bit further to reach your goal.
  • Don't write off the underdogs.  It's true that a lot of grant funding goes to larger organizations - to hospitals, universities, or national organizations.  If your organization isn't one of those larger organizations, you may consider yourself an underdog in terms of grant funding.  This World Cup - and even the US team - has shown that the underdog should never be counted out.  If your organization meets a funder's guidelines and your programs fit with that funder's mission, think about going after the grant even if you're the underdog.
  • Winning outright isn't the only way to move forward.  The US team lost to Germany and still advanced to the round of 16 because it had the same number of points as Portugal, but a better goal differential.  The lesson learned here for grantseekers is that getting the big grant isn't the only way to win in grantseeking.  Of course, getting grant funding is the ultimate goal, but grants - particularly first-time grants - that are awarded are frequently smaller than the amount requested.  While that may not feel like a win, a) some grant funding is better than no grant funding, and b) getting a small grant, doing great work, cultivating the relationship with the funder, and submitting stellar progress reports about how the grant funds were used to help both your organization's and the grantmaker's missions can lead to larger grants in the future.

What do you think?  What other grantseeking lessons can be learned from the World Cup?


Photo: watching the US vs. Germany match in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 01, 2014, 11:36 AM

6 Signs Your Foundation Should Invest in Grants Management Software

5 signs your foundation is ready for grants management software

If you've been thinking about whether or not grants management software is a worthwhile investment for your foundation, you may be weighing the cost and benefits of buying or licensing software versus just sticking with the status quo, whether that's using a spreadsheet to track applicants, getting proposals in on paper or via email, or something else.

Here are six signs that your foundation should invest in grants management software:

  1. Your grant documents are kept in binders or in filing cabinets.  If your foundation has been accepting paper grant applications or applications via email that are then printed and stored, you may have binders or filing cabinets full of paper grant applications and progress reports.  With paper copies of grant applications and progress, it can be difficult to find the information you need about your grantees when you need it.  Do you find yourself flipping through piles of paper to find information?  Or typing in – or copying and pasting - grantee contact information from applications so that you’re able to keep all of your grantee contact information in one place?  Online grants management software will help you move your application and reporting processes into the cloud and store all grant- and grantee-related information in one centralized online location for easy access and so that you don’t have to manually enter any grant information.
  2. You have at least one board member who does not live in the same city as the foundation's office.  You may even have staff members who work remotely.  Or perhaps you like to work from home every now and then, or you think it would be nice to be able to access your grant information without having to go into the office.  That’s where online grants management software comes in.  Remote staff or board members can easily log into the grants management system to access any needed information.  Whether you’re on a site visit or sitting at your kitchen table, all you need is a web browser and internet access to securely access all of your foundation’s grant information.
  3. The application packets you receive from grant applicants are more than an inch thick.  Or on paper altogether.  Think of the trees!  Many foundations still ask their grant applicants to submit many paper copies of grant applications so that board packets can be compiled.  Increasingly, however, board members, particularly those who are next generation family members, prefer to access information online, rather than paper copies in the mail.  With online grants management software, applicants only need to enter information once, and everyone at the foundation who needs to read or review an application can easily do so.
  4. It takes you hours or days to compile information on the grants awarded by your foundation in the past year or two.  How well is your foundation meeting its mission?  You want to know.  Your board wants to know.  How do you find out?  You see what your grantees are doing with your granted funds that help pursue your mission.  With paper or email applications, you might spend hours or days trying to find that information by looking in different documents and extracting pieces of information to try to put together a comprehensive picture.  With online grant management software, you can collect quantitative information from grantees and easily display visualizations of the outcomes your grant dollars are achieving, and you can compile narrative information at a couple of button clicks to help tell the stories of your grants, rather than spending copious amounts of time manually aggregating that information.
  5. Producing a board book requires lots of copying and pasting, or making many copies.  Putting together a board book can take a day or more.  It requires compiling information from many different documents, then making copies of each board member, and putting those copies in the mail.  Think of all of the time you can save – not to mention the better information you can provide – by compiling a board book in a matter of minutes by clicking a few buttons.  What if you have a board member or two who still prefer to get board books on paper?  You can still print the board book and send it to those board members while your other board members access their information online.  Everyone is able to look at the same thing at the same time, and you’re able to provide richer information with much less effort.
  6. You ask for the same documents from grantees each time they apply, even though you already have copies of those documents somewhere in your files.   Most foundations ask their applicants to submit a copy of their 501(c)(3) determination letter, their audited financials, and other information.  That’s a good practice.  But what happens to those documents once they’ve been submitted?  Do you ask your applicants to submit the same documents each time they apply for a grant, even if you’ve funded them before and even if you have requested those documents before?  With an online grants management system, you can store grantee-uploaded documents so that you can easily access documents submitted last year or for a prior grant application, and you don’t have to require your applicants to keep re-submitting the same information.

You might think, “but wait!  It doesn’t cost my foundation anything to get grant applications in the mail, or by email, and grants management software will cost my foundation money!”  Yes, there is a licensing cost to grants management software, but there are time costs to everything listed above – not only for your foundation, but also for your grantees.  Did you know that 13% of every foundation grant dollar is spent administering the grants (Center for Effective Philanthropy)?  While only 1.5% of that cost is borne by the foundation, 11.5% is borne by your grantees.  Think about how much further your grant dollars will go towards meeting your mission and your grantees’ missions by helping your grantees apply to your foundation more easily, without having to produce multiple paper copies or re-enter information unnecessarily each time they submit a new grant application.

Do you think your foundation may be ready for grants management software?  See how PhilanTrack can help streamline your grants management processes.

Request a demo


Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AItalian_traffic_signs_-_semaforo_verticale.svg
Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 17, 2014, 03:09 PM

Best for the World - Grants Management Software

PhilanTech is honored to have been named a "Best for the World" company again in 2014 for scoring in the top 10% of B Corporations and creating overall social and environmental impact.

PhilanTech Best for the World 2014

This matters a lot to us, and we hope it does to you, too.  As the for-profit and nonprofit sectors are becoming more aligned, with more for-profits thinking about how their operations can positively impact the world, and as the B Corporation movement recently hit a major milestone, PhilanTech continues to live the values that have been in place since the company started.  Early on, we described ourselves as a "nice for-profit" -- an organization that is not structured as a 501(c)(3) but is nevertheless committed to being mission-driven and values-driven.  A company that has social and environmental responsibility baked into our DNA. 

We think this is right way to do business, and are humbled to be in the company of great businesses like Seventh Generation, Patagonia, King Arthur Flour and over 1,000 other certified B Corporations.

So why does this matter to you? Our values align with yours. We want to help you be successful in pursuing your own social mission. And we have the right tools to help.

Does your organization give grants? Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantmaking goals.

Does your organization seek grants? Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantseeking goals.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
May 29, 2014, 04:35 PM

And the Winner of the "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest Is…

PhilanTech's first "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest received an amazing response, both in terms of the number of truly impressive "ugly" spreadsheets and grant tracking processes submitted, and the general reactions to the contest.  Entries were judged based on a number of criteria that make grant tracking spreadsheets difficult to work with, including their complexity, susceptibility to error, duplication of information, and reliance on one person’s specific knowledge to navigate.

Without further ado, the winner is… Web of Benefit!  Web of Benefit is a nonprofit that helps support survivors of domestic violence while breaking the intergenerational cycle of domestic abuse. 

Web of Benefit will receive one year of free access to the PhilanTrack online grants management system to replace their "ugly" grant tracking spreadsheets with an online system that will help Web of Benefit streamline all of its grant-related activities.

We've written previously on this blog about why Friends Shouldn't Let Friends Use Excel to Manage Grants, and wanted to share some examples of what can result from tracking grants in spreadsheets or with other offline systems and processes, drawn from submissions to the "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest (note: some images have been modified slightly to minimize any identifying information):

Ugly Spreadsheet 1

Ugly Spreadsheet 2

Ugly Spreadsheet 3

Ugly Spreadsheet 4


In addition to some very illustrative visuals of challenging spreadsheets, several nonprofits submitted descriptions of the challenges of their grantseeking processes, such as:

  • "If our grant spreadsheet were a dog, it would be a shaggy one, just in from rolling around in some delicious mud puddles. Now, we love our shaggy dog. It's got a heart of gold, and is chock-a-block full of wonderful stuff. Underneath alllllll that mess is some beautiful information. Another way in which the information in our grant spreadsheet is like a shaggy dog: sometimes its hard to get our hands on it. We've worked hard collecting information about well-aligned grant opportunities, only to have them slip through our hands for lack of a useful project management system. Boy could we use your help!"
  • "We currently use one Excel workbook with multiple tabs to keep track of grants by status (Planned, Submitted, Approved, Denied), with multiple colors on the Planned tab to denote the degree of imminency of deadline. We also track grants on a separate workbook for board review, which includes a tab each for Grants tracked by Status and Grants tracked by Purpose, with a master sheet summarizing the data. I have to update each of these workbooks, in addition to our fundraising software, when the status of a grant changes. It's all very exhausting. Help!"
  • " have six columns listing funder, request, amount, deadline, sent and notes . . which is three columns too shorts, as I also need actual amount received, reason for delay, when I can resubmit. Then, there are seven color coding (this really is very ugly): green for actively received without decision; blue for available to resubmit now; tan for received in 2011 or 2012; purple for received in 2013; peach for erroneous information, beige for available next year; and white for who knows what. You really want to see this bad boy, don't you?"

Is your organization using an "ugly" grant tracking spreadsheet?  Request a free online demonstration to learn how PhilanTrack can replace the spreadsheet and help your organization streamline its grantseeking efforts.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 18, 2013, 04:46 PM

New Partnerships - Grants Management Software

Grassroots.org logo
GEO logo Philanthropy Ohio logo forum logo

PhilanTech is pleased to announce four new partnerships!  We have partnered with Grassroots.org to offer discounted PhilanTrack for Nonprofits access to their members, and with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), Philanthropy Ohio, and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers to offer discounted PhilanTrack for Foundations access to their members.

Grassroots.org is a nonprofit that provides free and discounted technology tools to other nonprofits to catalyze social change.

With PhilanTrack for Nonprofits, Grassroots.org members can:

  • Find funders: Search currently-available funding opportunities, research past grants awarded by potential funders, and research contacts in the funding organization.
  • Write proposals efficiently: Easily reuse content from past proposals when writing new grant requests and avoid reinventing wheels in each new grant proposal.
  • Manage funder relationships: Track contact information and interactions with funders and prospective funders to build relationships and institutional memory.
  • Track deadlines and requirements: Track deadlines for proposals and progress reports and receive automated email reminders about them.
  • Store grant-related documents: Store the organization's 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, annual reports, and other documents requested by funders in PhilanTrack's document library.
  • And more.

Grassroots.org members can access the discount by logging into their account.

With PhilanTrack for Foundations, GEO and Philanthropy Ohio members, as well as members of Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers member organizations, can:

  • Verify applicant eligibility for grant programs: Verify 501(c)(3) status as well as specific program eligibility automatically online.
  • Accept and evaluate proposals online: Tailor online grant proposal forms to request information that will support informed grant decision-making.
  • Manage grantee relationships: Track and view updated grantee information as well as the grantmaker’s giving history with the grantee organization.
  • Monitor and evaluate grant progress reports: Request progress reports at whatever intervals support your organization’s monitoring and evaluation processes, and receive reports submitted online.
  • Dynamically generate reports: Aggregate grantee information for key staff, trustees, and other stakeholders with a couple of button clicks, including generating graphs and analyzing grantees’ financial performance.
  • And more.

GEO members can access the discount by emailing membership@geofunders.org.

Philanthropy Ohio members can access the discount at http://blog.philantech.com/philanthropy-ohio.

Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers members should contact the Forum to set up a discount program for their members.

Members of regional associations of grantmakers that are Forum members should ask their regional association to contact the Forum to request access to the discount program.


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Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 01, 2013, 09:38 PM

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