Four Common Misconceptions About Grant Tracking Software for Nonprofits

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Many nonprofits have software in place to manage their individual donors, but use a combination of Excel, Word, email, and their calendar to manage their grant information. 

Although increasing numbers of nonprofits are adopting grant tracking software to support their grantseeking needs, some nonprofits are still hesitant.

Here a four common misconceptions about grant tracking software for nonprofits:

  1. Excel is just as good. Many – if not most – nonprofits use Excel to manage some facet of their grantseeking process.  And Excel is a great place to start.  But most nonprofits gradually realize Excel’s limitations when it comes to tracking grants.  Managing the grantseeking process is more than putting information in rows and columns and performing calculations.  It requires software that is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the grantseeking process.  Read more about why Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Excel to Manage Grants.
  2. My organization already has accounting software and donor management software. That’s all we need.  Accounting software and donor management software are critical tools for your organization.  While each plays a key role in managing a facet of your organization’s financial and fundraising information, grant tracking software manages different components of your organization’s fundraising operation that neither accounting nor donor management software supports particularly well: think of grants management software as institutional donor management software.  Your individual donor management software is great (hopefully) at managing your individual donors, but grant information is different (organizations versus individuals) and the process of requesting and reporting on funds has different requirements.  And accounting software can help to manage the financial aspects of your grants program, but there is much more to managing grants than keeping track of dollars and cents.
  3. It won’t help me solve my biggest grantseeking challenge. Grantseekers consistently report that their greatest grantseeking challenges is lack of time.  Grant tracking software helps solve that problem by creating some efficiencies in the grantseeking process, specifically: keeping all grant-related information in the same place helps reduce time spent searching; automated email reminders to colleagues reduce time spent chasing down colleagues to provide needed information, not to mention helping to avoid missing deadlines; the ability to easily reuse similar information from past proposals saves time spent saying, “now where did I write that great paragraph about this part of the program?  I want to use it in this proposal.”  With the right grant tracking software, that process can take a couple of minutes rather than a couple of hours.  Is your greatest grantseeking challenge something other than lack of time?  Grant tracking software will probably help with your greatest challenge, too.
  4. It’s too expensive. Any investment a nonprofit makes has to weight the costs and benefits.  No doubt grants management software costs money, but the benefits include not missing deadlines, saving time, better relationships with funders, institutional memory, and more.  And while each grant tracking software solution is priced differently, the right software for your organization is priced to be affordable for your organization’s budget, allowing you to make a clear case that the costs are far outweighed by the benefits to your organization.

 

Are there other things that are preventing your organization from trying grant tracking software?  Comment below and we can help clear up other misconceptions about grant tracking software for nonprofits.

 

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Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 23, 2016, 03:51 PM

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

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.

 

All logos are property of the respective organizations.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 01, 2013, 09:38 PM

"Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest

PhilanTech is pleased to announce the first "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest. 

Many nonprofits use complicated or messy spreadsheets to track their grants, funders, contacts, proposal deadlines and more.

Messy grant tracking spreadsheets can result in missed proposal or progress report deadlines, duplicated information, lots of time spent, and headaches!

Ugly Grant Tracking Spreadsheet

Does your organization use an ugly grant tracking spreadsheet?  Think it's the ugliest?  Show us, and you could win a one year PhilanTrack online grants management system for nonprofits license for your organization and get rid of the spreadsheet!

Learn more and enter your organization's ugly grant tracking spreadsheet!

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 05, 2013, 10:00 AM

Grants Management System for Nonprofits - Convincing Your Board

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Perhaps you’ve heard these things before:

  • "We don’t need software for that."
  • "Our current process works just fine."
  • "We have a donor management system.  Can’t we just use that to manage our grants, too?"

There are many versions of those statements, but they all amount to the same thing: your board or senior management indicating that investing in grant-specific software isn't high on their priority list.

But you know that grants management software will make your job easier, and will also help your organization raise more money and direct more resources to your mission.  So how can you make the case with your board or senior management?

While every organization is different, there is one common thread: nonprofits exist to pursue a mission and make the world better in one way or another.  Your job in convincing your board to invest in a grants management system is to help them see that the system will help your organization better pursue its mission.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Quantify how much time you (and your colleagues, if other people in your organization are involved in finding, applying for, and management grants) are spending on all of your grant-related activities.  Include things like:
    • Researching new funding opportunities
    • Communicating with prospective funders
    • Communicating with current funders
    • Tracking down documents submitted to funders in the past
    • Managing documents that funders request (e.g., 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, etc.)
    • Keeping track of deadlines for proposals and progress reports
    • Writing grant proposals
    • Writing progress reports
    • Etc.
  • If you – and any other staff members who work with you to pursue grants – were spending less time on one or more of those activities, what could you spend that time doing?  Would those activities be putting staff time to better use?  Would they help your organization raise more money?
  • Articulate your current challenges with grantseeking and how they would be solved with an online grants management system?
  • Talk with your board or senior management about your organization's fundraising goals.  Are you consistently meeting your fundraising goals?  Are you striving to raise more money in general?  More grant funds in particular?  Does your organization want to diversify its funding sources so that it isn’t overly reliant on one source of funding?  How does getting more grants, with more efficient use of staff time, fit into those goals?
  • More broadly, talk with your board or senior management about your organization’s mission, and what resources are required to pursue your mission as best you can.  Can more resources be obtained and put to use if your organization raises more grant funds? 
    • In some cases, boards and senior management may be hesitant to spend money on software that could be spent on activities that directly pursue mission objectives.  In that case, you can try to remind your board or senior management that an investment in software is not a direct tradeoff – it will position you to raise more funds that can then be dedicated to pursuing your mission.
    • On a related note, the Overhead Myth is trying to help tackle this problem.  Investing in things that help your organization grow will help your organization better meet its mission. 

Share your tips for making the case with your board and senior management in the comments below, or request a demo to learn how PhilanTrack can help streamline your grantseeking.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_warfield/4992455554/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 24, 2013, 11:40 AM

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