Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking Report

Fall_2015_State_of_Grantseeking.jpg

Altum is delighted to share the results of the Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking report, conducted in partnership with GrantStation.

The Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking survey found that there was an increase in rates of funding from all government sources and from most non-government sources.

While lack of time and/or staff continues to be the greatest grantseeking challenge, there has been a 267% increase in competition for grant funding as the greatest grantseeking challenge.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Private foundations continue to be the most frequent funding source, the largest total source of funding, and the source of the largest single grant for most organizations;
  • While most grants include some indirect or administrative cost funding, 44% of Federal government grants and 51% of non-government grants included indirect rates of 10% or less;
  • While 89% of organizations reported that some or all of their funders require outcomes reporting, 34% reported that those funders never cover impact measurement costs.

The most frequent sources of funding vary by organization budget size:

In the survey, organization sizes are as follows:
  • Small budget - under $100,000
  • Medium budget - between $100,000 and $999,999
  • Large budget - between $1 million and $25 million
  • X-large budget - over $25 million
This information, combined with information from the report about funding trends by issue focus and service area (e.g., rural versus urban) can be used to help your organization decide which types of grants to pursue.  Other data in the report can help inform your approach to seeking funds to cover administrative/indirect costs, costs to cover outcomes reporting, and more.

Download the Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking Report
.

To learn more about how PhilanTrack can help your organization achieve better grantseeking results, watch this overview video or register for an upcoming webinar.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 17, 2015, 01:22 PM

4 Scary Things to Avoid in Grant Applications

It's that time of year: time for ghosts, goblins, and ghouls to emerge and make their mark.  While scary costumes and decorations can be fun, scary grant applications do not get funded.

Here are four scary things to avoid in grant applications:



1. Applications that ignore the funder’s guidelines or requirements

Most funders provide some sort of guidelines to tell grant applicants what they want to see – what they are willing to fund or not willing to fund, what their interests are, what information should be included in a successful grant application. And yet, a surprising number of grantseekers still submit grant applications that are outside the funder’s guidelines or do not include the required information. Why is this scary? It means the grant will not be funded, and the grant writer has probably missed the opportunity to build a relationship with this funder, since the funder will be unlikely to want to see another application if the first one is far off the mark. Missed opportunities for funding and impact? Scary.

2. Applying for grants that your organization won’t be able to handle or implement

The temptation is there. A new competitive grant with a big funding pool. The possibility for a grant that’s bigger than any grant your organization has ever received. It’s right up your alley. Your interests are perfectly aligned with the funder’s. You’ve written the most compelling grant proposal you’ve ever written. Then you win the grant, and it’s so big and the expectations are so great that your organization is unable to handle it. You have to hire new staff in a hurry, and they don’t get sufficient training. You have to scale up infrastructure, and the grant hasn’t provided enough overhead support (or maybe it’s a restricted project grant), so you can’t get your team the equipment it needs. The list goes on. This type of scenario can sink an otherwise successful organization. Terrifying.

3. Not proofreading before you submit

Typos? Frightening.

4. Getting too bogged down in detail

If you can’t see the forest through the trees while you’re writing, your prospective funder won’t be able to, either. It’s critically important to know all of the details of the program and how it will be implemented. But you don’t necessarily need to share every detail in your grant application. Provide enough information to give the program officer or other decision makers enough information about the problem your organization is tackling, why it’s important, and how your programs are addressing it, but not so much information that it’s overwhelming. The purpose of the grant application is to demonstrate the need and the opportunity for support from this funder to help your organization meet its goals and serve its constituents while also helping the funder meet its goals. There will be other opportunities for an interested funder to dig into the details with you. Get them interested first, then have the detailed conversation later. Too many details too soon can be scary.


Don’t make these scary mistakes in your grant applications!

While it’s up to you to avoid these scary grant writing mistakes, grant writing software can help with the rest of the process.

Learn

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimstovring/15052960483
Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 30, 2015, 05:27 PM

Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Report

Spring_2015_State_of_Grantseeking

Altum is delighted to share the results of the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking report, conducted in partnership with GrantStation.

The Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking survey found that there was a decrease in the rate of funding from most sources, including a 2% decrease in funding from community foundations and a 4-5% decrease in funding from all government sources.

While foundation giving reached an estimated $54.7B in 2013 and 2014 giving is expected to be higher, grantseekers report challenges when pursuing grants, including lack of time and staff to pursue grants and increased competition for funding.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • The median largest grant awarded was $43,800, the lowest since Spring 2011;
  • Grant funding comprised a greater percentage of the annual budget for medium-sized organizations than for either small or large organizations;
  • Frequency of funding from different sources correlates to organization size.  For example, while 18% of small organizations (budgets under $100,000) report that their largest award source was community foundation grants, 43% of extra-large organizations (budgets over $25 million) report that their largest award source was the Federal government;
  • Organization focus area suggests types of funding sources to pursue.  For example, arts and culture organizations may want to target local government grants in addition to private foundation grants, while animal-related organizations should focus primarily on private foundations.
Largest_Source_of_Funding_by_Mission_Focus_Spring_2015

Download the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Report
.

Organizations using PhilanTrack reported higher success rates than the average organization in the survey.  Specifically:

  • PhilanTrack respondents reported sources of funding at rates ranging from 13% to 80%, compared to 11% to 76% for all organizations.  In other words, PhilanTrack users received funding from all grant sources at rates higher than the average survey participant;
  • The median largest award for PhilanTrack organizations was $49,945, 14% higher than the median largest award for all organizations in the survey.

To learn more about how PhilanTrack can help your organization achieve better grantseeking results, watch this overview video or register for an upcoming webinar.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 07, 2015, 10:19 AM

And the Winner of the 2nd "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest Is…

The second annual "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest received some truly impressive responses.   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…StreetLightUSA!

StreetLightUSA is a nonprofit that helps adolescent girls transition from trauma to triumph by helping them get out of the sex trade.

StreetLightUSA 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 the organization streamline all of its grant-related activities.

There were a number of compelling submissions in this year's contest.  Grantseekers are using Excel to manage everything from contact information to proposal status, and more.

Here are some of our favorites (note: some images have been modified slightly to minimize any identifying information):

 Ugly_grant_tracking_spreadsheet_1

Ugly_grant_tracking_spreadsheet_2

Ugly_grant_tracking_spreadsheet_3

Ugly_grant_tracking_spreadsheet_4 

 

 

In addition to some very illustrative visuals of challenging spreadsheets, there was one particularly impressive and detailed description of a grant tracking database (selection from the description included here):

ABOUT THE DATABASE TAB ORANGE field heading text means the column cells contain a function. A GREEN triangle in the upper left corner of a cell means there is a function in it that Excel thinks may be faulty. This is not the case, everything works fine. Ignore them. A RED triangle in the upper right corner of a field heading means there is a comment about the field there. Hover your cursor over the cell to see the comment. BLUE field heading text means the column is for the current year. Similar columns from past years are present, but hidden. Organization names in RED are ones of particular interest for research. A KEY to coded fields is in a sheet behind the Database. COLUMN / NAME / NOTES A / Organization Name / No organizations begin with "The". If there are people's name(s) in the organization title, the listing is by last name. Organizations may appear >once if there are >1 separate potential grants (see column B). B / Grant Name / The particular grant of interest given by the organization. C / Grant Range / Minimum and maximum theoretical amounts disbursed. D / Challenge Grant / Whether it is a challenge grant, yes or no. E / Match Grant / What matching ratio is required by the grant (usually X:1, grantor:X) F / Grantor Status / Whether it is a current, past, or future funder. See Key.

And it goes on.  It includes at key at the end (edited slightly to minimize identifying information):

KEY TAB A / Grantor Status / C = Current, F = Future, P = Past B / FY Codes / 0 = Did not apply, 1 = Applied and pending, 2 = Applied and awarded, 3 = Applied and denied, C / Programs, / D / App Codes / FP = Full Proposal, LOI = Letter of Inquiry, NOM = Nomination, PP = Pre-Proposal E / App Formats / EM = Email, OL = Online, PC = Phone Call, SM = Snail Mail

Thank you to all of the entrants in the most recent contest, and stay tuned for the next one towards the end of 2015.

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
April 29, 2015, 12:52 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

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

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

The Fall 2013 State of Grantseeking Report

State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report

PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report.

The seventh semi-annual survey provides a snapshot of grantseeking activities and challenges in the US.  A decrease in government funding at all levels has pervaded the grantseeking world, and nonprofits, still recovering from the economic downturn, are struggling with fewer resources.  As such, lack of time/staff to pursue grants is a top grantseeking challenge for survey respondents.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Grants comprised at least 25% of the total annual budget for 42% of organizations.  Organizations that received government grants were more reliant on grants as a larger part of their overall funding;
  • Rural organizations are more reliant on grant funding, with 50% of rural organizations reporting that grant supplied at least 25% of their total annual budget;
  • 75% of organizations reported receiving grants from private foundations, followed by 60% from community foundations and 57% from corporations;
  • Federal grants decreased by 24% as the largest total grant funder compared to the fall 2012 survey.

The next State of Grantseeking survey will be conducted in early 2014.

Download the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report here.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 29, 2013, 01:36 PM

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Excel to Manage Grants

spreadsheet

Most nonprofits rely on grant funding to support their programs and services.  In fact, 46% report that grants make up over a quarter of their funding.

Given how critical grants are for many nonprofits, having good systems in place to manage the grantwriting process from end-to-end.  Yet 75% of nonprofits use simple spreadsheets to manage what can amount to millions of dollars of grant funds.

While some nonprofits may think that the systems they’ve pieced together are working well enough, there is a significant cost to inefficient grants management.  The Center for Effective Philanthropy determined that 13% of every foundation grant dollar is spent administering the grant.  Of that 13%, 11.5% is spent by the nonprofit.  So for every $100,000 in grant funding, $11,500 is spent administering the grant.  Imagine if that money could be spent on other fundraising efforts, or directed towards program or service delivery.  That’s where an online system to streamline the grants management process comes in.

Here are five reasons that friends should not let friends use Excel to manage grants:

  • Excel can’t manage the whole grantseeking process.  While a spreadsheet can be set up to track contacts, requirements, dates, amounts, etc., tracking is only part of the grantwriting and grantseeking process.  The whole grant lifecycle involves researching and finding new grant opportunities, cultivating relationships with potential funders, writing compelling grant proposals to targeted grantmakers, tracking the details of the grants, reporting to funders at specified time intervals, and more.  Spreadsheets are simply not designed to manage that whole process.  Most nonprofits that use Excel to manage their grants also use Word (or another Word processor) and Outlook (or Google Calendar) as well, making it necessary to check and update three separate tools, leaving a lot of room for error.  With an online system specifically designed to manage the whole grant lifecycle, everything from the initial research to the final progress report can be managed in one centralized location.
  • Deadlines and reminders.  Have you ever missed a proposal deadline?  What about a progress report deadline?  While Excel can be used to track deadlines (Excel handles dates quite well), that information is only useful if you happen to look at the spreadsheet and sort or search for deadlines to see which due dates are upcoming.  Many nonprofits will track deadlines in their grants spreadsheet, then copy those deadlines to Outlook or Google Calendar as well.  Not only does that double the effort involved in managing deadlines, it also doesn’t take advantage of a straightforward feature in an online grants management system – reminders.  In PhilanTrack, once a proposal or progress report deadline has been added to the system, it is added to your organization’s calendar (which can be synced with your calendaring software).  In addition, the system will send automatic email reminders prior to due dates to help ensure you never miss another deadline.
  • Contact management.  There’s more to managing funder contacts than just tracking contact information.  While the contact information is clearly important, tracking interactions is also important.  If you have a conversation with a funder about a grant program or proposal, where are those notes stored in Excel?  Do you add a column each time you interact with a funder to be able to keep notes separate?  What if you have 10 interactions with one funder and only two with another?  How easy is it to find the relevant notes quickly?  And how many extra columns end up getting added to the spreadsheet?  And how do you share this information with other people in your organization so that efforts are not duplicated and not lost when someone leaves the organization?
  • The bigger the grantseeking program, the more unmanageable the spreadsheet.  This is related to the previous point.  The more grants your organization pursues and gets, the bigger and more unwieldy the spreadsheet becomes.  I’ve seen grant spreadsheets that are color coded, split into multiple different sheets, organized with acronyms, and a number of other creative (and unsustainable) ways to manage growing grant programs.  The dilemma is that organizations want their grant programs to grow.  But as the program grows, the spreadsheet becomes increasingly unmanageable – and it’s at precisely that point that you need to be able to have quick and easy access to the exact information that you need at a given moment.  That’s where online grants management software comes in.  With PhilanTrack, you can easily sort proposals, grants, etc. to get to exactly the information you need, when you need it, without sacrificing the depth or completeness of information about each funder, grant, and proposal in the system.  PhilanTrack makes it easy to store all grant-related information in one place, and navigate right to the information you need, from anywhere, at any time.
  • Continuity and institutional memory.  Some people are Excel wizards.  They can create spreadsheets that do things that seem impossible.  They know all the shortcuts and can massage data in whatever way they want, whenever they want to.  If you have one of those folks on staff, that’s great for getting a robust tracking spreadsheet set up.  But what happens if that individual leaves the organization?  Will anyone else know how to find relevant information and keep the complex spreadsheet updated?  With an online grants management system, the organization’s complete grantseeking history is stored in an organized, easy-to-access and easy-to-use online location.  If the development director leaves, her successor can easily pick up the mantle and see the whole history, which reports are due when, and what information was submitted in each proposal.  And all of that information is available at a couple of button clicks rather than by pouring through tons of documents and files, linked through a complex spreadsheet.

PhilanTrack is specifically designed to manage the grantseeking process from end-to-end.  In addition to all of the features mentioned above, it also has a unique grantwriting feature: how many times have you been writing a proposal and thought, “I wrote a great response to a question like that for another funder.  I think it was sometime last year.  Now where is that proposal?”  PhilanTrack provides the ability for grantseekers to easily reuse information from past proposals at a couple of button clicks, saving the time and aggravation of having to find the Word document somewhere on your organization’s hard drive where that perfectly-phrased response resides.

To see how PhilanTrack can save you from using Excel to manage your grants, contact us for a demonstration.

 

(Hat tip to Robert Weiner for the title.)

 

 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
January 28, 2013, 10:41 AM

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