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.

 

Photo credit: http://www.picserver.org/images/highway/phrases/software.jpg

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

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

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

Please Take the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Survey

Will_you_take_the_survey

Twice a year, we (PhilanTech, and now Altum) partner with our friends at GrantStation to conduct a survey about the current state of grantseeking.  Each time, we gain valuable insights about what is and isn't working well for grantseekers, who is funding what, what challenges are most pressing for grantseeking organizations - and we are happy to share those insights with the grantseeking community to help inform grantseeking strategies.

We've just opened the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking survey, and hope that you'll take a few minutes to take the survey.

This year, there are new questions about Federal funding and support. These free reports, which will be published in early May, can serve as a valuable benchmark for organizations to review their grantseeking efforts, and will provide leading-edge information months earlier than other annual surveys.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey before March 31.  Results will be published on both the Altum and GrantStation websites.  Survey respondents can request an advance copy of results when completing the survey.

If you haven't already, you can download the Fall 2014 State of Grantseeking Report here.

Happy grantseeking!

 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 12, 2015, 01:01 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

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

PhilanTech Partners with TechSoup - Grant Management Software

TechSoup Logo

PhilanTech is delighted to announce that we have partnered with TechSoup to offer PhilanTrack® online grants management software for nonprofits to TechSoup's members. 

TechSoup is a nonprofit that connects other nonprofits with technology products and resources to make informed decisions about technology.

With PhilanTrack, TechSoup 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 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!

TechSoup members can apply for discounted access to PhilanTrack via the TechSoup website:

If your organization is not a TechSoup member, learn about TechSoup and other discounted and donated technology products available for qualified nonprofits.

 

TechSoup and the TechSoup logo are registered trademarks of TechSoup Global, used with permission.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 31, 2013, 03:00 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

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the Government Shutdown

closed for business

The government shutdown is hardly news at this point, and has directly impacted at least 800,000 government workers who have been furloughed.  It has also impacted a lot of businesses frequented by those workers.

While the full economic impact of the shutdown is still unknown, some nonprofits are directly feeling the effects.  Federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have suspended their grantmaking programs for the duration of the shutdown.  While some nonprofits had already received grant allocations for the year from those agencies before October 1, some hadn't, and it's unclear what the impact of delayed funding cycles will be going forward, even once the government has reopened for business.

So what can grantseekers learn from the government shutdown?

  • Diversify your funding sources.  As we've written about before, relying too heavily on a given funding source (whether a single funder, or a single type of funder) can be risky for nonprofits.  If your organization has historically relied heavily on government grants, start building relationships with private foundations and corporate giving programs.  Connect with the community foundation in your area.  Think about adding individual donors and fees for service (if your organization provides services for which you can charge) to your sources of funding.  Your organization may not be directly impacted by the shutdown (and I hope it isn't), but it's never a wrong time to think about diversifying your funding sources.
  • Have a plan B. While your organization will hopefully never be in a position where a major funding source disappears overnight, it's always good to have a plan B.  When crafting your grantseeking strategy for the year, chart out how much money your organization needs from grants (versus other funding sources) to support your programs, which past funders you expect to support your organization again, which new funders you plan to approach, and the expected grant amounts from each.  Then think through what will happen if some of the grants you think are sure things don't come through.  Sometimes foundation priorities change, economic conditions shift and diminish foundation assets, or something happens like a government shutdown.  Knowing where you'll be able to make up any shortfall is critical.  And raising more money than oyou need is also a good thing.  You can always put additional money raised into a reserve fund (though be careful if any of the grants awarded are restricted) or offer more programs and services with the additional funds.
  • Store your grant information online.  What would happen if you were unable to access your organization's office for several days - or several weeks?  Would you miss a grant proposal deadline?  Or a grant report deadline?  How would that impact your grantseeking for the year?  How would it impact your relationship with your funders?  By storing all of your grant-related information online, in a system like PhilanTrack, you can access your grant information and write your proposals and reports anywhere, at any time, to ensure that you're able to keep your grantseeking going, even if there are unexpected events that prevent you from accessing physical files in your organization's office.

To learn about how the PhilanTrack online grants management system can help your organization's grantseeking efforts, request a demonstration, or register for a webinar.

 

 

Photo credit: adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcostin/3449288718/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 07, 2013, 10:30 AM

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