Dahna Goldstein

Recent Posts

Four Common Misconceptions About Grant Tracking Software for Nonprofits


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

Four Ways Grants Are Like Blizzards


As the DC area (where Altum is headquartered) prepares for what could be one of the worst snowstorms in the region's history, here are four ways that grants are like blizzards:

  1. They benefit greatly from preparation.  Everyone in the mid-Atlantic and beyond has spent the past several days buying groceries, snow shovels, ensuring that flashlights have batteries, and, if they're like me, ensuring that there's enough ground coffee in the house to be able to use a French press for the requisite caffeine fix if the power goes out.  While preparing to write grant proposals and manage the grant once it's awarded involves different components, preparation is equally important.  Proposals require thought, time, and attention, and it helps to have all of the components lined up well before the deadline to be able to write a compelling proposal.  And what happens if your organization gets the grant?  Are you prepared to execute the programs you proposed?  Do you have the right resources lined up/available to run the project?  Preparation is key.
  2. Timelines are beyond your control and can't be changed.  While there's more predictability to grant deadlines than to when blizzards will hit, the timelines are beyond your control.  Grant applications will have deadlines set by the funders, as will any post-grant reports.  And those deadlines can't be changed, even if they don't fit well with your schedule.  Just like an impending storm.  It's undoubtedly inconvenient for many people that this blizzard will hit starting this afternoon.  They had other things planned.  They don't want to rearrange their schedules to accommodate this one big thing.  But rearrange their schedules they must.  And with grant deadlines, grantwriters and others involved in the process must accommodate the funder's schedule, not the other way around.
  3. They can cost more than you anticipate.  Bad winter storms can cause some damage, and cleanup can be costly.  While grants help the organizations to which they are awarded, sometimes they cost more than the organization anticipates.  That's why it's important to evaluate the net grant - how much a grant is really worth - before applying for a new grant opportunity.
  4. They involve piles of white stuff.  Forecasters are predicting at least 2 feet of snow in the greater DC area.  But even two feet of snow doesn't stack up to the piles of paper that can be involved in the grantwriting process.  And that's where grants software, like PhilanTrack, comes into play. 

Learn How PhilanTrack Can Help

And stay safe!


Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/foox404/8367145381

Author: Dahna Goldstein
January 22, 2016, 02:37 PM

Net Grants - How Much Is That Grant Really Worth?


I just got back from the Grant Professionals Association conference in St. Louis.  It was a great conference with lots of learning opportunities for grant pros.

I presented a session entitled "The State of Grantseeking and Its Implications for Grant Professionals" that drew some conclusions about what the current state of grantseeking means for everyone involved in the grantseeking process.  One of the issues that rose to the forefront was the increased competition for grants with limited available resources. 

Several people asked about how to make the case to others in their organization (say, senior management) that a particular grant was not worth pursuing, particularly given limited resources.  I mentioned the concept of a net grant calculation, and enough people asked me about it that I figured it was worth writing a blog post (it's something I've talked about before, but not in this forum).

So here goes. Fair warning: this is going to be a bit long.

The net grant calculation is a tool to help discern the net monetary value a grant will provide to your organization -- so the grant revenue net of expenses to get and manage the grant.  Fundamentally, it is:

Grant Amount - Total Grant Cost = Net Grant

For simplicity, just taking the amount requested as the grant amount is a good starting point, but it doesn't accurately reflect the expected amount of the grant.  Since this post is going to get long, and I want to get to the meat of this calculation quickly, I'll put the more  nuanced version of the grant amount (the expected amount) further down, and you can read all the way through if you're so inclined.

The total grant cost is not the cost to actually run the program you're trying to get funded.  You'll need that information, too, and it figures into the decision-making process about whether or not to pursue a grant, and which grants to include as part of your grants strategy, but it's not part of the net grant calculation.

The total grant cost is the total cost to find, apply for, get, report on, and otherwise manage the grant.  The individual components may vary depending on your organization or the particular grant you're pursuing, but here are the basic elements:

Total Grant Cost = (Hours Spent Researching Opportunity + Hours Spent Writing LOI (if there is one) + Hours Spent Writing Application + Hours Spent Communicating with Funder + Hours Spent Writing Reports + Hours Spent on Any Other Miscellaneous Grant-Related Activities) * The Hourly Salary of the Person Doing the Work

This can get a bit tricky.  Your organization may have multiple people working on different parts of the grant process.  And people get testy about salary information.  The most accurate version of this calculation will take into account the different hourly salaries for each person working on a particular part of the grant, but if you don't want to get into that level of detail, you can ballpark it or use industry averages.

And the components that go into the cost will vary, as indicated above, per organization and per grant.  Does your organization have multiple approval stages?  Do several people read and edit every grant application?  Does the funder do a site visit?  How many staff members are involved in that process?  How much of their time is committed to preparing for the site visit, beyond the time spent on the visit itself?  There are a bunch of other potential variables, and your mileage may vary. 

But at a basic level, and to make this more concrete, let's assume there's one person doing all facets of the grant process, and that person's salary is $60,000/year.   If that person has 2 weeks vacation per year, their hourly wage is $30.

Let's then say that this particular grant requires (and will require) the following number of hours from start to finish:

  • Research and find opportunity: 8 hours
  • Writing LOI: 8 hours
  • Writing proposal: 27 hours
  • Communicating with funder: 8 hours
  • Writing reports (interim and final): 20 hours
  • Other miscellaneous time spent: 10 hours

(These numbers are very rough ballparks, some drawn from data in Drowning in Paperwork)

Total number of hours spent: 81

Hourly rate: $30

Total cost grant cost: $2,430

Note: as indicated above, this is not the cost of running the program the grant will fund.  This is just the cost of getting and managing the grant. 

And this is a pretty simplistic example.  If you work in anything larger than a pretty small organization, more than one person is almost always going to be involved in the process.  And the larger the grant, generally the more complex and involved the application and the oversight, so all of the numbers are likely to be higher.

But let's say you're applying for a $50,000 grant.  In the best case scenario, the net grant value is:

Grant Amount - Total Grant Cost = Net Grant


$50,000 - $2,430 = $47,570

Not too bad.  But if you're applying for a $10,000 grant:

$10,000 - $2,430 = $7,570

The most money you will then have to spend on the program you're trying to fund is $7,570.  Is that enough?  Is that all restricted funding?  Will it cover any overhead?  That's another topic for another day, but something you need to take into account when creating a budget for a program and looking at income streams.

Now, to get more nuanced about the grant amount, the grant amount isn't really the grant amount.  Seems pretty simple, right?  The grant amount is the requested funding amount.  That's one way to look at it.  A more nuanced approach would look at the expected amount of the grant.  This can get more complicated, but I would propose taking three factors into the expected amount of the grant (which you can then choose to combine in the way that makes the most sense for your organization):

  • The amount requested
  • The amount the funder is likely to award
  • The probability of getting the grant

The amount requested: pretty straightforward.

The amount the funder is likely to award: even if the funder decides to award the grant (more about that below), the amount you requested isn't necessarily the same as the amount the funder will choose to award.  Look at the funder's history (what size grants have they awarded to your organization in the past?  To other organizations?  Are you a first time grantee?  Are you a repeat grantee that they're trying to wean from their funding?  Be realistic about all of these things) - and assess what you think the funder is likely to award, even if it's different from what you requested.

The probability of getting the grant: if this has been a repeat funder for years, the probability of getting the grant may be close to 100%.  If it's a new funder, or a new program, or funding priorities have changed, or funder personnel have changed, or the economy isn't doing well, or any number of other things, the probability of being awarded a grant will likely be less than 100%, sometimes much less than 100%.

You may choose to simply take the amount requested and the probability to calculate the expected amount.  I think looking at the amount the funder is likely to award is a better data point to get to the true expected amount, and ultimately the true net value of the grant.

To make this a bit more concrete, here's a specific example.  Let's say you're applying to a new funder (new to your organization, that is).  You see from their grant history that they tend to award grants ranging in size from $10,000 to $50,000.  If you can get more detailed information, you may see that the average grant size is $30,000.  So your math on the expected amount of the grant would go like this:

Amount requested = $50,000.  Amount funder is likely to award = $30,000 (this may be a bit conservative, but it's supported by data in this case, and it's better to be conservative than to overestimate the amount awarded).  Probability of getting the grant = 50%. 

So the expected amount of the grant = $30,000 * 0.5 = $15,000.

To apply that to the net grant calculation for the $50,000 grant we were looking at earlier:

Expected Grant Amount - Total Grant Cost = Net Grant

$15,000 - $2,430 = $12,570

That $50,000 is looking less appealing, isn't it?

Ok.  We've run through a lot of numbers and permutations here, but what does this all mean?  How can you use this in your day-to-day grantseeking activities?

  1. Take this framework as a starting point.  Put in the steps (anything that involves someone's time) that are relevant to your organization, and get as close as you reasonably can to hourly wage information for the people involved.
  2. Estimate the number of hours that will be involved in each grant you're thinking about pursuing.
  3. If nothing else, prioritize those with the highest net value.
  4. Think about opportunity cost.  If you're considering pursuing two grants, do you have the bandwidth to pursue both?  If not, which has a higher net value?  If you're looking at a whole portfolio of grants, what grants are you not pursuing (or what other fundraising or related activities are you not pursuing) that might yield positive results for your organization?
  5. Use the data produced from your calculations to help make the case to your boss or your board as to why you should or should not be pursuing or spending time on particular opportunities

You made it to the end.  You must be really interested in this topic.  This was long.  Particularly since you read this far, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Image source: https://flic.kr/p/8aTZ8x

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 20, 2015, 12:33 PM

Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking Report


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 How PhilanTrack Can Help

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

Back to School - Grantwriting Basics

Back to school

If you've been on social media at all this week, you've probably noticed something: pictures of kids in clean, pressed clothes, posing (sometimes patiently) for their parents' obligatory first day of school photos.  Or, if you're a parent, perhaps you've taken (and posted) one yourself.

All of this back-to-school-ness has gotten me thinking about getting back to basics.  In elementary school, kids learn the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic (or 'rithmetic, for those really focused on alliteration).

What does getting back to basics in grantwriting look like?  For me, it's the three Rs of grantwriting: research, relationships, and writing:

  1. Research.  Good grantwriting starts with good research.  A really compelling grant application requesting funding for an animal shelter will never be successful when submitted to a funder that only supports education reform.  While that's an extreme example, less egregious examples abound: grantseekers submitting requests to funders whose priorities have changed without confirming the funder's current interests; grantseekers not thoroughly reading guidelines before submitting a request and being denied for not adequately meeting the requirements; grantseekers spending significant resources to apply for a big-name grant they are unlikely to receive, at the expense of smaller grants that are a better fit.  Another facet of research is being selective about which grants to apply for and which to skip.  Grantseekers are always looking for new funding.  But not every grant is a good grant or a good fit.  Some aspects of that relate to funding priorities and ensuring that the program, project, or initiative for which you are seeking funding fits within the funder's interests, but it's also important to calculate the net grant value (discussed in this blog post) before applying for a grant.
  2. Relationships.  Relationships are a key part of institutional fundraising, just as they are a key part of individual fundraising.  While grants are awarded by foundations, corporations, government agencies, or other types of organizations, the decisions are made by people.  Establishing and building relationships with those people is critical to grantseeking success.  When approaching a new funder, try to get to know the people.  It's beneficial in a number of ways: it helps the grantseeker gain a better understanding of the grantmaker's interests; it helps the grantmaker better understand the organization applying for the grant; it helps the grantmaker feel more valued in the process.  Grantmakers sometimes feel like they're treated by grantees like ATM machines: grantees are only interested in the check.  There are much more meaningful relationships that can and should be built with funders, not only because it helps the funder feel more valued, but also because both parties have much to learn from each other and can help each other.  Funders and grantees are all focused on addressing issues.  There is an immediate alignment of interests in that realization.  Connecting with funders - not only during the application process, but on an ongoing basis - can help inform both parties about what is working and what isn't working in addressing the issue or issues they both have in common.
  3. Writing.  Of course, a key part of grant writing is the actual writing.  As a grantseeker, take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be reading your grant application.  Is yours the only grant application they will be reading?  How much will that person know about your organization before reading your application.  What do they need to know to evaluate whether your organization is going to be a good fit with their funding interests?  How will they be able to determine that your organization and your application stand out from the others?  Simply put, good writing is paramount.  When reading many applications, one that is poorly written can be easy to dismiss, regardless of the quality of the program the grant would support.  And persuasive writing is critical.  How are you making the case that the grantmaker should allocate some of its limited resources to supporting your organization?  Every decision to support your organization implies a decision not to support another organization.  Have you crafted your proposal in a manner that is sufficiently compelling for the funder to make that decision?  Have you used a good combination of qualitative and quantitative information to make your case?

What do you think?  What are your back to school tips for grantwriters?  What other grantwriting elements are fundamental?

Grant writing software can help manage all facets of the grantseeking process.

Learn How PhilanTrack Can Help


Image from http://img14.deviantart.net/bcdc/i/2012/239/3/f/back_to_school_by_textuts-d5cml39.jpg


Author: Dahna Goldstein
September 11, 2015, 10:55 AM

Gateway to Grant Success: 17th Annual Grant Professionals Association Conference

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


The 17th Annual Grant Professionals Association* conference will be held in St. Louis, Missouri on November 11­14, 2015. This year, the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) has blazed a trail of new and exciting workshop sessions, innovative learning experiences and networking opportunities.

This is a must ­attend event for anyone involved with grant management and grant proposal preparation. GPA Conference workshops offer expert advice from the grant profession’s most successful and accomplished grant proposal developers/managers. Workshop tracks include: Proposal Development and Planning, Donor Relations and Research, Grant Management and Reporting, Evaluation and Collaboration, and Federal Grants. Sessions are targeted to individuals with varying levels of experience from beginner to mid­career to advanced topics (new this year).

Workshops cover topics such as:

  • State of Grantseeking and Its Implications for Grant Professionals – presented by Altum’s own Dahna Goldstein!
  • Grant Management (Not) For Dummies: The Price You Pay After the Award]
  • How to Stage a Proposal Like Staging a Home – Emphasize Best Assets
  • Understanding Online Grant Applications­Interactive Q & A
  • Overcoming the Challenges of Grant Seeking and Management in Large, Fiscally Diverse Organizations

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

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

Who Should Attend:
Anyone involved in grants: Grant Writers, Grant Managers, Grant Consultants, Grants Officers, Grant Coordinators, Development Directors, Executive Directors, Government Relations Officers, Financial Officers and any other Grant Professionals. 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 knowledge and increased competency you will gain at this premier event. To find out more information about the conference or register go to: 17th 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 close to 2,000 active members representing all 50 states and internationally. More than 50 chapters have formed in the past five years.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 20, 2015, 02:49 PM

Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Report


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.

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

Finding Your Path Just Got Easier

This is a guest post by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation



About a year ago, I (virtually) sat down with my staff and told them I wanted to build an interactive program that would help individuals who are trying to develop their grantsmanship skills. I thought this concept might stimulate some interesting conversation. I had no idea how quickly the staff would latch on to it!

Why was their reaction to this idea so positive?

Because we had all been experiencing the same thing, over and over. GrantStation Members (about 25,000) were hungry to learn more. GrantStation Insider subscribers (about 250,000) were always asking about learning opportunities.

Grantsmanship is somewhat of a mystery to many individuals, and most people assigned with the task of grant research, writing, or management, not to mention strategic planning, are often looking for guidance.

So, the good news was we had identified a real need. Our challenge became, how do we build something that will actually help individuals improve their grant seeking skills?

After much contemplation, planning, testing and programming we launched, on June 18, a new, public website called the PathFinder.

The PathFinder is designed to help individuals develop their career path as grant professionals. The PathFinder library provides profiles of top quality resources that can strengthen an individuals ability to secure and manage grant awards. Each posting is vetted by our staff, so you are getting the 'cream of the crop'.

To get started, you can browse the library, search the resources, or use the Find Your Path tool to develop your own learning plan. You can get a full tour of how this site works by watching this short, introduction video posted on the home page.

Whether you consider yourself to be a novice, somewhat experienced or a professional, I believe you will find the resources to be of high quality and useful.

We've organized the resources into three categories: timely events, quick study, and deep dive. Timely events include live webinars, workshops and trainings, as well as conferences. Quick study items include articles, reports, blogs, and other items that take a little time to absorb. And, the deep dive resources all focus on interactive tools, books, certificate and master programs.

This site, like many sites nowadays, allows you to rate the resources, so once you’ve read a book or a report, taken a webinar or attended a training, please come back and rate the resource so others can learn from your experience!


Cynthia Adams has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofit organizations raise the money needed to do their good work. Many of her early efforts centered on raising funds to set aside wilderness areas in Alaska. In 1990 she started her first company, the Alaska Funding Exchange. This endeavor served as the testing ground for a national company, GrantStation, which opened its Internet doors in the fall of 2001. Cindy built this business because she believes that grantseeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grantmakers and sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life's work has been to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world. Cindy enjoys hiking, gardening, and "movie night" with friends. Her husband, John Luther Adams is a composer, so she also listens to a lot of 21st Century music

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 22, 2015, 06:32 PM

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):







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

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