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How to Optimize Your Grants Lifecycle for a Better ROI

Apr 20, 2017 - LJ Villafuerte, Client Solutions

Grants are a spark for the nonprofit fire and often an investment for the organizations who offer them. Without the opportunities presented by grants, many communities or issues would be overlooked and underfinanced. Usually, the easy part of the grant is deciding who or what you would like the reward to help. The hard part is choosing the right nonprofit and ensuring all the work is making lasting change.

Establishing an efficient grants lifecycle is the first step in optimizing grantmaking efforts. The more efficient the process is, the more chances you have to make an impact on those who align with your passions and goals. What does it take to optimize your grants lifecycle?

Pre-award

Establish a Pre-Qualification Method Depending on the notoriety of your foundation, there’s a good chance you receive an overwhelming amount of responses. Even if your foundation is still in beginning stages, a few unfit applications can be a time investment with little reward for you or the grantseekers. By creating a pre-qualification process, you provide grantseekers with the chance to self-select out of applying, eliminating unfit applications for your team to review while saving the time and efforts of nonprofits who rarely have enough as it is.

Potential Methods: At CyberGrants, we vet grantseekers through questionnaires, which are built with what entities the foundation hopes to help in mind. If the nonprofit is a match, then we move on to the application. Foundations can also try presenting the grant application to carefully selected nonprofits. If you don’t have a software to help send and track those, consider sending through email as preliminary measure to receiving access to the application.

Automate the Application and Communication Grant applications are important communication tools. In fact, it is the communication tool between grantseeker and grantmaker. Once a grantseeker passes the pre-qualification stage and completes the application, your foundation should respond, explaining that you have received the entry and what the next steps are. Among all the applications is the next nonprofit partner you will help and ignoring their time and efforts, even early on can be detrimental to accomplishing success.

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Potential Techniques: We approach communication with a mix of automation and availability. For instance, our system provides grantseekers 24/7 access to the status of their grant so they can track where they are in the process. Meanwhile, if the grantseeker skipped a step or is missing information, the system will step in to remind them. Any questions they might have can be answered by the dedicated support team. At no point is the grantseeker left in the dark.

Foundations who don’t have a grants management software should establish their award schedule early on. When an application is received, your foundation should have a response template that explains deadlines and dates as well as any information required of the grantseeker. Be sure to explain where questions can be directed and by what date the grantseeker can expect a response.

Post-award

Measure the Impact with Data After your foundation finds the right organization/s to provide funding, do not stop there. Collect data that pertains to how the funding is used and what results it provides. Did your grant help provide 3 meals a day to 228 families for 4 months? Was your scholarship responsible for providing 13 girls the opportunity to graduate in STEM-related fields? Hard numbers resonate and even help direct future efforts, giving your program the chance to improve and expand with each grant.

Potential Methods: A grants management system will provide analytics on how your grants are being used, even if your foundation rewards multiple nonprofits, all in one easily-read dashboard. Because our team at CyberGrants knows how unique each foundation is, we tailor the system to your goals and needs. Our experts take the time needed to identify the best way for your foundation to track progress and impact. If you don’t have the ability to gather analytics or data, be sure to at least collect anecdotes from the nonprofit and the community or people it helps.

Our high-touch grants management software makes it easy for foundations to maintain a record of impact. Our users can request reports be provided regularly or can access reports at any time through the dashboard. If you don’t use a grant management system, strategize the most impactful metrics or stories based on the goal of your grant. Place those potential data points or anecdotes in a form and ask your grantees to provide responses on a regular basis.

Report and Tell Your Story Optimizing your grants lifecycle takes more than building better processes, it means adding in a few steps for a better outcome. Taking the time to report the results and effects of your grant will provide a few amazing things. First, it gives you a chance to reflect and improve. Second, it gives your foundation and its contributors the opportunity to see the positive influences of their work.

Most importantly, a report can tell the public your foundation’s story. Audiences want to see how organizations are helping the community or answering issues. To the point that 91% of global citizens expect companies to make a profit, but act responsibly and address issues. In fact, 86% of people in the same study said it was important organization communicate the results of their efforts.

Potential Approaches: If you’ve been keeping a record of impact, telling your foundation’s story will be easy. Use the data and personal stories to facilitate the creation of an infographic, one-pager or downloadable report. Consider sharing your efforts on a blog or social media accounts or even creating a press release.

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Optimizing your grants lifecycle requires your foundation to take a step back and see your process at full-scale. Each step should be propelling the efforts of the next with the end goal centered around the issue or community you’re hoping to address. A grants management system can help automate administrative tasks so that your team can focus on just that. Remember, your foundation is an investment, so optimizing its potential should always be priority.

Ready to see what a grants management software can do for you? Speak with one of our experts today!

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