On a Cloud: New Grants Management Options for the 21st Century

3 Alternatives to Excel for Nonprofit Grant Writers

Laptop computers connected to the cloud.
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What is grants management, and why does your nonprofit need to do it well?

Grants management is the process of reporting your program and financial performance to your grant makers. Every funder has different requirements, but most private and corporate grant makers want to see your progress towards meeting the objectives you stipulated in your proposal as well as how you allocated the grant award to your program costs.

Sounds easy enough, right?

In reality, grants management is a challenge for many small and medium-sized nonprofits. How many of us have attempted to track grant-reporting requirements in Excel? It is not the most productive use of our time, especially when we have to juggle multiple grants simultaneously.

Add a government grant into the mix, and it gets even more complicated. It is always a challenge to track the programmatic components of our grants (the outputs and outcomes we realize through nonprofit programs) as well as the financial elements of grant allocations. But not having the right tools makes a challenging task even harder.

Rest assured the digital age can work in your favor.

You may already be using cloud-based applications such as GoogleDocs, storing your images in Flickr, and filing your information in Evernote. Cloud-based services become more functional by the day, and most are multitaskers.

Now there are also cloud-based grants management systems and options that are integrated within broader fundraising software solutions. These systems make it much easier to measure what you are doing, how you're doing it, and what progress you are making.

Why is that important?

  1. Grant makers want a sound return on their social investment.

    Funders want to see your metrics so they can evaluate the meaningful impact of your work. Without an outcomes measurement system of some kind, how will you be able to show the change your work is making in your community? Measurement is arduous at best, but newer software makes it much easier.

  1. Donors expect results.

    This is particularly true of younger, wealthier donors. For instance, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, reporting on a study from #NextGen Donors, has pointed out that, “Showing the measurable impact of our nonprofits is an important element of any fundraising effort, but … Gen Xer’s and Millennials are focused on the numbers.”

    All nonprofits must be able to collect and analyze their outcomes in order to show measurable impact.

  2. Your organization needs a broad, integrated information technology system.

    Software is expensive, so you can get the most bang for your buck by ensuring that your accounting and fundraising software talk to each other. This ensures that everyone is working on the same page and makes for better grant reports and more efficient fundraising.

So how do we get there?

There are more and more grants management platforms in the marketplace, but here are three cloud-based solutions that you might want to check out:

  1. PhilanTrack® for Nonprofits by Philantech

    Philantech has shown up at many grants and nonprofit conferences in the last few years. Its web-based solution, PhilanTrack® for Nonprofits, helps nonprofits keep track of grant writing copy as well as reporting requirements. Designed to eliminate repetition across grants, PhilanTrack® manages data related to funders, funding history, and grants activity history (previously submitted proposals).

    Philantech helps you prepare proposals from templates, and it sends email reminders when grant reports are due. The software also stores many of the standing attachments required for grant proposals, old proposals, and progress reports.

  1. The Raiser’s Edge® by Blackbaud

    Raiser’s Edge has been popular with nonprofits for more than 20 years. It is a broad solution for any development department because it tracks grants management needs, donor communications, and costs while helping fundraisers to manage relationships and fundraising processes.

    Raiser’s Edge can be integrated with Blackbaud’s many other IT solutions for nonprofits, including the Target Analytics Modeling Explorer (find the best fundraising prospects) and Target Analytics Cooperative Advantage (reach better direct mail targets to improve fundraising success). It is also integrated with QuickBooks, creating a seamless solution for grant financial reports.

  2. eCivis Grants Management Software

    eCivis provides a cloud-based grants management platform using three products: Grants Network, Grants Professional Services, and Nonprofit One-Stop. The software is built for both local governments and community nonprofits, so it is especially useful for government grant compliance (which goes far beyond the basic requirements outlined above, which are more frequently required by private and corporate foundations).

    The system provides proprietary prospecting information, search tools, prospecting information, milestone setting and benchmarking, auditing, and training.

    These are just the highlights of three of the more popular 21st-century grants management solutions.

    If an Excel spreadsheet works for your organization, use it! But if you need something more robust to ensure that you are stewarding your gifts appropriately and in a way that honors grant maker investments, consider a cloud-based solution.