Grants Administration: A Comprehensive Guide to Driving More Impact


If you want to move the needle, you’ve got to move the money.

Grantmakers care deeply about the programs they fund. From healthcare and education to arts and culture organizations, grantmakers play a key role in driving social impact. While conventional wisdom often suggests that just “pushing more money out the door” is the key to increasing impact, grantmakers can achieve a great deal by streamlining grants administration.

The right technology is one part of the answer.

By blending digital analytic technology and process improvements, grantmakers can build more transparency and greater accountability into the grants management function. By more efficiently delivering dollars to grantees and enhancing the grant reporting process, improved grants administration secures efficiency gains over time, which can lead to greater impact.

The Grants Administration Process Step-by-Step (And How To Improve It)

Gone are the days of foundations keeping quiet about the results of their grantmaking.

Collaboration and transparency are the names of the grantmaking game today.

Armed with the right technology, foundations can now dig into data, analyze it, and put it to use on the issues they’re tackling through their grantmaking. When the insights from this data are shared with the world, social progress can be exponential.

In order to achieve these lofty goals, grantmakers need more than just a simple CRM to power their grants administration. The right grants management software can drive deeper impact while getting grantmakers more connected to their grantees and the work they’re doing in communities.

Let’s walk through each step in the grants administration process and discuss how key improvements at each juncture can make a real difference for grantmakers and grantees.

Use Pre-Qualification To Build A Strong Applicant Pool

Once you’ve developed a funding program aligned with your mission as a grantmaker, it’s time to get the word out to grant seekers. When you advertise the funding opportunity to relevant communities and invite proposals, consider how you’ll leverage grants management technology to helpfully narrow the applicant pool.

If you’ve got make-or-break pre-qualification questions, establish that as the first step in the process to weed out ineligible organizations. This way, you’re not wading through applications that you’re not able to support in the long run.

Develop A Better Grant Application for Grantseekers (And Your Team)

You’re likely swimming in grant applications. (Or, applications are trickling in too slowly.)

On the other side, grant seekers are spending mountains of time to apply for just one grant.

Whatever the particular challenge, improving the application can help fix multiple problems.

While a thoughtful pre-qualification process can ease that burden, you’ll also want to design a streamlined application for funding. Your application should auto-populate the information you already know about candidates from the pre-qualification process and focus on the most important questions that will drive your funding decisions.

Develop A Better Grant Application for Grantseekers

You should even set approval parameters to ensure that wrong applications don’t make their way to your team’s hands—saving them vital time and effort.

Build A Transparent And Timely Review Process

When an application reaches your team, that’s a good time to notify the grant seeker.
As the grant application is being screened for compliance, keep them up-to-date. At every step along the way, make sure it’s clear to grant seekers what the next step will be for them.

Your automated system (it can be a chatbot or an FAQ page, just make sure it’s there) should provide grant seekers with answers to specific questions they’ll have along the way. Their current application status should always be readily available to them.

Streamline The Administrative Approval Process

While the length of time for approval will vary by grant type and the number of stakeholders needed to approve it, give those stakeholders a clear and user-friendly way to review submissions.

Once the grant is approved, applicants are notified as soon as possible so they can build their annual budgets and get the work rolling.

You should also consider developing an award schedule that lets grant seekers know how the award will be disbursed while also informing them of upcoming deadlines as required for grant reporting. Giving this information upfront speeds up the approval process so both grantmakers and grant seekers can focus on achieving the impact the award is meant to facilitate.

Craft A Disbursement Process That Delivers Results

Once you’ve established a legal framework for funding, you should disburse the funds so the good work can begin (or continue, in many cases).

Communication with grantees is critical at this point in the process.

Even with financial and programmatic requirements clearly spelled out, the realities on the ground can and will shift over time for grantees. In some cases, they may request a different disbursement schedule than initially agreed-upon in order to ensure desired outcomes.

Setting up a clear submission process by which grantees can engage with their own unique disbursement process will make a world of difference for your team and for the organizations you support.

Measure Impact And Make Adjustments Along The Way

You’ve got to know what impact your money is making.

It’s not easy, but it’s increasingly important in the world of grantmaking.

Your grants management system should allow you to personalize your data by tailoring submissions to specific grantees in order to collect the precise data points you need. You’ll want to collect hard numbers that will spell out clearly the effect that your money has had on specific communities served.

On the backend, you’ll want an integrated grants management system that allows you to analyze all of that data in an organized way that enriches your relationships with grantees.

Access Grant Reporting That Gives You The Full Picture Of Your Impact

To understand the impact of your grants, you’ll need financial and programmatic performance reports from grantees.

This is how you’ll measure whether your grant requirements are being met. Assuming all requirements are met, the lifecycle of the grant typically comes to an end.

Your grants management software should make it easy for you to collect and synthesize the data to tell a larger story. You can help your grantees meet reporting deadlines with regular reminders and a streamlined reporting process using a modern grants administration system.

Why You Need A Modern Grants Administration Solution That Delivers

Why You Need A Modern Grants Administration Solution That Delivers

A strong grants management platform—at the highest level—shares data among relevant stakeholders, helps to manage risk, modernizes performance management, and broadly organizes grantmakers and grantees for success over time.

Keeping in mind that grantees are facing near-constant funding uncertainty, excessive time spent on grant compliance, wide variation in staff skills and education, and challenges coordinating with multiple stakeholders—a good grants administration process eases those burdens.

This is where the right grants management software comes in. Choosing the perfect tool is a big deal when you’ve got many dollars and lots of potential impact on the line. An ideal grants management solution will upgrade your existing workflow in a few key ways:

  • Deliver a custom review process that allows you to introduce unique review questions with text-based and numerical fields.
  • Allow for role-based permissions so you can provide varying levels of access to different team members.
  • Automate workflows so that repetitive tasks like moving applications between review stages and making team assignments are handled and your team saves time.
  • Create and disseminate response templates to accept, decline, or request more information from applicants.
  • Label submissions automatically as they come in to help with filtering and search according to specific criteria.
  • Streamline reporting to make it easy for your team to create, save, and download relevant reports with customized content about your applications.

You’ve worked hard to develop a smart grants management system over time. The best grants management tool will help you maintain that same chain of command, specific requirements, workflow, and communication—all while making it easier and more efficient.

The Future Of Grants Management

You’ve got one big job in front of you.

You’re streamlining your grants management process (using the steps outlined above).

As a modern grantmaker, you should be able to collect, review, and track grant applications through one easy-to-use platform.

Your ideal grants administration system is simple for applicants, efficient for administrators, and easy for reviewers. With Submittable, you’ve got the power to create a clear, modern application process that automates the small stuff while simplifying each step along the way.

You focus on the bigger things (like your mission) while your grants management technology handles the rest.

Meet the Future of Grants Administration

Application management software helps grantmakers make the most impact. By finding the right solution, you can improve your workflow, identify the best applicants, and do even more good.

Find the right solution for you with our Ultimate Guide for Grants Management Software.

Paul Perry
Paul Perry

Paul Perry is a writer and former educator with significant experience in nonprofit management. He has a soft spot for grant-seekers striving to make the world a better, more just place.