Use This Framework to Modernize Your Government Grant Program

“It’s like using MS-DOS.” This is how one grant manager in a state arts council described the experience of using their old grant management system to us. 

Since then, their team has switched to Submittable for one of their programs and are steadily working to modernize the rest of their department. But the truth is, many government grant managers we speak to aren’t even using MS-DOS level software–they’re using fillable PDFs and organizing it all in “millions of spreadsheets” as one program manager put it.

So, we’ve made a framework. And we’ve implemented it collaboratively across many different types of government grant and application-based programs. This framework is designed to accommodate the uniqueness and idiosyncrasies of each program and allow the team managing it to move at their own pace.

Here is Submittable’s “crawl, walk, run” framework for modernizing government grant programs and how you can get started.

An image showing the three steps to Submittable's framework: Digitize, Modernize, and Automate. Three chevrons with product screenshots in the background and labeled with the relavent step.

Step 1: Digitize everything you can

First, you need to move as much of your current grants management process into technology as possible. Most times, this means moving the entire grant program into Submittable and the tools it integrates with. 

When we help digitize programs, our implementation team typically takes the lead. We build out your first program with your team, showing them how to do it for themselves. Along the way, we’ll help your team establish best practices for efficient program management, user friendly applicant experience, simplified reporting, and rock-solid compliance and security.

This step is a big one and it’s why we call it the “crawl” stage. It’s OK if it takes a long time to get through it because programs need to move at their own pace to set a foundation of compliance and security in the digital age. When you get this foundation right, the other steps move much faster.

Step 2: Modernize workflows

After digitization comes optimization. Meticulously review existing processes and identify areas where you can introduce efficiencies. Among many other things, look at how you assign reviews, what scoring mechanisms you have in place, and where breakdowns in communication happen.

Organizations we work with typically benefit the most from automating review stages and improving integrations with existing in-use systems. A useful feature in Submittable is the ability to duplicate or clone your programs with a click of a button. This allows you to apply what you learn and optimize across multiple programs (like you might have to do with pass-through grants) so you can improve the next time your team runs the program.

This step is where efficiencies really start to pick up and you can start “walking.” Scaling is easier, but it can still be a hurdle at this stage for many programs and organizations. 

Step 3: Automate

The ultimate goal is to get organizations we work with to this automation phase. This stage is where you’re moving efficiently and scaling with confidence.

Each program and department is unique in size and complexity, so when you introduce automations, you need to take a considered approach. A couple of areas we like to start with are automatic applicant eligibility checks, payment disbursements, and subrecipient monitoring. These processes often have touch points you can pre-schedule and they’re typically bogged down with manual work.

Let’s zero-in on one of the largest burdens for grant managers: the time and energy it takes to manage subrecipients to ensure they follow program guidelines and achieve program goals. 

Submittable addresses this challenge by automatically generating and scheduling a multitude of tasks and reminders the moment you award an application. Whether you’re dealing with reimbursement requests, impact reports, risk assessments, or any other required documentation required from sub-recipients, Submittable sets up the entire workflow in a few seconds.

At this stage, programs are ready to “run.” If you’ve done the previous two steps, the foundational work is in place to ensure compliance and security, you’ve optimized your workflows, and now, you can automate those workflows. At this point, scale becomes simple and you can focus more on serving the needs of the humans on the other side of your grant program.

Crawl, walk, run: A tailored approach

Each program and department has a different level of readiness levels for digital transformation. Some may be using paper and pen-based processes while others are using a competing solution. 

We take every program we work with through the same three stages. The time spent on each stage can vary, but we want to ensure you’ve digitized what you can, optimized every workflow, then applied automations. Alex Burreson, Director of State Government Sales, explains:

About Submittable

Through our grant management software for governments, Submittable serves as a strategic ally for public government organizations seeking to transform their programs. By understanding and meeting organizations where they are in their digital journey, Submittable creates a framework for digitization, modernization, and automation unique to them. As the demands on government grant programs continue to grow, Submittable is a partner committed to empowering public entities with the tools they need to achieve their goals effectively and confidently. 


Stacey Sveum

Stacey Sveum is a senior product marketer at Submittable who ensures products and features brough to market exceed the needs of grantmakers in the public sector. She meticulously reads and evaluates Grant Management Software RFPs (so many RFPs) to understand customer requirements and stay on top of industry trends.