Drive Your Mission Forward: 5 Best Strategies For Modern Grant Makers

01/29/2020

Making positive changes in a hyper-connected world isn’t easy.

You wouldn’t run a brand new car with an old, rusted engine that’s falling apart. You shouldn’t run a modern grant on an outdated system, either.

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all game plan for grantmakers but there are a good few solid steps you can take to strengthen the work you do.

First thing’s first. Grant management is the lifeline of a smooth workflow process. From eliminating time-draining tasks to asking for feedback, there are a host of ways you can sharpen your saw to deliver the best results.

If you want to take your grantmaking process to the next level, it’s time to consider how you can revamp your practices to get things moving smoothly. Here are five of the best strategies you can start implementing today to nail down your organization’s mission.

1. Put your grant-related data to work

Many modern grantmakers are looking into data to make sense of it all. According to the president of the Foundation Center, grantmaking data breaks down into three categories: transactional, contextual and impact. Let’s dive straight in.

Put your grant-related data to work

But why is it important for you, the modern grantmaker?

Because it can give you the information you need to ask the right questions about your grant process. Data that’s been collected from grants over previous years can help you to dig in and evaluate the successes, hindrances and possible places for improvement.

When you keep data over time, comparing multiple grants are straightforward and can help you better align future funds.

Keeping a close eye on data hasn’t always been such a focus in the grantmaking world. You might not even be the most data-savvy grantmaker in the world but that shouldn’t make things any less doable. Now’s the time to start reaching outside of your grantmaking team to make better sense of your data, like how it affects the decision-making and impact of your grant.

2. Restructure any rigid processes

Nobody likes repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

They’re boring and cumbersome. If you’ve been using rusty processes that you know could do with a revamp, get on it as soon as possible.

Process automation is what’s going to save you. It will free up your time by taking the small, repetitive tasks off your plate so you can focus on the bigger, more important jobs. You can apply an automated system to more than a handful of processes that can be accessed by different people in your team.

Grantmaking is known for its paper trails and document piles—with a fully automated system, those things won’t bog you down anymore.

Re-jigging rusty processes means taking another look at your online presence and information. Do you receive lots of unsuitable applications for your grants? It might be time to go back to the drawing board and see if you could be clearer on your grant outline. Leave no room for confusion on what you’re willing to fund and what you’re not.

Do you get inundated with phone calls or emails about details on the application form? Take another look at it and see where you can simplify things.

Is there a central contact point for incoming queries? Do you have a pre-prepared set of common questions you can direct applicants too? It’s worth asking yourself these questions to smooth things out early on in the process so the review process can begin.

With process automation, you can better allocate your resources, streamline your entire internal workflow and save heaps of time.

3. Go digital and use smarter forms

Go digital and use smarter forms

There should be no surprise about it.

We live in a digital age and almost everything can be done online. 

No person of the 21st century wants to be slowed down by inefficient, clunky forms. You don’t want to risk potential grantees postponing their application, or ditching it altogether because of outdated forms that don’t navigate well.

Create clear and modern forms that get the job done. 

Any supporting documents you need from the applicant can be uploaded onto the same form, in a nice and tidy centralized location. No more collecting documents, doubling back and stapling bits and pieces together.

You can also add screening tests to your applications. Easily determine if an applicant is eligible for your grant before the lengthy process begins and save tons of time on both sides. From a grantee’s side, tools like this will set you apart from other grantmakers. It shows you value everyone’s time and that you’re up to date.

Let a submission tool do the little jobs for you while you focus on the bigger picture of pushing your cause forward.

Make communication a priority

4. Make communication a priority

Just as you would expect your grantee to follow up on a request, so should you be clear and upfront with your communication at all times.

Grantees typically spend weeks completing an application. They will have studied your grant in detail and made considerable effort to put together a solid proposal for you.

Don’t leave them hanging with a tumbleweed reply.

If you’re transparent throughout the entire application process, you set the groundwork for an open and human process between you and your potential grantees. Send an email out once an application has been completed and send another outlining the process throughout.

Great communication also means ensuring your applicants have access to the information they need.

It’s a waste of time for everyone involved if a grant seeker has to scour through pages and jump through hoops to find a basic bit of information. Make sure your grant is clearly outlined and broken down in an easy-to-digest format and covers all the relevant points. This also means encouraging staff to point grant seekers in the right direction to find the information they need.

With a strong online submission software, you can manage all the necessary communication from one place, using pre-prepared templates or fresh messages.

5. Get comfortable with feedback

Ask for it and give it.

Take the time to respond to applicants who almost made the cut by letting them know why their proposal was turned down. Was there a problem with the proposal itself or was there just a stronger case you felt propelled to choose? Perhaps they should apply again next time?

Just as you should offer some feedback to your applicants, ask for some in return.

A growing number of modern grantmakers are doing just that, by reaching out after the deadline or by simply encouraging online reviews. This is a great, human way to show you care and want to improve the grant seeker experience as well as your own offering.

You might find that applicants are having trouble getting in touch with a team member, or that they find the process too complicated. On the other hand, they might only have great things to say about your process. Either way, collecting real feedback is a great way to evaluate your workflow.

Bringing the 5 strategies together

Bringing the 5 strategies together

The key to implementing best practices and strategies to your organization is figuring out how it can work well for you. The philanthropic world is a human one and with that comes the need for real, tangible adjustments you can keep on making and tweaking to adjust to your mission.

In a philanthropic environment, transparency is often one of the most important things to consider in your process. Putting a grant proposal together (and taking it to the end stages) is a rigorous and lengthy process, and the grant world is ever-changing. A strong grant management software can help piece the puzzle together so you can focus your attention on the bigger things.

These five strategies will help you further the cause you’re passionate about by making the most of existing and new tools. In this digital age, you want to keep your workflow modern and fresh with solid communication, digital tools and online submission software. It’s how you can push your productivity forward and save yourself masses of admin time for your team so you can get to work on what really matters.

author photo of Sabreen Swan
Sabreen Swan

Sabreen Swan is a writer who works closely with B2B and SaaS companies. When she’s not jargon-busting, you’ll find her buried under an old book and drinking too much tea. You can read some of her work on her website.