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Optimizing your grants management lifecycle for better ROI

October 10, 2021
A female employeeworks online in Bonterra Corporate Social Responsibility's Grants Management module, which can help you optimize your grants management lifecycle.

Establishing an efficient grants management lifecycle is the first step in optimizing grantmaking efforts. This lifecycle is a linear process that usually has three stages: pre-award, award, and post-award. In each of these stages, grantmakers have different responsibilities. During the pre-award phase, grantmakers will announce their grant opportunity and review applications. In the award phase, applicants are notified of whether they have received the grant or not. And in the post-award phase, grantmakers oversee grant compliance and collect data.

The more efficient the process is, the more opportunities you have to make an impact on nonprofits that align with your passions and goals. Let’s go over what optimizing your grants management lifecycle looks like in the pre-award and post-award stages.

How to optimize the pre-award stage in your grants management lifecycle

In the pre-award stage, grantmakers determine who their nonprofit beneficiary will be. This can be very difficult, as there are countless organizations deserving of grants, and your grantmaking organization has limited funds to distribute. There are two strategies you can use in the pre-award stage of your grants management cycle: establishing a pre-qualification method and automating the application and communication.

1. Establish a pre-qualification method.

Depending on your organization’s reputation, there’s a good chance you will receive an overwhelming amount of applications. Some applications will be unfit for your grant, perhaps because the nonprofit belongs to a different industry than the one you’re trying to help.

Creating a pre-qualification process will provide grantseekers the chance to self-select out of applying, which helps save time for both your staff and the nonprofits. Nonprofit organizations will be able to easily identify whether they would be a good fit for your grant, and if they aren’t, they can save time by applying to other grants that they are more likely to receive. Your organization’s team will save time by having fewer applications to review.

2. Automate the application and communication.

Grant applications are the main communication tool between grantmakers and grantseekers. By automating your grant application, you will save the nonprofit time, as they will be able to conveniently fill out any forms you require and submit them with little hassle.

After the grantseeker passes pre-qualification and completes their application, your organization should respond, explaining that you have received the entry and what the next steps are. When an application is received, your organization 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.

Responding to applications is crucial to building a strong relationship with grantseekers, as among them is the next nonprofit you will partner with. Automating the communications that come after an application is completed will save your staff time and ensure that all grantseekers are acknowledged.

How to optimize the post-award stage in your grants management lifecycle

The post-award stage comes after a grantmaker has bestowed their grant upon a nonprofit. During this stage, you’ll want to stay in contact with these nonprofits and ask them to update you on their progress. You can optimize this stage in your grants management lifecycle by measuring impact with data and by creating a report that tells your story.

1. Measure impact with data.

Collect data from the nonprofits you’ve provided funding to that pertains to how the funding is used and what results it provides. Ask to see concrete results that the nonprofit has generated with your funding. For example, did your grant help provide three meals a day to 228 families for four months? Was your scholarship responsible for providing 13 girls the opportunity to graduate in STEM-related fields?

Asking for tangible results allows you to evaluate the impact your funds are making for the nonprofit and for the communities they serve. It will also give you a better picture of the situation and may even help direct future efforts, giving your program the chance to improve and expand with each grant.

2. Create a report that tells your story.

Optimizing the grants management 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 allows your grantmaking organization and its contributors to see the positive influences of their work.

Most importantly, a report can tell the public your organization’s story. Audiences want to see how organizations are helping the community or answering issues—employees even expect companies to engage in corporate social responsibility. Many people consider it crucial for a grantmaking organization to communicate the results of their efforts.

How Bonterra can support the grants lifecycle

Bonterra Corporate Social Responsibility’s Grants Management software can help you implement these strategies to optimize your grants management lifecycle by:

  • Establishing a pre-qualification method. Bonterra Grants Management vets grantseekers through questionnaires built with the entities organizations hope to help in mind. Grantmaking organizations can also present the grant application to carefully selected nonprofits.
  • Automating the application and communication. The software solution 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. If the nonprofit has questions, a dedicated support team will help give them the answers they need.
  • Measuring impact with data. Through analytics and insights provided within Bonterra Grants Management, your organization will be able to easily track how your grants are being used, even if you are partnered with multiple nonprofits.
  • Creating a report that tells your story. Grantmaking organizations can easily maintain a record of impact and request reports be provided regularly. You can access reports at any time through an easy-to-read dashboard and use your data to tell a story by compiling it into infographics or downloadable reports. You can share these on your blog, social media accounts, or in a press release.

All organizations are unique, which is why every Bonterra Grants Management system is tailored to your unique goals and needs. After identifying the best way for your grantmaking organization to track progress and impact, the software solution will be customized for your ease of use.

Prioritize optimizing the grants lifecycle

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

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    Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Nonprofits
  • Grant management & grant making