Grants Managers May be Key to Foundation Technology Use

In a new research report released with TAG (Technology Affinity Group), GMN found that foundation leaders—and foundations themselves—are not ready for newer technologies that are replacing familiar but outdated systems. This includes grants management systems, which 68 percent of foundations will have replaced between 2007 and 2015.

How is this possible? With grantmaking moving at the speed of technology, what happens when grantmaker leaders get left behind?

One theory is that grants managers themselves are leading the charge, using their extensive knowledge of both the foundation and the software to carry the load for leaders who aren’t tech savvy.

“Grants management professionals are the people using the technology on a daily basis,” according to Michelle Greanias, executive director of GMN. “Their comfort level is high and they clearly are bringing their expertise to bear in decisions surrounding software and systems changes.”

However, it is still difficult for these operations decision-makers to gain traction with upper levels of management: fewer than 20 percent of respondents describe the changes brought on by technology in their foundations as transformative with respect to leadership/vision, external communications, and internal management/operations.

Additional findings from the survey include more evidence that operations staff are leading the technology charge within their organizations:

  • The use of reporting dashboards by operations staff increased from 16 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2014, while the use of dashboards by programmatic staff slightly decreased in that same period (down to 53 percent from 57 percent in 2012).
  • One-on-one teaching delivered at the desk-side is the most common means cited for delivering technology training to staff, with 65 percent of respondents indicating this as their current approach.  It is likely that most of this training is led by end users, such as grants managers.

A total of 211 organizations completed the survey, down from 278 in 2012.  The full report of findings is available on the GMN website at


Nikki Powell

Nikki Powell is PEAK Grantmaking's effective practices director. You can find her on Twitter @nikkiwpowell.

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