Technology is such a critical tool in how grants are managed these days. When I entered the profession in 1992, proposals were photocopied for review and recommendations typed on typewriters. That was what we considered grants management technology. We live in a whole different world now.
The grants management systems reviewed in our 2016 update of A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems have an incredible influence on the grants management function and how grants get made, which is why GMN has continued to partner with Idealware and the Technology Affinity Group to periodically update this report.
Grants managers have been serving as data compilers and managers since the beginning of grantmaking. Whatever data has existed, be it big or small, has been managed, maintained, and manipulated by those in charge of grant operations. As grants management systems bring even more efficiencies to the grantmaking process through workflow automation and more ability to capture data, like outcome data, grants managers can continue to move beyond paper, process, and data management into a whole new level of value-added work which combines their technological, analytical, and communications skills. We see this reflected in emerging job titles like Knowledge Resources Manager, Data Analytics Manager, Chief Information Officer, Grants Information Analyst, and Information Strategist.
Continued improvement/enhancements in grants management systems don’t just benefit grantmakers. Systems that share grantee data among grantmakers or connect to third party data sources like the IRS master file or Guidestar save grantseekers an incredible amount of time by eliminating the need to enter the same information over and over for each individual grantmaker.
I urge everyone to take full advantage of the opportunity that a systems change provides to take a fresh look at your practices—don’t just look to replicate what you do now. Ask yourself: How can you use the system to reduce the response time to grantseekers? Make life easier for grantmaking staff? Improve the quality of the information your decision makers receive?
And this opportunity isn’t limited to the selection of the system, but needs to carry over into how it is implemented. There are a lot of decisions made on how to use the features and functions a system provides. For example, the number of questions you ask in the application and what limitations, like word count, you place on those questions. Online systems that work was the number one “practice that matters” identified by grantseekers in our most recent evaluation of our Project Streamline initiative. So we need to focus on implementing these systems in really smart ways that make the grant and grantee successful, rather than draining resources from them unnecessarily.