What Type of Grants Management System Is Right for Your Organization?

So you’re in the market for a new grants management system. Or want to learn what options are out there.

Your first thought may be to consider system features like payment scheduling, permission levels for individuals with different areas of responsibility, the number and design of forms, and the user friendliness of online applications. Of course! These are important elements in narrowing your choices and, ultimately, in successfully managing the administration of grants in your organization.

The recently-released 2016 edition of A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems (download) is a valuable resource to consult when you’re thinking about implementing, updating, or replacing your grants management technology. The guide will help you and your organization explore in-depth the features of 29 grants management systems—what to consider and how the features stack up in each of the evaluated technologies. But what else should you be taking into account?

One system evaluation criterion you do not want to overlook is the type of system that will meet your needs. The Consumers Guide, which focuses mainly on the needs of private foundations, describes five types of systems. Let’s take a look.

Online Hosted Systems
Cloud technology, also called software-as-a-service (SaaS), is a common way to host many types of software, and is now how most grants management systems are handled. The vendor hosts the software and data, and provides access for clients. Updates and backups are the responsibility of the vendor, as is security.

Online + More
Your grants management system hosted in the cloud, plus the vendor also integrates services such as payment processing, tax prep, and mailings.

Installed Systems
This is the more traditional option, which not many systems still employ, where software is installed on your network and staff computers. There’s a bigger up-front cost than with other options (but it’s cheaper over time), and your organization is responsible for updates, security, requisite hardware, and data backups.

Custom-built Systems
If your organization determines that a packaged system does not meet its needs, or only some of them, a custom solution is an option. This path is costly and time consuming, and growing less common as software packages expand their offerings. Some of the systems included in the report can be built upon and configured to address your organization’s special needs.

Specialized Community Foundation Systems
Although the Consumers Guide mainly covers the technology needs of private foundations, the report covers two community foundation-focused grants management systems because they meet the researchers’ eligibility criteria for inclusion. Learn more about technology for community foundations in the Consumers Guide to Integrated Software for Community Foundations (2012).

There you have it. Is your organization considering moving to the cloud? Let us know in the comments!

Carolyn Sosnowski

Carolyn J. Sosnowski, MLIS, is e-learning and content manager for PEAK Grantmaking. Follow her on Twitter @TheRealCarolynS.