When foundations are choosing a grant management platform, the user dashboard should be one of its most important considerations. While some staff members may more technical, others will feel lost in a platform that isn’t designed with their needs in mind. Grant management platforms can manage everything from advertising RFPs and new programs, to proposal/application submissions, to the review and awarding processes, and all the way through to the final reporting process. This means the software needs to accommodate many individual user types and offer a friendly interface that users are able to easily understand and immediately begin working with to improve their processes.
Why grant management?
Grant management platforms are becoming increasingly necessary for a number of reasons. First of all, they make it easier to not only accept proposals, but also review and award them. Once funds are delivered, grantmakers enter a whole new part of the cycle. Now they need to perform post-award evaluations in order to review financial data and report on where their funding is going. In the past, all of these functionalities may have been located in different spreadsheets or systems. Now, however, you can use one grant management system to automate, complete and track every step of this process to ensure proper completion.
Streamlining workflow from application review to reporting is just one task digital tools can accomplish. Another exciting thing about grant management software is the business intelligence and complex reporting tools that come with it. Foundations are getting increasingly excited about this dashboard feature, which takes data from the system and delivers it to multiple interested parties using visuals that make it easy to tell where your funding is going.
According to Blue Avocado, foundation accountability is one use for these systems. With metrics, grantmakers can more effectively communicate what’s going on internally and determine what operational elements need work. Visualizing data helps people cut to the chase. Instead of scouring spreadsheets, stakeholders can ascertain what they need almost immediately and start having conversations about potential improvements.
Different user interfaces
The multitude of different functions available in grant management software bring up another issue; when so many different types of users are interacting within a system, how can it be set up so that it works well for everyone? For example, applicants, review and volunteer committees, board members, donor advisors, award managers, staff reviewers, reports viewers and more need to be able to log in to a system and reach different parts of it with relative ease and without the foundation staff having to perform hours of training and support work.
Grant management platforms like CommunityForce have different user capabilities already built in to make it easier for different people to access the materials they need. This means when a member of the review board logs in to the platform, his or her view will look different than that of a member of the board of directors or an applicant. Each user is able to efficiently login, understand exactly what needs to be done quickly and perform their respective duties without needing any technical background whatsoever. As these platforms grow more sophisticated, the interfaces become more intuitive to meet the needs of the people using them.
According to nonprofit data management expert Beth Kantor in a column for Markets for Good, digital tools for the nonprofit sphere should be designed with the human element in mind. While numbers are important for measuring progress, they need to accommodate the individuals who will really be looking at the data and using it to make decisions. The best grant management platforms represent a marriage of great design and superior understanding of what grantmakers face during the grant cycle.