July 12, 2022

6 Common Grant Management Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

Launching a grant program is one of the best ways for organizations to make an impact in their communities. But there are common grant management pitfalls to avoid when you’re starting from scratch.

If you can stay away from these six grant management challenges, your program will be able to reach its full potential and maximize its impact.

1. Inadequate Reporting

Grantmaking organizations need to analyze their programs over time and report to stakeholders, e.g., donors, the board, the community at large. To do this effectively, consider your reporting needs as you develop your program. You can’t report on different factors at the end of your grant cycle unless you gather the data needed to track them up front.

To get started, determine what you will need to assess at the end of each grant cycle. This may be information that helps your team to make improvements or for your contributors or board to understand the impact of the program or for you to celebrate milestones and progress with your community – or all of this! For example, you may want to report on the reach of your program or the demographics of those served by it. You may also want to compare anticipated outcomes submitted during the application process to actual outcomes after a grant is made.

As you draft your application, include the questions that help you gather the relevant information to capture baseline data. Then include questions in the post-award reporting requirements to gather from grant recipients the pertinent details regarding the use and impact of the grant dollars. 

The combination of the baseline data and the results data will enable you to deliver robust reporting to demonstrate the value of your program and also to uncover areas for improvements or ways to support the community further.

2. Subjective Reviews

Reviews should be as objective and bias-free as possible. Once upon a time, it was common for one or two people to review applications and make grant-related decisions on their own. This type of process was prone to bias, of course. But there are now grantmaking technologies that can power a better, more objective process.

The best way to conduct grant reviews is to use a portal where you can assign applications to be scored against a rubric. Everything is conducted online, so it’s easy to get more reviewers involved in the process. When you put together a large, diverse group of reviewers and ask them to score against a rubric, your outcomes are going to be less biased and more objective than when using a small group of people.

Almost all of WizeHive’s ZengineTM users are taking the modern approach of having larger committees access and score applications through a portal using a rubric.

3. Manual Workflows

Just as it was once common to have one or two people review applications on their own, it was also common to accept paper applications and use manual workflows for grant management. Even today, some grantmaking organizations are still cobbling together spreadsheets, creating review packages, and sending status-update emails one-by-one. Manual workflows are among the most prominent grant management problems for several reasons: they are time-consuming, resource-intensive, and prone to error.

When your organization uses a grant management platform, it can automate workflows to create efficiencies and reduce human error. Your organization is able to focus more on doing good in the community and less on administrative tasks when it replaces spreadsheets and manual efforts with a grants management system.

4. A Lack of Compliance

Organizations that are new to grantmaking sometimes wait to think about compliance until it’s too late. Before you launch a grant program, plan for all of the compliance-related issues you may encounter.

Here are some examples:

  • If you can only make grants to 501c3s, ensure this is clear in your application instructions and verify applicants are registered as valid, up-to-date 501c3s before including them in your reviewers’ queues. (You can accomplish this by using a tool like GuideStar Charity Check.) 
  • If your organization must adhere to specific data and security protocols, investigate how a reliable platform can help you meet the requirements. Also, consider using SaaS providers that have taken the time and put in the work to achieve and maintain SOC 2 Type 2 compliance.
  • If your organization is subject to certain reporting requirements (as noted above), ask the questions and establish tracking that ensures you gather, and can report on, the necessary data.

All organizations are unique, and each is subject to a different set of compliance requirements. Consider your specific requirements before you get started so that you can be sure you can satisfy them.

5. Ignoring Eligibility

Ask eligibility-related questions at the start of your application process. If you don’t ask these questions up front, you risk applicants spending time and energy on the process only to find that they aren’t eligible to receive the grant. An eligibility quiz can help your applicants self assess to save themselves time and false hope.

Checking eligibility from the start also helps your organization. By confirming eligibility up front, you won’t waste time reviewing ineligible applications or otherwise spending time on organizations that cannot receive the grant.

6. Overlooking Equity

There’s an ever-growing emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the corporate world. As businesses and other organizations search for ways to advance DEI, don’t overlook equity in your grant programs. Two areas to consider from the start are:

  • The application: A few things to keep in mind as you draft your application to ensure it is equitable is to keep language simple, ask for only essential information, and create an ADA-friendly experience.
  • The process: Designing an equitable application process includes allowing applicants to save their progress and return to the portal to finish, offering a qualifying quiz, providing application assistance, and more.

Follow our equity checklist for scholarships and grants to learn more about ways to establish an application and process that effectively incorporates DEI.

Increase Your Impact in the Community

When you run an efficient, effective grant program, you’re able to maximize your organization’s impact in the community. At WizeHive, we provide a grants management solution that helps you avoid the pitfalls listed above. You will spend more time focused on doing good in the community and less time on program administration when you choose the right technology partner.

To explore how WizeHive can best support your grant programs, schedule a demo.


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