March 26, 2020

Defining Your Requirements: Tips for Clearly Stating Your Needs in a Grants Management System

Finding grants management software that works for your unique organization can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to find a flexible platform that can be set up to address your organization’s requirements. But what are those requirements, and how do you define them?


Choosing grants management software can have a huge impact on your organization. After all, many of you will use this system every day. And for many of your donors, applicants, and shareholders, your software interface will be their first impression of your organization.  

Often, the decision to try a new grants management software is spurred by one or two major pain points. But there may be a range of cons — and pros — experienced by the full breadth of users who interact with your system. Because of this, we recommend creating a list of requirements to help ensure that your choice of software has the greatest benefit on your organization. 

Having a requirements list will let you zero in on the needs of your stakeholders — both internal and external — and help you choose a software that truly reflects your organization’s current needs and future goals. It will also come in handy when you start shopping for your new system. Here’s how to do it. 

Step One: Pick a Point Person

Although creating your list will require input from the inside and outside your organization, we recommend appointing a single point person to collect and organize responses. Choose someone who can make the time for this important fact-finding mission and who also has boots on the ground (meaning that they are familiar with your current grants management process and any software in use).

Your point person will have three core responsibilities:

  1. Identify people whose input you’d like to solicit. 
  2. Gather and organize input.
  3. Compile input into your requirements list.

Step Two: Survey Your Users

Grants management software is used by a range of people within your organization for a variety of purposes — from the administrative team that will be within the system daily to executives or board members who want to see quick reports. Each type of user represents a vital point of view that you’ll want to capture on your requirements list. 

The best way to learn the value of a piece of software is to talk to its users: Figure out their basic needs and their day-to-day experience of the current system. What are their pain points? Alternately, what is already working for them? 

Sometimes you can cover more ground at once by creating a survey. Allowing users to submit responses anonymously might yield answers that are more candid. Here are some sample questions to ask on this survey:

  • On a scale of 1-5, how do you rate our current grants management software (if you use one)?
  • Are there any tasks that you cannot currently complete or need multiple systems to complete?
  • Which features of the current system could be improved. How?
  • Which features of the current system do you enjoy? Why?
  • Describe your ideal grants management software and/or process. 

Step 3: Talk to Your Partners

Now it’s time to talk to the people outside your organization who interact with your system, from winning applicants and gift recipients to review team members and donors. How can a new software make their experience better? Is there any data or impact reporting that they would like to see that a different grant management software can create and disperse more efficiently? Is the application system easy to use, or do applicants run into any technical difficulties?

These check-ins can be conducted with a phone call, email, or casual lunch or coffee meeting. These partners will be glad that you asked, and the valuable information that you gain from these meetings can help you attract more people like them. 

Step 4: Check in With Your Goals...and Your IT Staff! 

During this assessment, it’s worth your time to recall your organization’s values, mission, and goals. Think about how a software can help you reach those aims: Does it have the ability to scale up and add features and capabilities as your organization grows? If you are a leader at your organization, take a few minutes to make a pie-in-the-sky requirements list of your own that reflects your vision of the future of your organization. 

Then, get grounded in the practical by having a conversation with your information technology (IT) staff. Ask them if they foresee any integration challenges when upgrading your software. And be sure to understand the technical requirements of such an upgrade: Can your existing IT infrastructure and equipment handle a new system, or will you have to invest in new hardware or extend your capacity?

If you work at a large organization, this is also the time to consider any other departments that will need to sign off on the purchase of a new grants management system and the requirements they may have. Will there be security requirements to be reviews? What will your procurement or legal team need to know in order to push through the contract approval? 

Step 5: Make the Call

Once you feel that your requirements list is complete and representative of a range of user experiences, it’s time to reach out to software vendors. These touchpoints should include organization leadership, your requirements point person, and a member of your IT team. 

There are a variety of grants management software systems available to nonprofits, and each has unique features and specifications. Finding the right fit can be challenging, but with your requirements list in hand, these conversations will be much easier. 

 

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