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January 18, 2018

Productivity Tips for Small Grant Making Teams

Four ways lean teams can utilize tech and agile thinking to make the most of every hour.

From foundations to research departments, scholarship programs to associations, grant makers have unique needs; that’s because no matter how large their giving or impressive their impact, the majority operate like a start-up or small business with five or less staffers. They often also struggle with legacy processes and outdated software. How can small teams do more with less, let alone be efficient and grow their foundation? Here we break down some tips for grant makers with small teams. From innovative upgrades to simple business practices, these are changes that can make a big difference.

Streamline the review process

Staff members working in grants management are often pressed with managing grant reviewers outside of the organization, from board members to volunteers. And many times this process is manual, where staff compile application packages to send to reviewers and then follow up to make sure they were received. But technology can help streamline the review process of your grant applications. When you instead implement a grants management system, your platform can automatically screen submitted applications for any eligibility requirements AND automatically assign its review to the appropriate reviewers for consideration. Sounds simple, but an automatic review process can significantly reduce staff workload and save time. Reviewers have more time, too, since they are not waiting to receive application materials for consideration.

Inbox zero

The goal of “inbox 0” isn’t always attainable for any business, especially nonprofits, but grant management software can help you get closer to that smaller inbox number. Save your staff time by setting up a schedule of bulk emails tied to the grant management process. Create and schedule emails to send based on a specific event (like an upcoming grant deadline) or to notify about a change in status. Applicants receive timely and relevant updates as they move through your application process, and your staff simply needs to click.

Connect all the dots

Grant makers, like most small organizations, are notorious for using many different tools or technologies to manage their grant management process, or worse, keeping information in staff inboxes or staff members’ heads. Your grant applications are tied to your organization’s budget and goals, so your backend efforts should tie together, too. When you choose a grants management system with robust integration capabilities, you can merge data between your grant applications and your accounting and donor systems to save staff time on data entry and prevent errors. These connected systems will allow you to have confident conversations with donors as well as new potential contributors thanks to more robust reporting and data tracking.

Clarify staff roles, and know when to ask for help

When you consider that the largest expense for most organizations is staff -- salaries, benefits, and overhead -- it’s not too surprising that many keep their numbers low. However, with the right tools and technology mentioned above, and some basic management principles, a small staff can be an effective staff. Consider taking manual work off someone’s plate and assigning it to an automated grants management system, or hiring someone who can fill a unique “hybrid” roles, such as a staff member who works on marketing and spends time connecting directly with donors. And in today’s gig economy, don’t underestimate the power of contract resources or part-time roles to meet goals.

Topic(s): Grants Management

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