May 6, 2020

The Role of Technology in Responsive Grantmaking

In times of crisis, disaster, and emergency, nonprofits are some of the first to respond. But to work, these new initiatives need more than charitable leaders and philanthropic donations - they require modern tools that allow these much-needed programs to quickly get off the ground and positively impact those in distress. 

Grantmakers often focus their giving around deep-seeded missions and programs with clear, decisive impact goals. But in times of turmoil, change, and emergency, many organizations find themselves needing to pivot and reallocate funds and efforts. In those moments of critical urgency, it’s essential to have systems set up that create a pathway to aid. 

While much of this process is based on awareness and preparedness on the part of the grants staff, it also requires the right resources. Let's walk through why smart technology investments play a significant role and how they can help. 

Quick deployment of new applications

No one can accurately predict when an emergency will happen, but you can make sure you’re set up for a swift response when they do occur. In the case of COVID-19, many foundations have needed to quickly set up totally new applications based on totally new circumstances - and some programs were set up better than others. When it comes to natural disasters, there’s a very short time frame between the application and the actual need for aid. There’s truly no time to spare when it comes to setting up application technology in order to get your applicants what they need. Having the right resources in place means you will be able to respond quickly in order to provide both the means to apply for aid and the avenue to receive aid.

Ability to adjust your grantmaking process to one that better meets the needs of your new program

Even though you may have a process in place, being able to quickly adjust it to meet a new evolution of needs is invaluable. The current process you have may simply need to be extended  or expanded in terms of fund amount or eligibility, but you will still need to create an extension process. The right technology means this adjustment will be just a few clicks and tweaks instead of days of frustration in the backend of several pieces of patchworked systems. Having a streamlined custom-built process means it’s adjustable based on what you and your applicants need instead of attempting to squeeze your foundation’s needs into several cookie-cutter models that don’t quite fit.

Easy reviews for new and/or urgent reviewers

The most overlooked element in other grant technology resources is the actual staff that are essential to the process. There’s only so much that can be automated. At the end of the day, actual people need to look over application materials. But, the right technology can make their job exponentially easier - and faster! When there’s a greater need for aid in an emergency or disaster situation, it also means you will need either new reviewers to sign on or current reviewers to take on a larger workload. Either way - you need an efficient and easy program that allows reviewers to intuitively navigate through all the necessary pieces in order to come to a consistent and equitable outcome for each and every applicant.

Share real-time insights with board members and donors

When it comes to urgent aid, you need board members and donors to be on board throughout the process. That being said, what your board and donors want most is transparency and clear communication. The right tech tools allow you a system that will share real-time donor impact reports and insights with them. They will receive special login credentials that allow them to gain access to relevant information whenever they want it. With a few clicks, you can also send out updated reports and anticipated trends so that your board and donors are always up to date. 

Collect application information safely

A very real fear in times of disaster and crisis is data security. Anytime you’re asking for someone’s most private information like income statistics, address and social security numbers, you must be able to ensure that information remains secure. If you’re relying on several different systems to create an application process, it’s hard to make sure that the way they’re integrated maintains that security. When everything is in one place and encoded with the highest security measures, you can reassure your applicants that their data is safe.


While we all certainly hope for the best, we also always need to prepare for the worst. Emergencies, disasters and unexpected needs will always come up - that much we can count on. Since we don’t know when, where, or how long they’ll last, the best we can do is set forth clear grant management software requirements that make it easier for us to get help to those that need it most.


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