October 15, 2020

Top Grants Management Software Features for Grantmaking Success

As you compare grant management platforms, you’ll discover a long list of dazzling features across different vendors. But which ones should be at the top of your wish list? Read on to learn the top grant management software features that lead to a successful grant program.

To understand and prioritize what features your organization may need, let’s step back and view the software from the perspective of its three primary users - the applicant, the reviewer, and the administrator. Each feature should offer a clear benefit to the user, while also strengthening the grant program as a whole.

The Grant Applicant - Top Features

Applicants want a single, accessible location to manage their application, the ability to submit a compelling response, compelling grant application questions, and a way to check the status at any time. Here are the top grant management software features that make that happen:

Applicant Account - It’s critical that the software allows the applicant to create an account, so they can save their work, get updates on their application, and communicate with your team.

Single Sign-On Capability - Look for a platform that allows applicants to use one set of login credentials for multiple programs. For example, this is helpful if your organization has several online grant applications.

Eligibility Quizzes - Make it easy for applicants to confirm their eligibility for the grant - before they go to the trouble of applying. This option will save both applicants and staff time.

Conditional Logic - With the ability to change or hide questions based on previous answers, the application is shorter and less confusing for applicants. 

Multimedia Uploads - When applicants can easily add video, image, and audio files to their application, it gives them (and your reviewers) another way to connect and communicate on a deeper level. 

Request Letters of Intent or Referrals  - This feature allows users to email their contact, add in a personal note, and send off the request. The recipients receive an email with a custom URL to upload their letter. Once uploaded, it’s automatically attached to the application, visible to both administrators and reviewers. How easy is that?

Auto Confirmations - Look for the option to send automated texts or emails as soon as the applicant has successfully submitted their application. 

Communications Tools - This is a must. Not just during the application process, but for grant recipients too. They can view and accept the grant, request disbursements, send progress reports, and complete follow-up surveys. From one location - from beginning to end.

Each of the above features clearly makes life easier for the applicant. And when you remove unnecessary obstacles, you get more qualified applicants. As a bonus, your staff get fewer questions and the review process is easier. 

The Grant Reviewer - Top Features

Grant reviewers want a simple way to manage their assigned proposals, an easy-to-understand scoring system, and the ability to reach other reviewers (or the administrator) with questions. The following features deliver that experience.

Personal Portal - This capability is non-negotiable. Imagine the relief when a grant reviewer logs into their portal and sees their assigned applications (and everything that goes with them) in one place. No emails, no attachments, no headaches.

Side-by-Side Viewing - Unless your reviewers have a two-monitor set-up, they’ll have to print out the applications or switch back and forth between the application and the scorecard. Look for a platform that allows reviewers to see them side-by-side. 

Scorecard Flexibility - It’s often difficult to assign numeric values to subjective information. With advanced scoring algorithms, reviewers can answer subjective questions, and calculated fields tally an objective score.

Ease of Communication - With the ability to comment directly in the application, reviewers can easily communicate with the applicant, other reviewers, and/or the administrative team.

Taken together, these features streamline the experience for grant reviewers. But they also improve the quality of their review, which results in better selections and long-term partnerships with grantees.

The Grant Program Staff - Top Features

Many of the features discussed above provide an indirect benefit by saving the grantmaking staff time and reducing time spent managing questions from applicants and reviewers. And that’s huge! But what else are staff seeking from grant management software?

Staff wants easy access to all the details, the ability to create reports with a few clicks, and a centralized way to communicate with applicants, reviewers, and other stakeholders. But most importantly, they want to keep an eye on key performance indicators and stay on top of trends. These features will give them everything they need.

Easy-to-Read Data Views - Choose software that not only collects data from applications and portals but presents it in a way that’s easy to sort and filter. Look for a system that has a clear, intuitive interface for key program information - and makes it simple to convert into a report.

Customizable Dashboards - Administrators need a way to get a bird’s eye view of the program. Rather than exporting data and creating Excel charts, make sure you have the ability to build these inside the platform, where they’re always real-time.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - This should be embedded in the system, so you can keep all your contacts easily accessible. Send automated status updates, offer or rejection letters, and surveys - with everything recorded in one place.

Integrations - Grantmakers need to stay nimble and adapt to changes. An Open API makes it possible to integrate with popular apps and extend the capabilities of the grant management system.

These administrative features give grantmaking staff the ability to focus on the quality of the program. They can deliver more personalized attention to applicants and reviewers, evaluate how grantees are doing, and chart a path forward based on the insights gleaned from their data.


As you can see, these features all work together. When your grants management software addresses each user’s needs individually, it strengthens the entire organization. 

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