In 2008, TSNE began the search for an online tool for accepting grant applications. The process led us to Foundant Technologies, whose Grant Lifecycle Manager (GLM) makes it easy to receive and evaluate online applications, record decisions and measure outcomes using a user friendly and affordable online grants management solution. Recently, Foundant featured TSNE in a case study about our transition to the online system.
“The most welcome surprise in implementing Foundant Grant Lifecycle Manager has been the unabashed adoption of the tool by our staff. We were hesitant to introduce yet another system to have to learn and manage, but we’ve heard only positive feedback from the staff.”
- Vast simplification of intake of numerous LOIs, proposals and evaluations
- Quick, in meeting access to online evaluations
- Significant staff time savings on copying, collating, etc.
- Support of paper reduction strategy
Third Sector New England (TSNE) provides management and leadership resources to help nonprofits support healthy, just communities. Founded in 1959 as the Massachusetts Health Research Institute, TSNE has expanded programs and services over the past half century to serve nonprofits throughout New England and New York (as a fiscal sponsor). With 39 full and part-time staff, these programs range from consulting and executive transitions to owning and operating the NonProfit Center.
The Need for Online Grant Management
During the process of aligning our two grant programs, we were looking for a tool that both programs could use that would simplify reporting, improve sharing and storing of information, and meet the less paper strategy of TSNE. Some of the activities we were hoping to simplify included:
- Intake of numerous LOIs and proposals (which includes recording each into an MS Excel spreadsheet)
- Copying each LOI and proposal a number of times for each of our advisory panel members and files
- Intake and collation of evaluations from multiple advisors
The paper volume and administrative wrangling alone was enough to compel us to research online grant management solutions.
Benefits from Implementation of Foundant Grant Lifecycle Manager
We originally thought Foundant Grant LifeCycle Manager (GLM) was “too good to be true”, but it has turned out to be a solid piece of software. Among its many features, we’ve found the electronic evaluation very useful – not only for the time it saves our advisory panel members and staff, but for the ability to access completed evaluations at panel meetings. When one or more advisory panel members have been absent from the grant application decision panel meeting, we’ve needed to access their evaluation comments. Having an electronic copy of the evaluation in GLM has allowed us to review their comments and incorporate their perspectives into our conversation. In addition to this benefit, we appreciate those mentioned above as well: less paper, reducing admin copying and eliminating intake. With an electronic format, we have storage and database all in one.
Most Welcome Surprise from Grant Lifecycle Manager Solution
The most welcome surprise has been the unabashed adoption of the tool by our staff. We were hesitant to introduce yet another system to have to learn and manage, but we’ve heard only positive feedback from the staff. Further, we have not received as many questions from grantees/applicants/advisory members regarding the tool as we originally thought we would. It is a relatively intuitive tool for all who have used it. In fact, one of our directors likes to say, “You can’t break it – we’ve tried.”
We’ve encountered a few glitches, but the Foundant team has always been very prompt and helpful in response. As a client of Foundant, we feel the staff listens to us – each time we’ve raised a question or had a suggestion, Foundant staff has listened and incorporated (or already had plans to incorporate) the change. They are always adapting and improving the software, and we find that very refreshing.
We will continue to learn more about the tool and its benefits for our grant programs. It is apparent GLM has features that go beyond our current uses. Specifically, we will investigate using the reporting capabilities to better capture data for evaluative purposes.
Tyra B. Sidberry is an organizational development consultant with more than 20 years of experience working with non-profit organizations. During her time at TSNE, Ms. Sidberry directed TSNE's grant programs—the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) for networks of nonprofits, and since 1993 she has been director of the Diversity & Inclusion Initiative (DII) which funds individual organizations seeking to create more inclusive systems to increase mission effectiveness. She manages the grant cycles and selection process of the DII and provides technical support to each organization participating in the program. To date the DII has supported 102 programs with over $1 million in grants. CBF has worked with 120 networks/ 793 organizations, with $1.3 million awarded from 2004-2011.