Foundations and nonprofits give out billions of dollars in grants and scholarships every year, so it’s vital that they have the right systems in place to manage the process. The grant application process typically consists of multiple phases and cycles that need to be modified depending on the details of the specific grant. The application workflow needs to be intuitive for those applying on the frontend as well as for those who review, manage, and vote on the applicants on the backend.
Our team built a custom grant management system for the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. The Fund was established to encourage appreciation of contemporary American music and bestows over $600,000 per year to performing groups. They needed a site that was intuitive for both users applying to grants as well as the users reviewing applications.
For applicants, the new system allows for multi-step forms that break applications down into digestible sections, the ability to save progress before finishing, and the option to copy their completed applications from previous years. On the backend, staff can bookmark and assign applications to specific panelists. Panelists can login to view applications and can view them online or download as a PDF to review offline. All of these custom features have increased submission efficiency and greatly improved the overall grant application process overall.
There are a number of out-of-box solutions that offer grant application management, but they frequently require some compromises on behalf of the organization, particularly if their process is highly nuanced. A custom solution like the Aaron Copland Fund’s can be tailored to your needs with powerful features that make your workflow seamless and more efficient. Here are some of the features that a custom system can offer.
Your grant management system should be easy to use and manage, even for your non-technical staff members. You should never have to rely on a developer to create or edit grant applications. Ensure that your staff feel comfortable creating and managing your grant cycles with intuitive editing.
Not every grant has the same applicant requirements. You should be able to add extra questions or conditional fields without needing to create an entirely different application. A solution that is built specifically for your organization includes all the fields that you need, and it will allow you to drag and drop the fields you need as you create each application. This helps streamline your workflows and simplifies how your staff manages your process on the backend.
Your applicants will probably need to attach various types of media along with their application. Make sure this process is user friendly and intuitive. They should be able to attach everything from audio and video to PDFs, and panelists should be able to review this media without leaving the platform. You’ll eliminate complications and improve efficiency if panelists aren’t required to constantly jump in and out of applications and other systems.
Applications can be lengthy. A custom solution can store previous user data with profiles to prevent your applicants from having to enter the same information every time they apply for a grant. With a custom solution, your development team can also migrate any important historical information and ensure that all data from previous grants and legacy application management systems is available to view and reference.
Open source technologies play well with third-party integrations and other tech APIs. This means that your application management system can integrate with your CRM and email. Applicants can dynamically receive status updates regarding their application as your staff pushes them through the application review process. This type of data integration saves significant time for your users; they don’t have to leave the system to locate data, which makes for a much better user experience.
Your organization most likely has a large number of staff or panelists who carefully review each application. These panelists may be chosen for specific applications based on a number of factors. Robust permissions and roles allow you to assign specific users to all of the applications that they need access to. It also reduces clutter for users by eliminating information that is irrelevant or unnecessary. Panelists and reviewers can also leave privileged comments that are only viewable by specific users.
Out-of-box software will have its own look and feel that will likely not align with your existing design and branding. While some offer basic theme or skin changes, a custom solution can be built to seamlessly integrate with your existing style to carry your branding across every element of your web presence. The system can also be designed in a way that completely mirrors a site so that applicants can’t tell they’ve left the site, making for the best user experience possible.
While the simplicity of setting up an out-of-box solution may seem appealing at first, a custom solution is the only way to ensure that you’ll get all the features your organization needs. Work with a team of experts to build out exactly what you need and implement a workflow that helps your organization run smoothly and efficiently.
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Christine was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Spanish. Three years ago, she bought a one-way ticket to Philly on a whim and has been happily living here ever since.
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