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Increasing Efficiency Across the Stages of the Grantmaking Lifecycle

Posted in: Blog
By: Lara Hoke Kimberley

As grantmakers seek to increase their impact it is critical to find areas to increase the efficiency in the grantmaking lifecycle. This blog post explores three discrete areas grantmakers should consider for optimization.

Simplify and Standardize

A trend we have seen recently across grantmaking organizations is the drive to simplify and standardize. This comes in many flavors and can be seen across the stages of the grantmaking lifecycle. 

Perhaps the most common approach is the adoption of a single set of application forms with standardized questions across programs and funding types. An organization may be able to reduce the number of applications from over a dozen to three basic types – programmatic support, operational support, and sponsorship. Although on the surface this sounds simple, we are keenly aware that getting buy-in across grantmaking stakeholders is no small task.

Other steps to consider are:

  • Reducing the number of required documents from grantseekers
  • Limiting the number of steps in approval processes
  • Standardizing scoring rubrics

Use Technology to Support Business Processes

Grants management software, when implemented thoughtfully, can ease the burden on grantmakers by automating business processes and integrating with external systems. 

Some examples of automation we frequently see include:

  • An approval process that automatically routes a grant application to the correct approver(s) based on program, requested amount, and geographic location of the grantee
  • Automated reminders to grantseekers prior to application and report due dates. 
  • Generating PDFs of a grantseekers’ submitted application and reports
  • Automatically retrieving data about a grantseeking organization from Candid (Guidestar) when an application is submitted

Grants management software should also be end-user friendly, which often means having an interface that is intuitive to use, minimizes the steps that a grantmaker or grantseeker must take in order to complete a task, is mobile-friendly, and accessible to users with assistive devices such as speech recognition software and screen readers.

Several user experience features to help streamline the grantmaking lifecycle include:

  • Grant application forms which lead grantseekers through the steps and validate the completeness of an application prior to submitting, reducing the back and forth between grantseekers and grantmakers 
  • Mobile-friendly applications which can be completed by grantseekers anywhere, anytime
  • An interface for reviewers to access and score applications without requiring them to juggle PDFs, scoring rubrics, and countless Excel spreadsheets

Tie Grantmaking Priorities to the Organization’s Logic Model

At the beginning of the grantmaking lifecycle, grantmakers should work to align internal stakeholders around the desired outcomes and impact of their grantmaking program. These outcomes and impact may reflect the entirety of the organization’s logic model, or a subset of the larger framework.

Naming the desired outcomes of the program will inform the indicators against which the grants will be measured. Defining these indicators and communicating it clearly internally and externally will help both grantmakers and grantseekers avoid spending time and resources on applications and grants that aren’t a good fit. 

This structure will also increase efficiency during the monitoring, evaluation, and learning stage. Grantees will report results against the established indicators and MEL teams will have access to data in structured format connected directly to their logic model, saving untold hours of data manipulation and extrapolation.

In conclusion, simplifying and standardizing across programs, using technology to reduce the administrative burden on end users, and aligning grantmaking priorities to an organization’s logic model will help grantmakers more quickly and effectively get their funds out the door.

The expert team in the philanthropy practice here at Exponent Partners has decades of combined experience working with grantmaking organizations to increase efficiency across the grantmaking lifecycle. Drop us a line if you would like to have a conversation about how we can support your organization to achieve radically better impact.