Custom-Built Solutions

Replacing foundationConnect with Custom-Built Solutions

Posted in: Blog
By: Lara Hoke Kimberley, Peter Bender

In the ever-evolving world of nonprofit technology, the need for information systems that align with an organization’s specific goals and workflows has never been more critical. As we bid farewell to foundationConnect and usher in a new era, it’s time to explore the advantages of custom-built solutions on the Salesforce platform. In this blog series, we’ll delve into the world of customization and discuss why fully customized builds might be the perfect replacement for foundationConnect.

With the retirement of foundationConnect on the horizon, nonprofit organizations are actively seeking alternatives that not only match their mission but also elevate their grant management capabilities. It’s a journey of discovery and transformation, and it all starts here.

If you missed our first installment of this series which highlights the options for replacing foundationConnect, be sure to check out the first installment, “Replacing foundationConnect with Nonprofit Cloud for Grantmaking.” Stay tuned for more insightful chapters in this series, including a deep dive into Amp Impact and Outbound Funds. As we prepare for the transition from foundationConnect, we’re committed to finding solutions that amplify our collective mission of driving radically better impact. Join us as we shine a light on the benefits of custom-built solutions and why they are a compelling choice to succeed foundationConnect.

Advantages of Customization in Grants Management

Custom-built solutions are just what they sound like—a chance to craft your ideal system precisely as you envision it. When it comes to grants management on Salesforce, the possibilities are vast. You can design a system that caters to your organization’s unique processes, offering a level of alignment that can significantly enhance your grant management capabilities. Here are just a few of the advantages: 

  • Tailored Processes: Unlike off-the-shelf products, custom solutions can be designed to mirror your existing grant management workflows and processes. This alignment can lead to increased efficiency, as staff members are working within a system that intuitively fits their needs.
  • Enhanced User Experience: With customization, you can create a user interface that makes sense to your team (and grantees). A well-designed and intuitive user experience not only improves efficiency but also reduces the learning curve for staff members and grant applicants. This can lead to quicker adoption and smoother operations.
  • Cost Efficiency: While there are upfront costs associated with building a custom solution, it can often be a cost-effective option over time. Instead of paying for features you may not use in off-the-shelf products, you can invest in the exact functionality you need. Additionally, custom solutions can offer long-term licensing cost savings, as you’re not bound by recurring fees that can add up over the years.
  • Data Security and Compliance: Custom solutions provide greater control over data security and compliance. You can implement specific data protection measures and ensure that your grants management system aligns with industry regulations and your organization’s privacy policies.

Customization is a strategic move towards achieving radically better social impact, offering the freedom to create a tailored grants management system while being mindful of your budget and long-term vision. The key is finding the right balance for your organization’s success.

William Penn Foundation Success Story

With endless possibilities at your fingertips, it can be challenging to convey the exact benefits that a custom-built solution offers. In this regard, the success story of the William Penn Foundation serves as a shining example. We delve into their remarkable journey, transitioning from foundationConnect to a custom-built Salesforce solution that not only retained crucial custom components like a custom payment approval and a grantee reporting management page but also enhanced their operations. To learn more about the exact details of their transformation, explore our case study: “William Penn Foundation Re-Launches Salesforce Without foundationConnect Package.

Considerations for Custom-Built Solutions

When deciding to pursue fully customized builds, organizations must carefully weigh several factors to ensure a successful transition. In this section, we’ll explore key considerations that can help you make an informed decision, ensuring that a custom solution aligns with your organization’s goals, capacity, and needs.

  • User Experience: Custom-built solutions offer the unique opportunity to create an enriched user experience. As an example, placing precisely the right information in front of grantees at the right time can infuse a bit of ease into what can be some rather complex processes to navigate. In the case of the William Penn Foundation, maintaining a similar user experience meant minimal staff retraining, while simultaneously addressing limitations of foundationConnect. Custom builds can replicate the familiar interface of tools like foundationConnect while introducing personalized features and experiences.
  • Cost: Customization often translates into significant cost savings in the long term. For instance, if your organization highly values the grant application form builder provided by foundationConnect, a custom solution can replicate and enhance this experience using Flows, thereby reducing the need for third-party tools and their associated fees. In addition, instead of paying for a multitude of features within an off-the-shelf product, you can invest in the specific functionalities that align with your needs. However, if you have common needs, they may be met with a tool that is already developed, tested, and supported. 
  • Product Ownership: Having a knowledgeable and technical product owner within your organization is critical. A strong internal product owner plays a pivotal role in understanding your system, identifying pain points, and defining project objectives. A dedicated product owner ensures that your custom solution aligns seamlessly with your organization’s unique requirements and we wouldn’t recommend venturing into the world of custom builds without one. 
  • Support: Custom solutions may have fewer readily available external resources for support compared to widely adopted products with extensive documentation and user communities. This makes post-implementation support a crucial consideration. Engaging with a consultant or support team with intimate knowledge of your build becomes essential, especially if you lack an experienced internal administrator.
  • Complexity: For organizations with complex processes, such as intricate grant applications, approvals, and reviews, custom-built solutions empower you to create features and experiences precisely as you envision them. Custom solutions offer unparalleled flexibility, ensuring that your unique needs are met without being confined by the constraints of off-the-shelf products. However, it’s important to understand that with this remarkable flexibility comes the responsibility of making informed architectural decisions. Just because you can do everything, does not mean you should. This underscores the importance of collaborating with seasoned and knowledgeable experts who can skillfully guide these decisions to optimize the system for your specific requirements.

By carefully evaluating these factors, your organization can navigate the path to a custom-built solution that not only enhances efficiency but also aligns seamlessly with your mission and long-term vision.

Navigating the Transition: Pro Tips and Guidance

Exponent Partners, recognized as the foremost experts in grants management systems, is known for providing invaluable guidance to organizations making the transition from foundationConnect to custom-built solutions or exploring alternative pathways. Whether you’re navigating this shift, the key steps to prepare for the transition specifically from foundationConnect encompass:

  1. Process Optimization: Begin with a thorough review of your existing processes, mapping the ideal state for your custom-built solution.
  2. Alignment with Mission: Ensure your organizational priorities align with your mission, maintaining a clear sense of purpose throughout the transition.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Engage with various stakeholders, including grantees, to gather insights and learn from past experiences.
  4. Data Assessment: Evaluate historical data, identifying the essential information to retain in your custom-built system.
  5. Integration Planning: Determine the integrations required, especially focusing on any ERP integrations.
  6. Finance Collaboration: Work with your finance team to define points of integration and identify critical data and activities that need to be shared between the grants management solution and financial system

By meticulously following these steps, you can establish a robust foundation for a successful transition from foundationConnect to Salesforce’s GMS or full custom-built solutions. As you venture into the next phase of your journey, Exponent Partners is your trusted companion. Our comprehensive service offerings cover the entire lifecycle of your information systems transformation, including expert assistance for foundationConnect migrations, full system implementations, and custom solutions based on your organization’s unique needs. Our foundationConnect Migration Planning Engagement is a suitable choice for those in transition planning or individuals who need to make decisions quickly. It can streamline the replacement project to ensure efficiency and confidence that you’re heading in the right direction. Whether you’re assessing the suitability of existing products or considering a custom build, our foundationConnect Migration Planning Engagement provides valuable insights into your needs and possible solutions. With our wealth of expertise, you’ll confidently navigate the intricacies of change and equip yourself with the essential systems and tools required to thrive in a continually evolving landscape. 

Tailoring a Brighter Future

By opting for custom-built solutions, organizations can unleash their full potential, empowering them to be adaptive and responsive in an ever-changing world. We’ve discussed the advantages and considerations, the success story of the William Penn Foundation, and expert insights to guide you on this path.

We encourage you to explore the potential of custom-built solutions for your organization. Exponent Partners is here to support your journey with expertise and a network that is outcomes-focused. As we say, “We build radically better information systems for radically better nonprofit impact,” and we invite you to reach out for a free consultation to discuss how we can help you make a difference. Be sure to stay tuned for more in-depth insights and practical advice in this blog series.