Grant management software, when tailored for your nonprofit’s specific needs, can be a gamechanger in keeping track of deadlines, writing, and the many other aspects of the grants lifecycle. This article explores the best grant management software for nonprofits, where to find it, and how to use it to make your grants department a well-oiled machine.
Read on for some of the best grant management options to make managing your nonprofit’s grants efficient and streamlined.
What is Grant Management Software?
So what is grant management software?
A grant management software system administers the entire grant process – from recording grant applications and their outcomes to providing necessary information for grant reporting requirements.
Grant management software is utilized by both grantseekers and grantmakers, including foundations that are both administering grant opportunities and those seeking their own funding. Grants management software for foundations is focused on administering their grant application process and administering funding.
Where do you find grant management software?
Grant management software is a paid service provided by contracted vendors that you can find and register for online. Sometimes, the services are available for free for a period of time depending on a few different circumstances.
Nonprofit organizations can purchase the software or subscribe to a cloud-based service. Many software programs are easy to implement, versatile for team or individual use, and can be integrated with a nonprofit’s existing CRM or donor management system.
If you’re still thinking about what grant management means for you in general, here is a good place to start: Grant Management Process: What is It & Best Practices.
How We Selected These Grant Management Software
The best grant management software for your nonprofit should be able to facilitate each aspect of your grant management cycle.
We selected four of the most popular options of grant management software and evaluated them based on their ability to assist you in each step of the three main categories for grant management best practices: Application, Award, and Account.
To assist you in the Application, Award and Account areas, there are certain functionalities that each grant management software should have. Here are some of the features we identified to evaluate in selecting the best options:
- grant matching systems and databases
- templates for applications and reports
- application progress tracking
- email reminders for deadlines
- options for multiple users and collaborators
- training and educational materials
- document storage (990s and other financial documents)
- how user friendly their interfaces are
The best place to start when it comes to grant management software for nonprofits is in internally identifying where your needs are for grant management. Start with that internal audit, and then check out the options in the next section to see what will be the best fit for you!
The Best Grant Management Software for Nonprofits
So let’s take a look at 5 of the most popular grant management software used by nonprofits. Consider their pros and cons as you think about how they can empower the three main portions of grant management: Application, Award, and Accounting.
As a nonprofit on a budget, you’re probably asking yourself: what are some of the best free grant management software for nonprofits, and which of them (if any) are worth paying for?
Almost all “free” programs are advertising trial periods, not long-term free grant management software options. Free trial periods are great while you are exploring solutions, but don’t set yourself up for a letdown that you will be able to use abbreviated/free trial versions in the long term.
There are some options that offer a free plan, but it’s a bit of a misnomer as it applies to grant management, as the free plans don’t contain all of the features you really need to manage each aspect of the grants process.
In terms of grants management software for foundations, you would want to utilize a paid service right off the bat, as the process is extremely time consuming if you try to use manual tools.
In terms of truly free grant management software options for nonprofits, for smaller nonprofits with just one or two smaller scale grants, you can utilize spreadsheet software and word editing programs like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Google Sheets to keep track of a good amount of information.
For prospecting, you can use the free version of the Foundation Directory Online and Grants.gov to get some basic information about grants you might want to apply for.
With time, attention, and smart use of free templates, you can use these free tools to keep track of basic grants management. To use the free options, keep separate workplaces for your grants prospects, your calendar of deadlines, your proposals, and your reporting. Link them together using hyperlinks, and store them in organized folders.
You will need to have staff time dedicated to manually updating these tools, and keep in mind that the free versions of programs provided by Microsoft and Google do not have security features like HIPAA compliance if you are dealing with sensitive information.
However, once you start building up your grants department to more than just a couple of small grants, you are absolutely going to want to invest in paid grant management tools. If you have a grant operating income of 90k or more, it’s time to start searching.
Here’s just a few reasons why you would want to upgrade:
- The amount of information that is required in the grant writing and grant reporting processes means that you need lots of storage to keep track of cumulative years of funding—more than would be available to you in free programs.
- Manually updating your calendar of deadlines gets very complicated, very quickly once you start applying for more grant opportunities.
- Free prospecting tools provide only very basic information, and you need to invest time into further research to mine all the details that you need.
The competitive nature of grants means that you always need to keep up with others in your field who are applying from the same funding sources. If they are using paid tools that allow them to apply more quickly, accurately, and efficiently, then before you even begin writing your proposal you will already be behind.
Tips for Using Grant Management Software for Nonprofits
Let’s do a quick refresher on what the grant management cycle is, and how you can best utilize grant management software to facilitate and strengthen your own grants management.
The grant management cycle involves:
- selecting and applying to grants
- accepting/disbursing funds
- coordinating your calendar of deadlines
- communicating between members of the grants team and stakeholders
- adhering to requirements
- evaluating outcomes
Grants management software can facilitate and streamline each piece of the grants management cycle. The right software will allow you to complete and repeat the cycle as needed to sustain your grants development.
So how do you integrate grant management software into an organization to best empower the grant management cycle?
Here are some tips:
1. Incorporate grant management software into your overall strategic plan for growth.
Ask questions like: how much grant funding are you looking to secure, and how many grant-funded projects are you planning on administering? This will help you identify the right tool for you.
2. Involve the whole grants team in the grant management software selection process.
Ask them where they see the needs in their day-to-day grants work, and incorporate that input into what you need in the software that you select.
3. Make sure that your existing office technology will allow you to utilize the grant management software you have selected.
Look for options that integrate into your current technology/programs.
For example, if you choose a grant software that will only work on a desktop HP computer, don’t try to run it on an iPad.
4. Train the whole team on the new grant management tool.
Check in to make sure that they feel comfortable using this new tool after they have attended the introductory training sessions and throughout the first year you are using it. Grant management software is only effective when the right information is being inputted into it.
5. Familiarize yourself with all of the features that the grant management software has—and use them!
Grant management software can be very powerful tools for project management and communication. For example, Instrumentl automatically creates reports that are visually appealing for wide audiences—use them to lead grant discussions at board meetings!
Wrapping Things Up: The Best Grant Management Software for Nonprofits
Now that you have the information and resources about grant management software solutions for nonprofits, it’s time to take action. Start with your audit of needs, evaluate your budget, and then match those needs and your budget with the best fit for you. Take advantage of free trials and opportunities to get a feel of what features and systems appeal to you and your team.
Compared to other grant management options, Instrumentl consistently outperforms competitors. While you’re considering your options, you can explore Instrumentl's grant management and tracking functionality more deeply with a free 14-day trial. Our expert staff will train you with how to begin, and answer any remaining questions you have about how to maximize grant management software for your nonprofit.