There are dozens of grant management systems on the market today. So how can you tell what system makes the most sense for you? Here are the 3 most common questions we are asked.
This is an important question that will help buyers determine if a vendor is a good fit. Full lifecycle grants management is a different process for different types of organizations. Buyers should learn about the types of organizations a vendor has helped to ensure the vendor's system has the requisite architecture and experience to deliver results. At eCivis, we serve state, local and tribal governments to address their grant management needs. Here are the different types of organizations that procure grant management systems.
State, Local and Tribal Governments - Grant management needs include managing continuation funding, securing competitive grants for projects/programs from federal and non-federal sources, compliance and reporting, and managing subrecipients. Grant funds can make up as much as half of the annual budget for states, a third for counties and tribes, and a quarter for municipalities. As a result, grant management systems are commonly required to integrate with financial systems or general ledgers to bring transparency to both financial and program grant information. In particular, state agencies deal with the greatest complexity when managing compliance as both federal and state law must be considered in their grant management process. There is a large percentage of state, local and tribal government governments that are modernizing their grant management systems and moving to the cloud, but spreadsheets and custom legacy systems remain the most common grant management system for now.
Federal Agencies - Grant management for the federal government means that nearly all of their grant management activities are grant making. Creating programs, soliciting NOA/NOFAs, monitoring awards, managing disbursements and reporting are all critically important to improving both the performance and compliance of federal grant programs. Federal agencies often rely on a combination of large custom solutions from large IT vendors and back office systems like spreadsheets. The DATA Act, GONE Act and GREAT Act are making a positive impact in the effort to modernize federal grant management systems.
Schools, School Districts & Colleges - Grant management needs include managing existing grant awards, securing competitive grants for projects/programs from federal and non-federal sources, compliance and reporting, and managing sub-awards to other departments or schools. Grant funds can vary greatly among these types of organizations. Spreadsheets and email remain the top grant management system, but system modernization efforts are being adopted rapidly in this group. With SaaS offerings leading the way.
Large Universities - Grant management needs include managing large research grants and collaborating with principle investigators. Many large universities receive endowments and grants that can make up a significant portion of their budgets. Like other industries, spreadsheets and email remain the top grant management system, but there is a large group that has made the move to modern systems. There are even free grant management systems developed by universities for universities.
Large Foundations - Grant management needs are focused on philanthropy and giving. The requirements for giving are different than a federal grant, but there are some similarities in general steps and recent efforts look to align with federal guidance. Managing applications, disbursements, and awardees are critical. These foundations use modern systems and spreadsheets. The largest concentration of grant management software providers serve this group.
Nonprofits - Grant management needs are focused on fundraising and managing grants from multiple sources. Nonprofits are challenged with inadequate budgets to purchase modern grants systems. The dominant grant management system in this sector is the spreadsheet or nonprofit accounting software.
So you've identified vendors that meet your general requirements. Now you need to know what those vendors can deliver. Ask your vendors to help you calculate your return-on-investment and time-to-value. These are critical questions you need answered before investing in a new grants management system. Your prospective vendor should be able to provide a clear idea of what to expect and when to expect it. The promise of efficiency and effectiveness is no longer enough for buyers. Vendors need to prove consistent, demonstrated results over an extended period of time.
This question always leads to trouble. There is a growing realization that customization is the key reason there is $100 billion in waste, fraud and abuse. Customization leads to data silos, shadow systems, lack of standards and high costs. You need to decide if you want to build a system that automates your unique process or leverage the benefits of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud solutions, which are built on best practice and common standards.
The choice between custom built solutions and SaaS is an important one. Read our blog articles on this topic or download the full report from the General Accounting Office on information technology modernization, which provides in-depth insight into the high cost of customization and the risk of committing to these engagements in an environment of changing policy and requirements. As you consider how to modernize your grant management software, consider these 3 critical and widely adopted principles:
1. Standardization: Your grant management system should create more standardization across your entire organization. This will help drive transparency, produce more timely and accurate reporting, and help comply with federal grant requirements, such as the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200), DATA Act, GONE Act and GREAT Act. Building or purchasing a grant management system that does not standardize and streamline your processes will cost you more, and your return-on-investment will be measured in 4 to 5 years rather than 12 to 24 months.
2. Information Sharing: Your grant management system must allow for easier information sharing. Without this feature timely reporting will be very difficult to achieve. Most duplicative efforts that drive administrative costs are a result of disparate systems and complex processes that make it difficult to report to internal and external stakeholders. Today, your organization is likely exporting data into spreadsheets, reformatting that data, and then loading it manually somewhere else. This process creates administrative burden and internal control issues that lead to audit findings. A modern grant management system can help you avoid these costs.
3. Collaboration: Your grant management system must provide a means for all stakeholders to collaborate, including your subrecipients. The grant lifecycle covers many departments - both internal and external - and incorporates significant amounts of data from other areas of your organization such as finance and procurement. Without an easy way for these stakeholders to work together, relieving administrative burden and improving performance will be difficult.
SaaS solutions present a more effective and affordable option to custom built software solutions. At eCivis, we believe federal grant recipients, and subrecipients, don't need to pay millions of dollars for custom built grant management software systems anymore. If you would like more information on eCivis SaaS grants management system, or help developing your business case, contact us today!