Using what you have on hand, or are familiar with, can sometimes be a good strategy if you are just starting out and not regularly writing and receiving grants you need to track. But once you get further down that path, it becomes apparent you need the right tool for the job. If any of these five points resonate with you, then you are probably an excellent candidate for a grant management solution that is built to help you save time and be more successful.
A Grant Management Solution shows you what you need to know, when you need to know it. Click the image to see more.
It’s tempting to use software for multiple purposes, thinking you’re being cost prudent; but forcing a tool to do more than it’s intended can cost you more than you think you’re saving.
Top 5 Reasons Excel is Not a Grant Management Solution:
1. Limited Ability to Centrally Organize Funder Details
When tracking grants in Excel, most often only the funder name is listed. Excel isn’t designed to keep all the historical funder information at your fingertips. You can enter it again, every time you target them for a potential grant request – but that means spending excess time on manual data entry; and even then, you run the risk of inputting old, faulty information or saving over recent notes made by a colleague.
A grant management system will have one place to store information about your past interactions with a funder. You will be able to see what attempts and successes have happened previously and refer to any recommendations on how to be more effective with them in the future. This visibility is critical to saving you time, and also not looking foolish in front of a funder because you’re unaware of the history between your organizations.
2. Complexity of Spreadsheets quickly Goes Up When Tracking All Your Grant Details and Tasks
Keeping track of not only the grant deadline but all the steps and tasks leading up to it – or after you receive an award, is not easy to do with Excel. You start with five columns and before you know it you’re juggling 10, 20, 50, or more – not to mention multiple sheets.
Tracking the date for an LOI or On-site visit is important and may be assigned to several teammates to manage. Keeping track of all the dates and deadlines – such as proposal deadline, date submitted, date notified, and grant start/end dates is a challenge already. Adding your follow up report deadlines and other tasks in Excel make it difficult to keep it up to date and accurately track who did what, when.
A real grants management solution should allow you to track critical data on each funding opportunity – such as amount requested, amount awarded, proposal deadline, decision date, grant term, funding program category, and current status. You should also be able to collaborate and work with your entire team, having everyone manage the tasks and grant deadline they are assigned.
3. No Email Reminders
There is a lot Excel can do. It’s a great tool for analyzing data in multiple ways, performing complicated calculations, or creating pivot tables. But if you are using it to track tasks and due dates – it isn’t designed to send you the automatic email reminders that keep you and your team on track.
When it comes down to it, one little email reminder might be all that stands between you and a missed grant proposal deadline or worse; a missed follow-up. Missing a proposal deadline is scary enough, it means you’ll be forced to wait for the next deadline to come around. But missing a follow-up requirement has implications for all future funding from that grantmaker – loss of credibility and trust at the forefront.
4. No Central Repository for Important Grant Documents
When you track your grants in a spreadsheet, how do you quickly organize the relevant grant documents together along with the information found in the spreadsheet? Keeping a separate storage place – which could be on the network, or on someone’s personal computer – in sync with the information on your spreadsheet is a challenge.
When you use a grant management solution, documents are organized with the particular task, grant opportunity, and funder to which they belong. You can quickly look up what you submitted a couple of years back. Or pass an audit by showing that you keep all the grant contracts in a centralized location that is backed up regularly and accessible to all those who need it.
5. Analyzing and Reporting Your Grant Funding Updates is Complex and Time-Consuming
If you have all of your granting information in multiple spreadsheets and associated documents stored on a hard drive, how easy is it to analyze your data and report on funding? There’s no “Opportunities by Status” report built into Excel – you’d need to create such a report yourself using complicated formulas. Aside from the excess time it would take, the reporting would also be unreliable due to the added complication of human error.
It takes about the same time to enter your grant information into your spreadsheet as it does into a grant management system. But try tracking how much time you save when you want to answer any of these questions:
- Who your top funders are for the ‘Keep Kids in School’ Program?
- How many grants did you get from Foundation vs. Corporate sources last year?
- What is your win percentage last year based on the amount requested, or based on number submitted?
- How many grant deadlines do you have coming up next quarter?
- How many grants have been awarded to date? How many are pending a decision?
The right grant management solution is something you can lean on to make you more successful in your grant funding efforts. In addition, having a vendor you can trust to train staff and support the solution and your fundraising efforts should be something you consider as you look to build a successful and sustainable grant practice for your organization.
To hear a real-life grant management software success story, click here.