The end of the financial year is looming which means financial reporting, monitoring and reconciliation is in full force. It’s also an opportunity to step back and take stock of your grants process and report on how the previous grant giving year went. What projects made the most impact? How can we improve our application process? How can we welcome projects that will supercharge our impact and not just increase our applicant volume?
Here are 5 ways to review your grants management platform to ensure your goals to measure and create impact are being fulfilled:
1. Don’t Try to be Different for Different Sake.
We’re not telling you to throw creativity and innovation out the window, but we are advocates for best practice; especially when it comes to application forms and processes. Finding a common structure for your application forms for example will save you a considerable amount of time.
‘Custom’ and ‘unique’ are words we hear a lot in the grant management industry but when we challenge and offer consultancy services, we try instead to hone into the ‘impact’ created by the funding as ‘unique’ and ‘lifechanging’ rather than application forms themselves. The form is essential but ensuring quality applicant responses and project data has been captured is more important. Try implementing these two suggestions into your grant management processes;
- Use a bank of question templates for all forms to ensure consistency of language. It also means that reporting at the end is more consistent and in-depth scheme-by-scheme reporting can take place. Flexi-Grant’s powerful Question Bank feature can be used to create a bank of template questions that can be easily dragged and dropped into forms.
- Follow a consistent workflow for all grant schemes. We understand one scheme might have for example, 2 review rounds whilst another has 3 but try to ensure consistency as much as possible. This means using consistent language for workflow labels and ensuring applicants take the same path from scheme to scheme.
Top Tip: Use Flexi-Grant’s ‘copy scheme’ button as much as possible!
2. Application Forms Should Be Simple, Don’t Overcomplicate Things.
We always tell our clients; don’t create forms just because they are the forms that have always been in place. Always review. Always come back and ensure they’re set up efficiently and always take into account inclusivity.
Ask yourself this…can each and every applicant view or digest our application forms no matter what their physical capabilities are? Here are a few tips on application building we frequently share with our clients:
- Create clear guidelines and straightforward eligibility criteria to ensure applicants know if they are going to be eligible before they invest time prepping for the application.
- Use simple language and instructions. Always ensure someone outside the application processes reads the application form to ensure it’s written in a way for all to understand.
- Avoid the use of symbols. It’s no secret that screen readers, whilst they are essential in bridging the gap for accessibility, don’t always get it right. Especially when it comes to symbols like ‘+’ and ‘&’ etc. Where possible take them out of application forms to ensure your form is inclusive and accessible to all.
3. Make Things Easy for your Finance Team.
Financial features have always been a strength of Flexi-Grant’s. Our platform was set up to manage both simple and complex budgetary requirements and since Flexi-Grant’s creation in 2015 we have come a long way. Our team aren’t just engineers; we also have grants managers and finance executives who use their experience, together with customer feedback to ensure we give grant giving organisations financial flexibility.
Even if you aren’t an enterprise level grant giving organisation, your charity/NFP will still have accounting and budgetary practices that need to be carefully managed. The majority of our customers go one-step further and integrate with their chosen financial system to ensure a smooth grant giving journey. A payment process that doesn’t align with your organisation’s accounting practices can make financial reporting a laborious task.
For example, if you pay grants via claims then you have to think about what will happen if everyone claims at the same time or if a project is behind but your funding is only secure for a certain amount of time, does that mean you have to put strict measures around payments and ensure that’s in the Letter of Offer/contract right from the beginning?
Ensuring your finance team are a part of process discussions from the beginning will mean you know exactly what payment and accounting parameters you have to stick to.
4. All Hail the Single Source of Truth
Document management is something we take for granted in this digital age but how it’s managed can be the difference in a laborious process and a streamlined one. Grant giving especially is a document heavy process; evidence is usually required to support an application and it’s important to ensure there is a single source of truth and one place to go. Flexi-Grant® has been set up to manage this with automatic reconciliation through what we call ‘electronic case files’, where all relevant applicant documents are stored against their individual case file. Flexi-Grant’s template features also enable grant administrators to easily set up modern templates that pre-populate applicant data and ensure all applicants are going through the same process.
5. Review Those Roles.
We offer our clients an annual review and one of the first things we go through is their roles and responsibilities. Flexi-Grant® is a sophisticated system with delegated levels of authority to ensure funds are being managed safely and using due diligence. We’re also aware though that processes evolve and team members move on which is why it’s best practice to ensure grants teams regularly review their payment approvers and who has access to awarding applications in the first place.
Grant management has evolved over the years. 10+ years ago the goal was to go paperless and ensure that applicants at least had an online, digital application process. Then the priority shifted to volumes; grant givers wanted as many applications as possible to increase their chances of funding that next life-changing project. Now, the grant management sector is focused on impact and it’s a great place to be. Our 5 tips are meant to inspire discussion on maximising impact whilst also ensuring that our clients and grant giving organisations take a step back from their processes at least on an annual basis to ensure they’re up-to-date and encouraging applicants to create the best application possible.
Written by Claire Speedy, Fluent’s Content + Brand Manager. Get in touch to find out more about how Flexi-Grant® can maximise your grants: Get In Touch.