New Trends and Best Practices for Grantmaking That Will Survive the Pandemic

As the pandemic continues to create uncertainty for organizations, one thing is clear–many changes in grantmaking are here to stay. This is not necessarily a bad thing. While the collections, applications, and funding processes for many organizations had to pivot or scale back in the past year, many of the changes were needed in industries that were bogged down in paperwork instead of streamlining work online. 

The National Center for Responsive Philanthropy reported that nearly $700 million had already been allocated for COVID-19 response efforts by institutional philanthropy within the first month of the crisis. In fact, in a recent survey, 68% of organizations reported that their day-to-day operations shifted dramatically. In addition, 41% reported that setting up grants more quickly was one of the biggest challenges. 

Abstract management software often plays the role of project manager when it comes to the fielding and vetting of applicants during the grants process. Now, more than ever, grant managers need organizational support that can adapt to in-person office functions as well as remote teams. 

To streamline these processes, software tools are no longer a choice for these organizations. Creating best practices can help you optimize grant cycles no matter how large or small your grant campaigns are. 

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Trust-based philanthropy is the new norm

The pandemic forced businesses to take a long, hard look at how they engage with their stakeholders. Grant managers have borne the brunt of having to shift their operations and workflows rapidly, without much insight as to how to create better ones. Agility is the new norm in a space where tried-and-true processes were rarely questioned. 

As a response, trust-based philanthropy gained significant traction during the course of the past year and a half. To summarize its definition briefly, trust-based philanthropy is a disruption in the grantmaking space that takes into consideration biases of grantmakers, grant decision-makers, and applicants. The ultimate goal is transparency, dialogue, and mutual learning.

What does this mean for the grant application process? To start, it requires grantmakers to collect more specific and robust data on their donors and their applicants. In order to do so, they need software that is customizable and flexible to the data that informs the process. 

Given that over 800 organizations signed the Council on Foundations’ pledge to eliminate restrictions on giving and funds allocation, trust-based philanthropy seems to be a natural outcome. There are several resources on best practices for implementing a trust-based philanthropic program as well as impact consulting groups

Organizations are now rethinking the information they collect

Surveys are a key tool for any successful grant management. Why? Because they can help you aggregate data and pivot more easily throughout the course of your call for proposals. Before you start soliciting applicants, however, you should survey the decision-makers within your organization to determine what information is key to selecting the best proposals. 

Don’t assume that the questions prior to 2020 are the ones you should be asking today. As people’s values have shifted, discovering ways to promote inclusivity and diversity of thought will allow you to source the best applications. 

Some great general questions to ask are:

  • What problem, issue, or community need are you addressing?
  • Describe your organization’s core values in 280 characters.
  • If awarded this grant, how will you measure your impact?
  • Tell us about the people in your organization who will be involved in this project.
  • What other successful projects has your organization completed with donated funds?

Learning and evaluation are faster than ever before

Another change to the grantmaking world is that now organizations have to learn and adapt quickly in order to survive. In a recent study by Community Works, 56% of institutions had to shorten and streamline their processes. 

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Using abstract management software makes this shift significantly easier. By centralizing your grantmaking information, its organization, and its communication to all stakeholders, speeding up and simplifying organizational workflows. 

The additional benefit to using collections software is that you can track data on performance and engagement. With this data, you can pivot communications, learn valuable insights, and make better decisions about content, speakers, and events. 

Hybrid work requires optimized collaboration

Finally, one of the greatest challenges of remote and hybrid work was fostering collaboration both on and offline in the grantmaking world. Organizations already using abstract management software were significantly more prepared for this change than those who did not. 

Some ways to improve collaboration and engagement from team members, applicants, and grantees include:

  • Surveys on values and goals
  • Centralized communications
  • Making information more accessible (knowledge bases, wikis, emails, etc.)
  • Reviewing and re-evaluating policies and workflows with data
  • Updating your IT infrastructure 

Grantmaking is more technology-driven than ever

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced grantmaking into the 21st with rapidity. Any organization clinging to physical paperwork, native spreadsheets, and decentralized communications quickly was in peril. Trust-based philanthropy took off because the grants process had to become less cumbersome and more flexible. Hybrid and remote teams forced new conversations about values and required innovation in collaboration. The information organizations collected had to be more data-driven than ever. 

At Precis, we could have never anticipated the pandemic, but we’ve spent over twenty years creating software that could stand up to its challenges. Abstract management software should not dictate your organizational needs but, instead, adapt to its ever-changing ones.

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