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3 Things to Look for When Purchasing Grant Application Software

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We live in an era of continuous innovation and improvement. It’s exciting, to be sure, but also a bit stressful.

Almost every time we successfully adopt a technology, a better, faster, newer option hits the market. It’s natural to want to keep up.

You and your business realize the need to invest in technology, do your due diligence, and onboard new platforms. When new needs arise, or newer technologies begin touting features you don’t have, you feel an innate urge to upgrade yet again.

However recent your purchase of grant application software was, inevitably you’ll need to upgrade. When that time comes, what should you look for?

While there are a myriad of creative ways for your organization to keep up with ever-changing technology, there are a few key features you should look for in any technology you add to your work arsenal.

Here are three features to look for (and why they matter when buying grant application software.

1. Integration

Integrations allow two or more software products to speak to each other, share data, and perform tasks. With integration capabilities, you can set up all sorts of triggers that eliminate the need for you to enter data twice or do extra work outside of your software system.

Let’s say you receive a grant application for a nonprofit through your application system. If your system has a robust suite of integrations, you can set up a trigger that reaches out to GuideStar when an applicant enters their tax ID number.

This lets you confirm that the number is legitimate, and that the applicant is a true 501(c)3. You don’t have to log in to another system, or manually enter the number. The software does it for you.

As your needs change, integrations help your platform expand and continue to work for your team well outside of the original scope you shopped for. A 2015 survey of CIOs found that 91% believe integrations are crucial for simplifying IT needs.

When purchasing a grant management system, always ask the vendor which tools integrate with their software, especially if that vendor doesn’t advertise that information. If they don’t provide the integrations you need, follow up with detailed questions about whether or not they’d be willing to build in the functionality for you.

Software integrations to look for:

  • Your email service
  • Salesforce (or equivalent CRM software)
  • GuideStar (for seamless transition of nonprofit data)
  • Google Maps (for applicant research)

2. Automation

Want to save time? Check for automation features when buying software. These can be as simple as back-end data collection (each time an applicant submits a profile with an email address, the email address is added to your mailing list), or a bit more complex (sending an automatic thank you email when an applicant clicks submit).

If you offer grants to a wide variety of nonprofits, you are guaranteed to receive dozens—if not hundreds—of grant applications seeking funding for projects. Automated data entry and collection should be a staple feature of grant management software.

Once you’ve selected the recipients of your grants, automation helps you establish payment schedules and generate reports. Certain grant management software options increase your peace of mind by automating payments so recipients never miss a check, and build financial reports based on who received what, and when.

Depending on what you set up, each automation/integration combo can save you hours of work time.

Ask your potential software vendors what automation feature they offer, and if they routinely update their offerings.

3. Customization

In this section, we need to define some commonly confused terms.

Configuration is the way your platform is set up—what shows on your dashboard, how many forms you have live, and what logo appears on your public-facing portals. Think of it as personalization preferences that you can adjust as often as you wish.

How your software is configured is important because it determines the usability and convenience of the product. Well configured software will have everything you need only a click or two away.

Configurations to look for:

  • Data reporting dashboard on your home screen
  • Notifications box on your home screen
  • Sidebar with a main menu of functions

Easy configuration is a must, but in order to really future-proof your software, customization is where it’s at.

Customization means that your software has the flexibility to extend or change the way it works, such as adding features not included in the standard program (a staple of open source software).

If you are up to the challenge of customizing your software yourself, look for vendors that offer an open API so you can make changes to the look and functionality.

Ideally, your software will meet your needs right out of the gate. But, since you don’t know how your needs will change over time, it’s important to have ongoing flexibility. Relying on customization as your company grows means that you won’t be setting yourself up for disappointment or another expenditure in the near future.

Other nonprofit resources

Choosing a new grant management platform that includes these three key features gives you the best chance of loving your new software for years to come.

Are there any other necessary features or capabilities you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Capterra’s nonprofit technology blog offers guides and resources to help you and your business be the best you can be. Here’s a few to get you started:

Looking for Nonprofit software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Nonprofit software solutions.

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About the Author

Melissa Greiner

Melissa Greiner is the Marketing Director at WizeHive, developer of ZengineTM, a cloud-based platform designed to simplify the collection, review, and management of applications for grants, scholarships, and countless other programs. WizeHive works with nonprofits, foundations, associations, universities, and other organizations, creating better experiences, saving teams countless hours, and improving program impact.

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