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Grants management can be a challenging process. There are many steps before and after the actual granting of funds. The most fun part of the process, picking a charity or nonprofit to assist and a cause to advance, is actually a very short part of the overall grants lifecycle.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the grants lifecycle quicker, easier and more efficient. That way you can spend less time focusing on things like reporting, tracking applications and getting admin approvals, and spend more time evaluating where your funds will truly make the most impact. This can have a positive impact not only the causes you’re helping, but also on your company. Overall, 58% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.

Check out our tips below to improve every stage of the grants management process:

In this phase, you, the grantmaker are planning and developing a funding program based on your mission, values and company culture. Once that has been decided, you’ll formally announce the funding opportunity, advertising to applicant communities and inviting proposals that fit the mission.
What you can improve: Instead of advertising to only local or national grant seekers, expand your reach around the world. Use a system that supports multiple languages and multiple currencies so you can choose any cause where your grant money will do the most good.

Grantseeker Application
Completing an application may take a grantseeker a long time — several weeks, or even months — because the applications require everything from organizational information to explanations of proposed work. But when the applications start pouring in, reviewing them can be a challenge. Potential applicants seek funding opportunities from companies that match their values, so many applicants will be seeking funds for causes you care about.

What you can improve: Since you may already be receiving more applications than you can thoroughly review, give some applicants the option to self-select out. A pre-application questionnaire could help determine what grantseekers match your company values, desired timelines and results. You can also use an automated grants management system that allows approval parameters, which will keep the wrong applications from reaching your team’s hands.

Owner Review
Once an application reaches your team, it will need to be screened for compliance. The grantseeker should be notified when the screening begins, and you should explain what their next steps in the grantmaking process are.

What you can improve: Utilize a system that provides grantseekers with access to their current application status. Even if your grants management team is small, ensure there are dedicated support roles for grantseekers with questions that can’t be answered by your system. Be careful: 48% of nonprofits believe grantmakers don’t understand their needs. The grantseeker should always have the information they need available to them.

Admin Approval
The length of time it takes for an application to gain approval will vary by grant type and the amount of stakeholders that need to approve it. Once all stakeholders have approved, the grant applicants will be notified of the award.

What you can improve: Develop an award schedule to send to the grantseeker immediately after the application is approved. This template should include all upcoming deadlines and all information required from the grantseeker. Providing all the information up front will expedite the approval process, so you can move on to the post-award stages of the lifecycle.

In the disbursement phrase, you’ll work with the award recipient to establish the legal framework for funding. Once that has been completed, the grant funds are disbursed. The way that happens may vary between organizations. For example, CyberGrants has several disbursement options. These include Comprehensive Charitable Management Services, Managed Account Services, and Flexible Account services, which provide grantmakers options to meet their objectives.

What you can improve: Keep open communication with the grantee as they begin their project. While they are responsible for meeting administrative, financial and programmatic requirements, your team should be available for clarification whenever possible. This ensures you both achieve the best results from your grant possible.

Impact Measurement
After you have disbursed funds to an organization, you’ll want to collect data based on the results of your funding. Knowing the effectiveness of your funds and time can help inform future contributions.
What you can improve: Focus on personalizing your data. What specifically is your grant supposed to affect? Collect hard numbers (i.e. Our grant provided X number of meals for the homeless community, or our grant donated enough school supplies for X at-risk teens) that will give you a definitive idea of the effect your money had. A grants management system like CyberGrants provides in-depth analytics on how your grants are being used, and keeps all the information in one place.

Back End Reporting
Grantseekers will need to conduct two types of reporting: financial and program performance. These report are passed on to you to ensure all requirements are being met. Once all requirements are completed, the grants lifecycle comes to an end.

What you can improve: Take those final reports and create a CSR story. Telling a story based on your reports goes beyond simply collecting data, and allows you to integrate heart into your grants management process. The story becomes a part of your evolving company values and culture, and is something employees can share and be proud of.

Improving the grants management process takes effort and manpower, and you may think you already have none to spare. However, improving your process will save time and energy in the long run, which will give your team a chance to focus on what really matters: making incredible happen.