Grant Management Technology helps nonprofit organizations to better manage grant lifecycle and win more funding

On a daily basis grant writers and grant managers are faced with numerous challenges – including identifying potential funders, working on expense reports, meeting with program staff and preparing for site visits. Because grant funding can account for a considerable portion of your nonprofit organization’s revenue, it’s crucial that grant teams stay on track with deadlines and deliverables.

For grant-seeking organizations, it’s useful to think of grant funding as a pipeline. You’ve got to put the right amount of applications in one side of the pipeline in order to win grants that produce adequate funding on the other side. To keep your organization well-funded, you need a steady supply of grants in each stage of the grant lifecycle: application, distribution, and renewal. Fortunately, today’s grant management technology enables you to automate processes so that you can efficiently and effectively apply for, and win, more grants, better demonstrate performance to earn more grant renewals, and manage every stage of the grant lifecycle with more precision.

grant management pipeline

Win more funding by more effectively managing the Grant Pipeline

There are two key factors in winning grants: The ability to complete on-time, accurate grant applications and to demonstrate past mission performance. A good grant management solution can support both functions by enabling organizations to better manage the complete grant lifecycle.

Apply for grants more easily: Utilizing a grant management solution to keep track of deadlines and manage multiple grant applications can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency. Grant management staffs can rely on their software to set up workflow and prioritize tasks based on approaching grant milestones. It can also help you see across the entire grant pipeline to ensure that you’re applying for enough grants now to satisfy future funding needs. Grant management solutions make the application process itself much easier, by consolidating and storing all of the relevant information in one centralized database for easy access to grant information, program details, performance measurements and key contacts.

Show grantors why your organization is most deserving: Accurate forecasting and measurement can help you back up your proposal with hard data that shows grantors exactly what you can accomplish with the funds. By using technology to precisely track past budgets and results, you know exactly how much you will need in the future, and you can “outbid” other organizations that aren’t able to show effectiveness on such a detailed level. Your organization can easily demonstrate its positive impact to grantors, individual donors and the public with the help of grant management solution to collect data and report on success metrics

Grant management technology allows your organization to achieve greater collaboration and save time, so you and your team can win more funding and focus more energy on advancing your organization’s mission.

Download our complete guide: How Technology Helps Win and Manage Grants.

The Moneyball Effect and what it means for Associations – Step Up to the Plate!

Dollarphotoclub_443x295In part one of this three-part blog series, we introduced the concept of looking at stats (data) in new ways to achieve insights and success, and shared the team value lesson. Using the book and movie Moneyball as an example of how “actionable” rather than “big” data, can be more significant for associations as well as baseball teams, we created a whitepaper applying the Moneyball effect to association management.

Download our whitepaper, The Moneyball Effect, now.

The Moneyball Effect whitepaper offers six lessons to help association professionals define and achieve an actionable data plan for their organization. In this blog post, we’ll look at another one of those steps. Lesson 5 is all about being willing to try new things and shake up the tried and true. Change is not easy, but it is necessary for growth.

LESSON #5: STEP UP TO THE PLATE
The moves that Oakland A’s Manager Billy Beane made were not popular with much of the rest of his organization at first. This made his ideas difficult to implement. But getting results from your data-based experiments requires trying new things.

So, what did Beane do? He removed the barriers to the action he sought. And while many did not understand his moves, they enabled him to see his experiment through to action and results. It is not enough to analyze data and wonder if a new approach would work. You have to step up to the plate and try new things. And if your experiments go against tradition, be ready for resistance.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to cancel your annual conference to make room for some social media experiments. But you may have to give people permission to try new things. You might have to do some extra outreach to the department that doesn’t understand or agree with the experiment you want to try. You might need to pull some volunteer leaders aside to talk about why you are conducting these experiments and what value they will provide over the long term.

Remember, your organization has a culture, and cultures are inherently stable. The “way we do things around here” developed because those ways were successful, and even if situations dictate the need for change, the culture might need some convincing.

Stay tuned for part three of this three-part series. And please share in the comments (below) how your organization has looked at and used data differently, and what was the result.

And if you’d like to learn more about how you might apply the Moneyball effect to your association, simply download the complete whitepaper.

Abila Users and Developers Conference (AUDC15) – Early Bird Registration

Join more than 1,000 of your peers from the association and nonprofit world for the first-ever, combined Abila Users and Developers Conference (AUDC). AUDC is bringing together leaders, innovators, and technology experts, to share best practices, ideas, and know-how to help you and your organization better fulfill your goals and mission. And what better place than Austin? Being a proud Austin-based technology company, we are thrilled to welcome you to this vibrant, warm and weird city we call home.

For AUDC15 we will bring you educational tracks that focus on different industries and their different needs, as well as provide many crossover and “learning from each other” opportunities. The one-on-one tech support sessions (the very popular Purple Patch) will be available again – this year with the new name of Product Support Lab. AUDC15 will include roadmap sessions so that you can get a glimpse of the updates and improvements we’ve made so far, and what we have planned for the future to continue to meet your needs.

Product Support Lab

Purple Patch’s new name this year is Product Support Lab.

A highlight for me will be the opportunity to showcase the people of Abila at this conference. We know how valuable it is to put names, faces and expertise together in real life, so we’re hosting many networking opportunities with each other, with staff and with our wonderful sponsors. There will be two fabulous receptions for you to attend – one at the conference hotel and one at the world famous Austin City Limits Moody Theatre in downtown Austin. These events are an opportunity to relax, have fun, meet old friends and make new ones, too.

AUDC14 beach party

AUDC15 will be held February 22-24, 2015 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, TX. Our conference will be the inaugural event at the brand new JW Marriott, so if you’ve never experienced being the first-ever occupant of a hotel room – here’s your chance!

Register now at www.audc2015.com secure your Early Bird registration rate of $495.00. Please don’t delay, the early bird rate ends at Midnight (CT), October 20th. And I want to meet you, so book now to secure your spot.

See you in Austin!

The Moneyball Effect and what it means for Associations – It’s a Team Game!

This is part 1 of a 3-part series.

Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis (and was also turned into a film starring Brad Pitt) tells the remarkable story of the Oakland A’s professional baseball team in the early 2000s and how it managed to win enough games to make it the playoffs—despite having a team payroll that was roughly one-third of big-market teams like the New York Yankees.

What does baseball have to do with association management?
Simply put, this team, with a very limited budget, managed to achieve their surprise success by using stats (data) in an entirely new way. Not big data, but actionable data!

We recently published a whitepaper for association executives based on lessons learned from this story.

Download our whitepaper, The Moneyball Effect, now.
We hope that this story will inspire you take a fresh look at your membership, discover what you didn’t know you didn’t know, plan changes and reap the benefits. It’s not the size of your data, or budget that matters, it’s how you analyze and use it to grow your association.

The Moneyball Effect whitepaper offers six lessons to help association professionals define and achieve an actionable data plan for their organization. In this blog post, we’ll look at one of those steps:

LESSON #4: IT’S A TEAM GAME
It’s important to note that the A’s Manager, intentionally drew attention away from individual statistics (which highlighted star players) and focused more on the team impact of the statistics combined. For associations, this means learning how to better appreciate the collective impact of small actions, rather than focusing on the more visible and focused measures of success.

We often have a vision of the ideal member: the superstar volunteer who gives so much of her time and is so passionate about the field. She goes the extra mile, attends all the events, is an ambassador to member prospects, and one day will accept the Lifetime Achievement award. We should value and nurture these members, but we shouldn’t push everyone to be like them.

What about our content curators? What about the introverts? What about the people who always fill in their digital profiles? We tend to take smaller, less noticeable actions like this for granted, as if they are secondary in importance, but that’s precisely what baseball thought about on-base percentage. Don’t let our cultural obsession with superstars skew how you uncover the secrets to success in your association.

Is your association finding new ways to analyze and use data? If so please share in the comments below your findings, challenges, wins, etc. And don’t forget to download a free copy of the full whitepaper, which includes the all six lessons from Moneyball.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3 part series.

3 Key Takeaways from NTEN Leading Change Summit 2014

The inaugural Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) Leading Change Summit (LCS) ended last Saturday, finishing up a conference like no other. NTEN CEO Amy Sample Ward kicked things off with the promise that this experiment required a leap of faith by the participants. If we took that leap, we would be rewarded with extreme collaboration opportunities. She, and the entire NTEN staff and volunteer team, stood by that promise.

Unlike most conferences where participants listen to keynotes, breakout sessions, and the occasional round table discussion, the LCS facilitated an interactive approach to leading change. Participants worked together to activate individual talents collaboratively rather than each reinventing the wheel on challenges many nonprofits face.

future of technology

I participated in the Future of Technology track and several themes prevailed through the three days of discussion.

1. Who says the nonprofit sector isn’t innovative? Innovation is often bred out of necessity. When resources are limited, it’s the scrappiest technologists that bring the most innovative approaches to the table. Unfortunately nonprofit funders often don’t reward scrappy, they reward complex project plans and promises of a risk free, conservative approach. We must help reshape the funders’ approach to reward innovation over “safe”.

2. End users want more with less. Many projects fail because end users are scared of the complexities of new technology. Software interfaces and usability standards need to evolve to be intuitive. As one of the LCS facilitators, Peter Campbell, wrote in his blog post on the Future of Technology, “In a world where staff are more independent in their software use, with less standardization, usability will trump sophistication. We’ll expect less of our software, but we’ll expect to use it without any training.”

3. Technology should enhance connections not replace them. In our breakout sessions we were asked to think about our dream projects, problems we would love to solve but don’t have resources, experience, or time. The result was a wall of ideas to create social change, using technology as the backdrop. Technology should be used to help make those connections and collaborations possible, not replace them. And sometimes, good old fashion analog index cards can do the trick!

Dream Projects

We thank the NTEN team for making this a truly unique conference experience, and special thanks to the Future of Technology track leaders: Peter Campbell, Tracy Kronzak, and Tanya Tarr.

Mastering the Science Behind Writing Compelling Grant Proposals That Win Funding

The FIn a recent Abila webinar hosted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, presenter Debbie DiVirgilio guided participants through the grant writing process. Debbie is a certified nonprofit grant professional with many years of successful grant writing experience.

Note: if you missed the live webinar, or took part and would like to watch it again or share it with your colleagues, the recording is available for download here.

Whether you’re new to writing grant proposals, or, are an experienced professional, this presentation serves as a primer and also a re-focusing on the “essentials” for securing the most grant dollars for your organization.

A synopsis of Debbie’s presentation:

Competition for grants is growing. New nonprofits are forming all the time to meet increasing societal needs, meaning there are more organizations competing for valuable grant dollars. Anything you can do to give your cause a competitive edge is important, and success in securing grants is more likely if you follow the fundamentals.

First and foremost, when writing your grant proposal focus on the mission and how you plan to directly address problems in your community with the money you’re requesting.

Establish a track record

Debbie used The Paris Foundation as a great example of an organization doing grant proposal writing right. They carried out their mission, providing meals to the homeless in their community, for three years without asking for funding. When the necessity came for additional funding they began applying for grants with a story to tell and a track record with concrete results to back it up: i.e. served 37,000 meals to the homeless in their community. 

While you may need to apply for funding from the very beginning, make sure you have a good story to tell.  Once you receive your funding make sure you follow the funders’ rules, and develop a track record and relationships necessary to establish a reputation for doing great things and making appropriate use of grant dollars.   

Identify Grant Makers

Before applying for a particular grant, do your homework:

  • Are their organizations or programs doing the same work as you?

  • What is the unique need that your program meets?

  • Leverage the expertise, knowledge and contacts of your founder, board and staff

  • Consider promoting your project as a “pilot”, foundations are sometimes more apt to fund pilot programs

Meet the Grant Makers Criteria

The most important rule is to follow the guidelines that grant funders put in place.  Check the Foundation’s website carefully to see what they fund and make sure your program and needs align to their guidelines and criterion. It is extremely important that you follow the exact rules laid out to ensure you win the grant you need, and ensure a quality relationship with the funder in the future.

This could also be as simple as making sure that you staple your final reports versus compiling a formal binder, or, recognizing that they want reports laid out in a particular way.  Do not try and get too fancy if the funder is not tasking for it.

Finding Foundation Funding

  • Start locally – a local foundation is more likely to be interested and vested in helping to meet a local need

  • Develop relationships within the community

  • Building your network by going to community events can be extremely important to developing the relationships you need.

Seeking grants in smaller communities

Raising money within a smaller community can come with some unique challenges, Debbie addresses these with a few recommendations:

  • Identify local corporations that may be seeking to help out within the community

  • Look at competitors as well as potential partners

  • Use The Foundation Center’s directory to conduct a reverse-search function in order to find foundations that work in your geographic area

Develop a Funding Plan

  • Identify funders for 6-12 months out and organize by deadline

  • Research what grant makers want to see and might be looking for

  • Develop a complete overview of your organization and its mission. This will most likely take involvement from your senior leadership and maybe even your board

  • Explain what success looks like to your funder in a way that they can understand how you will directly affect the community

  • Make sure that the goals you lay out in your proposal are realistic and measureable.  It should be easy to determine success at the end of the grant period

Use Data to Tell Your Story

  • Use data to help support the story you are trying to tell

  • During the application process, bring a team together from across your organization to make sure you have the tools and processes in place to measure against your goals

  • Be honest. If you succeed, celebrate!  If you don’t, be sure to explain what you learned from the process and what you will do next time to reach your goals

  • Include a narrative with the budget. Make sure the two agree

  • Use emotion to connect the foundation staff and board to the work you do

Use Reputable Data to Demonstrate Need

Put the extra time into doing some research, even gathering outside, verifiable data that helps confirm the needs your organization is addressing. Some available sources might include:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau

  • School report cards

  • FBI’s US Crime Data

  • HUD promise zone mapping tool – to locate impoverished communities

Nine keys to Grant Writing Success

Debbie summarized her entire webcast with her top nine keys to success when it comes to grant proposal writing:

  1. Focus on the needs of the community.

  2. Calculate the budget using realistic numbers.

  3. Establish a relationship with the funder.

  4. Avoid using too many superlatives when you write your grant request.

  5. Be consistent throughout the application

  6. Connect each section of the proposal with the other.

  7. Double check your proposal for errors and typos.

  8. Give yourself plenty of planning, research and writing time.

  9. Always follow the directions provided by the funder.

While this blog post captures the main points of Debbie’s webcast, I recommend you watch the complete presentation which also includes a Q&A with the speaker and its attendees from the live webcast. An hour of your time is merely a small investment when it comes to the future of your nonprofit organization.

Share your thoughts and your own tips for successful grant proposal writing in the comments section below.

Online Fundraising Success After The Ice Bucket Challenge

The summer of 2014 will join the ranks of fundraising legend with the extraordinarily successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Whether you loved it, hated it, wrote a check, or threw a bucket of ice water over your head and filmed it for all to see, the Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC) could not be ignored. The last thing I read put the funds raised by the challenge at around $94 million. Wow! Take a moment for that number to sink in.

The surprise success of this campaign does force one to think of the power of peer influence, social media, and the sheer untapped value of online fundraising. Do you have an online and peer-to-peer fundraising strategy? If not, are you working on one and making it a priority?

Here are a few tips to help you get started with your own Fall, or end-of-year online fundraising campaign:

Know your story

It’s a great exercise to define your organization’s story, sleep on it, then come back the next day and simplify it. You have only a few seconds to grab the attention and heart of your potential donor so make them count.

Use these three pointers to get you started and keep you on track:

  • What is your cause?
  • Why is this cause important to you?
  • What difference will each donation make?

Keep the delivery method simple

Don’t re-invent the wheel – there are great existing social media options and technology solutions for you to use to put your request out there. Don’t take the peer-to-peer angle for granted. ASK people to share your story and link with a friend. You don’t need to challenge them to do anything more than read, watch, donate, and spread the word.

Report on results

Don’t be shy about giving regular updates throughout the length of the campaign on the results, whether good, bad, or average. Share the amount raised, the number of donors, thank the donors for their donations and for sharing your message with their peers. This reporting can be done via social media, on your website and in personal thank you emails to donors.

Get everyone involved

You already have access to a number of influencers – from your staff to your volunteers to your board members and your existing donors. Leverage them. Ask them to share your campaign via email and on their personal and professional social media pages.

Have the right software at the front-end, and back-end of your campaign

There are a number of options for online fundraising solutions, but for ease of set-up and use and thorough reporting, we have to suggest our own Abila Fundraising Online. In addition to its value as a fundraising vehicle, it also works seamlessly with Abila Fundraising 50 – a complete donor management solution. Your staff will thank you when they don’t have to manually enter all the donor information collected and will be free to carry out your mission.

If your campaign brings you new donors – and I’m almost certain it will – don’t forget to gather their information, add them to your database and reach out to them (and their peers) again (and again). The true value of an organization lies in its donor database.

Don’t forget to say thank you

A simple but sincere thank you – both individually to the donor and via social media to everyone is important. Apart from the obvious reasons, the thank you and a report on how the donations are being put to use can often spur further donations and shares.

Dream big for 2015!

With creativity, consistency and constancy, 2015 could be the year that your organization has its Ice Bucket Challenge moment.