- Otwan Lowery
Grant Management Software Versus Grant Reporting Software
Grant management and reporting are vital activities that every nonprofit undertakes during the lifecycle of a grant. Apart from the fact that these activities can often be part of the requirements for obtaining funding, they also constitute the basic conditions of trust for nonprofits.
Funding agencies and individual grantmakers typically want to know they are partnering with a transparent, trustworthy organization. As a result, nonprofits are keen to implement and showcase a grant reporting and management system that prioritizes accountability and reliability.
The importance of these activities does not detract from their complexity, however. Grant management will usually involve a lengthy flowchart of administrative tasks that cover the grant's entire life cycle. Grant reporting will also include several complex reporting requirements that often vary depending on the funding agency or foundation.
Leveraging software provides significant cost and time advantages over manually carrying out these activities. Nonprofits commonly have to consider important questions regarding which software best serves their purposes in light of the unique activities involved in both grant management and reporting.
In this article, we consider how the software for these two cornerstone activities stack up and whether nonprofits may benefit more from utilizing specialist grant reporting software.
What is grant management?
Grant management covers the entire spectrum of administrative duties required for sourcing, obtaining, and implementing grants. Since grants are essentially contracts and include terms that detail how the money is to be used, grant management helps nonprofits plan for, implement, and track these requirements.
The concept of grant management often applies to both grant seekers and grantmakers. For grantmakers, the focus is usually on implementing a system that efficiently manages sourcing, evaluation, and acceptance of grant applications, as well as ongoing oversight on the implementation of awarded grants.
For grant seekers, grant management involves a focus on nonprofits that wish to manage and account for the grants they receive properly. It is also an important part of maintaining a positive relationship with funders and may contribute to further future funding.
The gamut of administrative tasks involved in grant management can be categorized in terms of the pre-grant stage, grant stage, and post-grant stage activities.
Pre-grant: This stage typically includes all the activities necessary for sourcing and applying for suitable grants. Nonprofits will use this stage to identify grants that fit their purpose, assess proposed requirements, and write applications.
Grant: The grant stage manages the continuum of activities that begin from when a prospective grant application is accepted until it is awarded. Some of the activities that will typically be carried out here include complying with application requirements such as presenting a proposal, impact assessments, etc.
Post-grant: After the grant is awarded, the post-grant stage kicks off and continues until completion of the grant project. Expectedly, this is often the longest part of the process, especially for medium to long term projects. This stage typically includes implementation, evaluation, and tracking of the grant project. It also includes comprehensive grant reporting in line with federal and funder requirements.
What does grant management software do?
Grant management software must, by the very nature of the activities it is created to assist, be very broad in application. Grant management can become very complex, especially when there are numerous or complex projects involved, such as those involving restricted funds.
As a result, efficiency, broad collaboration, and accuracy are highly prized in grant management software. These applications provide nonprofits with a broad base of capabilities, including:
Grant discovery: Certain grant management may assist nonprofits with automatically searching for and finding grants. This can often work by curating known funding sources and notifying the organization when an opportunity opens up.
Collaboration: The software typically enables organization-wide collaboration on important aspects of the grant management process, such as application, implementation, and reporting.
Project management tracking: Grant management software typically supports project tracking along with pre-selected metrics.
Database integration: The grant management process may be integrated with an organization's database and tracking software to produce better records and more accurate reporting.
Grant reporting: Many grant management applications provide broad reporting capabilities. However, these are often strictly high-level and may not be adaptable to funder-specific scenarios.
Federated user access and roles: For most nonprofits, grant management software enables fluid systems with secure multiple user access.
What is grant reporting?
Compared to grant management, grant reporting is a far more specific task within the range of activities that constitute management. It covers the process of providing one-off or periodic updates to a funder about the progress of a grant-covered project.
Grantmakers typically include specific requirements for periodic updates and/or a final report on how a project is going. In many cases, these requirements may also be imposed by regulators. The purpose of grant reporting is to ensure that funders know how their money is being spent, and this also helps nonprofits stay on track towards achieving desired goals.
Certain funders may include non-standard guidelines as to what a grant report should contain. However, most funders will want to see a detailed breakdown of past and future spending, information on the project's predicted outcomes, and whether the initial goals have been met.
To ensure that a grant report is written correctly and accurately, nonprofits will have to ensure they are tracking and recording the most important details or metrics that will underlie the report.
Where founders include specific details on what they want to see in a grant report, the organization must track and record the hard facts that will satisfy these non-standard requirements as well.
All of this can combine to create a complex and sometimes highly specific, a process that can be capital and labor-intensive, even using grant management software. This is why several organizations choose to rely on grant reporting software.
What does grant reporting software do?
Grant reporting software provides a set of highly specific tools and capabilities that are designed to keep pace with the most complex reporting requirements. These applications are made to help nonprofits meet their grant reporting obligations with minimal stress and significant labor and time savings.
Grant reporting applications are designed to meet a specific need and fill a hole in functionality often left by grant management software. Often, grant management applications do not entirely cover the grant reporting process due to the broad nature of their functionality.
As a result, organizations may need to bolster parts of the reporting process flow with manual labor, such as importing data or setting detailed requirements by hand and conducting manual audits.
However, grant reporting software automates the entire workflow, enabling organizations to fulfill their reporting obligations faster and cheaper. Some of the capabilities that grant reporting software enables are:
Automatic data entry: Grant reporting software prevents labor-intensive data entry processes and forestalls duplication of data.
Automatic report generation: Certain grant reporting software supports auto-generation of comprehensive canned reports.
Fluid auto-reporting criteria: The software also comes with customizable reporting criteria that provide granular control over what is contained in a report and the data to be used in it. This enables compliance with complex reporting requirements.
Secure integrations: Certain grant management software may also support integrations with leading grant management applications. This ensures organizations can enjoy a blended grant management and reporting infrastructure that meets all their needs.
Although grant management and reporting are two sides of the same coin, they can often require different approaches and software for optimal compliance. Nonprofits that desire speedy, accurate, and flexible grant reporting will often be better served by leveraging specialist grant reporting software.
At PreciseGrants, we help nonprofits save time and money on their grant reporting processes. With a wide range of features that prioritize ease-of-use, flexibility, accuracy, and an integrated reporting process, PreciseGrants is the reporting solution choice for organizations everywhere.
If you would like to learn how PreciseGrants can help you stay on top of your compliance process, please contact us to find out more.