How To Future Proof Your Foundation’s Grants Management System – Part 1

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi

2020 has challenged grants managers at foundations in ways that no one could have anticipated. A global pandemic. Overnight shifts to remote work and remote learning models. Double digit unemployment increases and nationwide protests for social justice. Any one of these factors might have created a shift in the operating model for many foundations. The confluence of all these events has made many foundations completely re-evaluate their philanthropic strategy.

By May, many foundations altered their grants management processes to address COVID-19 related challenges in their communities. In addition, foundations also found themselves on the front line helping their nonprofit partners execute and survive during a time of incredible financial pressure. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, approximately 25% of US-based nonprofits have less than six months of operating expenses in reserve, and 10% have less than 30 days.

While none of us can predict what is in store for the remainder of 2020 and beyond, the events of this year have caused many foundations to fundamentally re-evaluate their approach to grants management. In short, foundation leaders are asking their grantmaking team: if you can’t predict the future, can you at least create grants management infrastructure (grants management system, grants management team, and a grants management process) that is future proof?

While there are no guarantees, we believe that there are five concrete steps any foundation can take today to future proof their grants management.

  1. Assess your grants management infrastructure’s future readiness
  2. Choose the right grants management system
  3. Create a resilient grants management team
  4. Build a relationship with vendors that can help you adapt
  5. Make grants management strategy development a process and not an event

Over the next few months, we’ll spend more time talking about each of these future proofing recommendations. Today, we’ll talk about what it means to assess your grants management future readiness.

We know how hard it is for human beings to self-evaluate. We also know that self-evaluation is an essential part of any improvement journey. In the same way, organizations need to do a clear eyed review of their performance under stress to determine what worked , what didn’t, and what changes are necessary in their journey towards creating a future proof grants management infrastructure. Some organizations will be able to conduct internal assessments to answer these questions. Others may need to bring in external experts to conduct the analysis. In either case, future proof readiness will require answering questions like:

  • “Were we able to quickly adapt our grants management programs to address an urgent crisis?”
  • “Were our systems able to deliver grants management functionality securely during the switch to remote work?”
  • Did we prepare our people to function effectively as our operating model changed and did we provide them with the training and support needed when they needed it?

In the coming weeks we’ll provide a brief quiz to help with this assessment. The quiz results will provide insights on where you are in your Future Proof journey.

No one can predict the future. But we believe you can prepare your foundation to achieve its mission no matter what challenges may come on the horizon.

Read more: How to Future-Proof Your Foundation’s Grants Management System – Part 2