Streamlining Grantmaking Processes: How Your GMS Can Double as a CRM

Sometimes, when two things come together, they become more than the sum of their parts. Like peanut butter and chocolate.

As a grantmaking organization, you know you need a way to organize your funding requests. And you need a way to organize the contact records for the people behind the organizations who apply.

But where the magic happens is when you use your GMS—the single place for all your grantmaking processes—as a powerful customer relationship management (CRM) system as well.

The more data that your organization preserves about applicants and grantees, the more your GMS can simultaneously function as a CRM that can actively build reports, generate direct communications with grantees, and export buckets of data. Having access to these tools enables your organization to easily review historical data, adopt new best practices, and make data-driven decisions about future grantmaking cycles.

Here are some best practices for how to effectively consolidate your GMS and CRM systems into one integrated tool that will unlock the full potential of your organization’s data.

Collect What You Need—and Use What You Collect

When requesting information about the organizations and individuals who request funding, don’t just keep track of the basics. Collect as much information as you think you will need to make educated funding decisions. It’s also important to have places to integrate data from third-party repositories, such as Candid, so you don’t need to ask your grantees for that information during the application process.

Comprehensive sets of data allow you to group contacts into defined categories, giving you insights into your grantmaking when you pull that information into a dashboard or report. For example, organizations that offer scholarships could categorize grantees by fields such as School Attended, Graduation Years, Scholarship Amount, or College Major. Need a list of scholarship recipients who graduated from Harvard between 2008 and 2018? No problem! 

Keep Information Organized Based on Your Grantmaking Processes

Many GMS systems like Blackbaud Grantmaking even allow users to configure their own fields to organize contacts in ways that are unique to different organizations. Need to segment contacts into different mailing lists? Custom fields would be an ideal way to list which individuals should receive different mailings—and to flag people who should not receive solicitations at all. Building custom fields could also enable, for example, grouping scholarship recipients by SAT or ACT scores, GPA, and other information that would be specific to students. 

Keeping your data up to date is also key to effective communication. A complete record should ideally contain accurate phone, email, and address information, particularly if clients can send emails or generate mail merge documents directly from their grantmaking software. Recording detailed biographical info, including title, suffix, pronouns, and nickname, will ensure that emails and letters will be properly addressed to each recipient. And make sure your organization has a standard procedure to regularly update contact info. Blackbaud Grantmaking software has a “Tax Status Lookup” function that allows users to automatically update organization data to match the latest data from the IRS or Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

Connect the Dots with Your Data

Another critical component of an organization’s contact management is not only having individual records for each grantee in your system, but also understanding how they are personally and professionally related to each other. Keeping track of relationship information will allow your organization to answer critical questions about grantees and potential grantees, such as: 

  • Where do they work? 
  • Where have they formerly worked? 
  • Who are their colleagues? 
  • Who are their family members? 
  • Where did scholarship recipients attend school? When did they attend?

Once you’ve reached out, don’t forget to record that activity within your grantmaking software. Keeping track of past phone calls, letters, and meetings will preserve key details about when interactions occurred, outcomes, and lessons learned. And don’t forget to use activity records to remind people about future interactions with contacts. That way, organizations can easily build “to do” lists of upcoming phone calls or meetings to ensure they do not fall through the cracks—and to catch past due actions that were not completed on time.

Manage Your Grantmaking Data with the Future in Mind

Put notes about all your funding decisions in your system. Your system is like a historical record book, telling the story of your past and current organization’s requests. As long as you are storing information consistently, your team can rely on your system for future decisions. Being diligent with data entry for interactions, contacts, and relationships gives you the opportunity to use your system as a research tool. If the potential grantee has previously applied, you’ll have data sets from their earlier application to consider. 

A best practice is to have a request record documented even if it is declined immediately. This gives you a full grant history for each organization. So, if an organization is requesting feedback for a declined request, you have a quick way to provide this information. On the other hand, you can scroll through approved requests to get an understanding of why they’ve been so successful.

Consider keeping track of the reasons for a request being declined or approved with a dedicated field. This could be done by building a custom field and preferably one with a value list versus being typable. Value lists will typically be more effective if there are only a few potential options. However, if there is more information to be mentioned, consider a typable field to write longer notes that are unique to that request.

Also think about what reporting tools you will use and organize your information to make those reports work like a well-oiled machine. If you know that you’ll need to report on organizations funded by region, be sure that you are tracking the region of the organization. Determine policies to track these details consistently so you always have enough data to produce accurate reports and queries. Reliable data in means reliable reports out, otherwise we are looking at garbage in and garbage out – yuck!

Practice Good Data Health 

Clean, accurate data helps you make actionable and strategic decisions. Poor data slows you down—or worse, leads to misinformed initiatives. To keep your data clean, team members should commit to uniform data entry. Understanding the database and how to take care of it should be a priority before users get rights to their accounts, like getting their driver’s license before driving on the road solo for the first time. Build a policy and procedure guide or even a one-pager for the most popular tasks the database users will need to accomplish. Lots of users may even stick this on the wall next to their view of their computers.

Some examples of what to include can be:

  • Address formatting (Avenue vs Ave vs AVE vs Ave.)
  • Appropriate security rights by staff role
  • Policies on marking fields inactive or deleting information
  • Criteria for when a record needs to be added
  • Field definitions – what goes where?

Be sure to review this data entry guide on a regular basis and communicate any changes to staff so that everyone is on the same page. Set reminders to revisit this and keep a document of any recurring issues, that way when you revisit policies you can see if a new rule is needed or is being neglected. 

Are you looking for a new grant management system that can also serve as your CRM? Join us for our next Blackbaud Grantmaking product tour to see it in action!

This blog was co-written by Henry Wiencek and Chrissy Haskell. View more of Chrissy’s work here.

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