Your new technology purchase was made to streamline and standardize processes. Now, it is time to integrate it into your team’s daily activities in a way that realizes those goals.
To see success, the technology rollout must be effectively communicated to all parties involved. Use the tips below to facilitate an easy and enjoyable adoption process:
1. Explain Why the Technology is Being Implemented
Before your team can get on board with the new technology, potential software users must understand why their processes are changing. Whether it is board or grant management software, the reasons often boil down to:
- Streamlined processes
- Saved money and time
- Simplified reporting and compliance
- Improved organization of important documents
- Less internal silos
Communicate the importance of achieving these goals and how technology makes it all possible. It is also helpful to explain that, though the change may seem overwhelming and time-consuming to learn, the end result will make the job easier and add value across daily tasks.
2. Strategically Plan Your Communications
Communication should come early and often. Inform affected parties of how you will guide them through every step of the adoption and rollout process.
To do so, create an internal communication plan and structure when, how and from whom communications will be relayed. Messaging should be strategic and reassure employees that the change will not just be thrown on them.
Include the following in your rollout communication plan:
- Who: Identify key stakeholders, users and others affected by the new software.
- What: Document key messages, tasks, milestones and deadlines that need to be communicated.
- When: Map communications around key milestones such as training sessions, internal due dates and grant reporting deadlines.
- Where: Decide the best channel(s) to communicate with users.
- Why: Always weave the reason behind the transition into all communications.
3. Address Concerns
Change does not come easy for everyone, even with the promise of added value. Some may doubt its benefits or argue that the status quo works fine. Common concerns include:
- Not having time
- Fear of someone watching over them as they work
- Not adhering to change
Address concerns head on by soliciting an honest discussion about apprehensions, insecurities and doubt. Awareness of these feelings will help you better formulate a way to soothe concerns.
Technology will only bring expected value if your team is on board. Mitigate fear, manage concerns and promote adoption of your new technology purchase.
For more ways to facilitate an effective technology rollout, download "Change Management: Adopt and Implement Grant Management Software."
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For successful implementation of a new technology, adoption must be widespread throughout your organization. This is where a technology pilot program comes into play.
Pilot programs offer the ability to rollout new technology in small numbers, allowing you to hash out processes before large-scale implementation.
However, they are only as effective as the information derived from them. Well thought out feedback mechanisms must be in place to collect data and insight from end users. Consider the following for your pilot program.
1. Promote Open Communication
Before starting a pilot program, establish program goals, as well as processes for collecting feedback. Communicate these details to participants—along with a high-level overview of why technology is being implemented. Explain that feedback is invaluable to the success of the rollout.
This conversation will help you identify potential qualms or reservations, giving you the opportunity to mitigate them. Participants should be made to feel that opinions, both positive and negative, are welcomed.
2. Before and After Self-Assessments
Have pilot participants conduct self-assessments before the program begins and after it has concluded. These assessments, when compared against each other, will reveal whether each participant felt the software had a positive or negative influence on:
- Processes and procedures
- Internal and external communication
- Business organization
- Ease of the job
- Overall work Impact
Feedback forms should be tailored with the organization’s goals for the technology in mind. Seek information that will directly impact how future rollouts occur.
3. Seek Participant Discussions
One-on-one discussions and focus groups are important when seeking candid, honest dialogue. They differ from self-assessment forms in that discussions provide the opportunity to dive deeper into respondents’ answers and discuss changes on a personal level.
Individual and small-group meetings communicate to participants that feedback is valued, important and worth your time. This in itself can encourage participants to provide forthright responses, giving you an unfiltered outlook on the technology.
Collecting accurate feedback from a technology pilot program enables the organization to gain more widespread support for implementation. It can also help identify areas of concern that need addressed prior to large-scale rollout.
Is your nonprofit ready to execute a technology pilot program? See our guide, Change Management: Adopt and Implement Grant Management Software.
to help you get started. For further assistance with implementation, contact us.
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The grant software purchasing decision is just the beginning. Like any technology rollout, organizational buy-in, proper training and use, and ongoing quality assurance is needed to maximize the value of your investment.
Below, we offer pointers to get started. For a complete walkthrough of the process, download our implementation guide below.
Technology is only as good as the people who use it. Unless your team commits to new grant management processes, data within your system will be stale and reporting inaccurate. To achieve internal support and ongoing use:
- Educate those who will be affected by the new technology, and explain when and how changes will occur. Highlight the key benefits of the transition.
- Communicate early and often. Proactively address questions, doubts and uncertainties.
- Gather internal champions to rally support and promote adoption.
- Identify an executive sponsor in the C-suite who can speak to the long-term vision and business drivers of the updates.
Proper Training and Use
Once your team is onboard with the benefits and program goals, provide adequate software training. Offer resources so that each person understands how the technology fits into their everyday activities.
- Invest in a grant management product that includes quality onboarding and training processes. This ensures a support team to help you understand product functionality from the onset. Remember, you can only train your team on the product if you have the proper knowledge yourself.
- Segment training sessions by role and security level so that instruction is tailored to attendees’ unique needs and use cases.
- Incorporate your own grant data into training, so you can immediately configure the software to your organization’s unique processes.
- Extend training outside your organization to sub-recipients and vendors to guarantee accurate data collection from partners.
- Offer follow-up and refresher courses, as needed, to answer questions, explain new features and/or reengage users.
Ongoing Quality Assurance
Don’t stop at initial onboarding; commit to continuous data integrity. Maintain momentum among your team, and keep records complete and accurate with these tips:
- Designate someone internally to own your grant management software. Have all troubleshooting and support requests funnel through that individual.
- Share data input responsibilities across your team. This prevents one person from getting overwhelmed, which can lead to unintentional error and fatigue.
- Regularly solicit team feedback on ways you can improve the grant management process, and tweak software configuration and training as needed.
- Demonstrate results. Set benchmarks prior to software implementation, and measure progress. This helps your team stay committed to new processes.
Free Implementation Guide
Looking for more detailed implementation help? Download “Change Management: Adopt and Implement Grant Management Software” for a three-step process to effectively navigate a grant management software rollout:
- Step 1: Adoption. Create your communication plan, identify internal champions and achieve organizational buy-in.
- Step 2: Training and Implementation. Educate users on software functionality, import current and future grant data, and begin managing awards.
- Step 3: Excel. Ensure long-term adoption and data quality, and effectively manage maintenance and customer support.
While no major technology investment is a turnkey solution, this guide makes adoption and implementation a walk in the park.
The choice to integrate new technology into your board’s processes takes careful thought and consideration. Not all board portals are created equal, so it’s important to evaluate options against organizational needs and goals.
To help with the sometimes-cumbersome task of purchasing new technology, we’ve created the Board Portal Software Purchase Evaluation Guide. Below are three tips derived from the guide to help you on the road to successful technology selection.
1. Map Your Board’s Current Processes
What is process mapping? Process mapping is the exercise of documenting current board management and communication methods to better understand shortcomings and identify improvement areas. It helps expose communication deficiencies, overlapping tasks and process inefficiencies.
Process mapping can also help reveal how your board can benefit from technology, giving you a better idea of what features matter most.
Download the guide for an interactive process mapping worksheet.
2. Identify Compliance and Engagement Goals
A board portal should help your organization realize compliance and engagement goals.
Many organizations find themselves with unengaged boards due to passively managed expectations, untapped talent and a misalignment of mission.
A board portal can help you enforce and track your engagement goals to promote transparency, accountability and participation. Evaluate your board member expectations, and then seek a technology solution that supports them.
Download the guide for an interactive expectations worksheet.
3. Define a Realistic Implementation Timeline
Seamless integration of your new technology purchase will not happen overnight. Identify a realistic rollout timeline for the best chance of adoption success. To pinpoint an achievable timeline, take into account:
- Vendor-specific implementation timelines
- Whether the system is turnkey or requires addition configuration
- Staff and board member training and rollout
Download the guide for an interactive timeline worksheet.
Are you ready to integrate a board portal into your organization’s processes? Read the full board portal purchasing guide for additional tips when evaluating software options.
On May 9, 2013, President Obama gave an executive order to make open and machine-readable data formats required for all new government IT operations.
Exactly one year later on May 9, 2014, President Obama signed the DATA Act into law—the country’s first open data law. The DATA Act furthers the 2013 executive order by requiring all information to be made publicly available in a standardized, downloadable, machine-readable format in one location (USASpending.gov).
New machine-readable requirements and reporting standards are destined to shake up government agency and federal fund recipient processes.
What is Machine-Readable Data?
Machine-readable data is information written in standard programming language so that it is easily interpreted by a computer or web browser. By moving to this standard, the government can more readily automate compliance, aggregate and analyze data, and promote transparency so spending, reporting and financial data can be processed with minimal human effort. Furthermore, machine-readable data functions across departments and agencies, encouraging open data and breaking down silos.
A move to these formats, and away from human-readable Portable Document Files (PDFs) and word processing documents, would greatly simplify federal data management and reporting.
How Does Machine-Readable Impact You?
Over the next few years, federal agencies will put processes in place to gather data in machine-readable formats.
As demonstrated in the Grants Reporting Information Project (GRIP), this will likely be in the form of online web forms, XML single submissions or XML bulk submissions. The goal is to eliminate paper forms that would need to be re-entered by agency personnel.
While grant recipients can report directly to governing bodies, grant management software can significantly increase reporting efficiency through bulk or batch XML filing. With it, multiple grant reports can be submitted in a single XML file transfer, saving grant managers time by pulling directly from grant recipients’ existing management systems.
Is your organization equipped to reap these efficiencies? A survey we conducted found that 86% of grant management offices still use ad hoc systems—spreadsheets, email, word processing documents, etc. to manage awards.
Embracing grant management technology can ease the compliance burden through completely automated data transmission between your internal reporting systems and funders’ platforms. Check out our Grant Management Software Evaluation Guide to begin the discussion.
How does your organization structure its grant data? What challenges do you foresee with the transition to machine-readable?
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Open data and performance-based reporting initiatives at the federal level are poised to have a trickle-down effect into local government. With transparency into spending comes stricter grant reporting requirements.
As municipalities navigate the changes, they are not alone. Public-private partnerships, shared services and other collaborative efforts may just be the answer to securing the funds needed to expand city services.
Open Data Gives Light to Shared Goals
Federal spending data today is housed in silos across agencies and departments, making it difficult to see how money is used. The DATA Act will standardize this information, and make it publicly available. This, in turn, will make it easier for municipalities to gain insight on regional projects run by others.
With this information, they can more readily uncover collaboration opportunities to further advance services offered in areas such as: infrastructure upgrades, arts and cultural programs, safety improvements, green energy initiatives and the like.
As Jesse Buggs, Director, Office of Grant Development and Administration, City of Bowie, explains, “[With open data,] we can see to what extent we might be able to collaborate with each other and thus enhance the services we provide to citizens.”
With an easier ability to uncover shared goals, new partnerships will arise between neighboring municipalities, local nonprofits and private contractors.
Consortia Grants On the Rise
As grant success becomes more closely tied to performance metrics, municipalities will need to demonstrate impact despite resource limitations. Local and state government jobs were hit hard by the recession, which influences “education, public safety, health care and human services.” Municipalities are stretched to deliver quality public services with less personnel, time and money.
Collaboration can help. In pooling together the staff, knowledge and assets of multiple organizations, municipalities can demonstrate a collective effort to solve a community problem, and thereby, better attract grantor interest.
With competition to win funds being fierce, many grantees have found strength in numbers. According to The 2014 State of Grant Management Report, more than two-thirds of survey respondents (69%) are the fiscal agent or lead recipient of one or more consortia grants, up from 57% in 2012.
In order for a consortia grant to succeed, lead recipients must have processes in place for sub-recipient management and reporting prior to project initiation. Awardees must achieve buy-in on timelines and reporting, and ensure the management structure is in place to maintain compliance.
What are your thoughts on partnerships and shared services? Share your experiences in the comments below!
For additional information on the DATA Act, download our whitepaper.
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Poor communication processes are often a leading cause of low board engagement, which can be detrimental to your organization’s goals and mission. Luckily, diagnosing this problem within your organization is simple.
Process mapping is the exercise of documenting current processes to better understand shortcomings and identify improvement areas. It helps pinpoint communication deficiencies, as well as initiatives and technology solutions to overcome them.
Mapping current board communication processes also steers you toward technology that is compatible with your needs, instead of getting distracted by shiny new features.
How Process Mapping Works
Process mapping involves listing all board activities, and then pairing each with associated documents, responsible parties and communication methods. Doing so helps communication holes and inefficiencies become more apparent.
Use our free interactive worksheet to map your board’s processes.
As you map your board’s processes, consider the following:
- How are you scheduling meetings and sending meeting reminders?
- How are board communications and information distributed?
- What do board and committee members use to communicate with one another?
- Where are you housing necessary compliance documents, such as 990s, conflict of interest policies and procedures and independent director requirements?
- How are you tracking board member expectations and performance?
Also, keep an eye out for obvious signs of low board engagement, including low meeting attendance, poor punctuality, high turnover and low productivity. If any of these factors are present, dive into your processes to see if there are ways to improve engagement.
Match communication process weaknesses you’ve identified with suitable board portal features that would remedy them. Keep desired functionality in mind when evaluating vendors to ensure your organization’s needs are met.
Looking for more information on board portal research, decision-making and implementation? Download the Board Portal Software Purchase Evaluation Guide.
When it comes to grant management and administration, data is largely fragmented.
Federal grants are siloed by agency with no systems in place to standardize data and spending information. Whereas, on the recipient side, many organizations lack the processes to truly sync performance data across departments and implementation partners.
The result is inefficiencies, unnecessary expenses, a lack of transparency and a greater chance for error. The DATA Act's passage remedies this, and will lead to a complete overhaul of grant reporting nationwide.
In this post, we discuss how data can be more effectively consolidated, leveraged and managed to help both nonprofits and funders better reach their goals.
Government-Wide Data Standards
Right now, the government lacks consistent data standards for financial, assistance and procurement information. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compare spending and performance across agencies as each reports metrics differently.
The introduction of data standards, a pivotal piece of the DATA Act, will rectify current challenges by introducing unique award identifiers (UAIDs) and markup languages to be used government-wide.
Standard UAIDs and markup languages would make data searchable, allowing policymakers and citizens to truly track the money, as well as enable big data analytics to better identify cases of fund misuse.
(Note: Machine-generated identifiers for items like agency code, award type and fiscal year would further improve grant-reporting standardization.)
Internal Data Management
A step in the right direction, government-wide grant standards will have a trickle-down effect on grant recipients. An organized approach to internal data management is needed to efficiently pull and report grant performance data in the proper formats.
To simplify compliance, grant managers should plan their internal processes around these required data standards, and maintain consistent naming conventions and filing structures organization-wide.
In doing so, we have found grant management software to be extremely helpful in centralizing all grant management information (i.e. activities, tasks, data and supporting documentation), and automating traditionally manual tasks.
Data Collection and Reporting Automation
Open, standard data makes compliance automation a greater reality. For example, by pulling from USASpending.gov and the System for Award Management (SAM), fields such as agency information, funding amount, project type, award data, and recipient name and address, can be pre-populated into reports.
With the right technology in place, reports such as budget, performance, time and effort, and outcome evaluations can also be automated. This saves the grant manager time when reporting back to funders.
Machine-readable data is that which can be easily read, parsed and understood by computers. Historically, award data has been submitted via a variety of formats, including word processing documents, paper forms, PDFs and spreadsheets. While these files are easy for humans to read, they lack the structural elements needed for computers to easily aggregate, verify and analyze the data.
Presenting data in a machine-readable way using extensible markup language (commonly referred to as “XML”) filing would reduce the amount of human effort required and further automate much of the reporting process.
In the Grants Reporting and Information Pilot (GRIP), our grant management software proved successful at generating bulk or batch XML filings of award data. Information was pulled directly from grant recipients’ existing management systems, and multiple reports were submitted via one XML file transfer.
While legacy systems are the largest hurdle in the race to machine-readable data, the technology exists today to streamline the way data is shared and reported, and some predict widespread implementation in the next five years.
For more on federal reporting changes and their impact on grant data, read our white paper, The Changing Landscape of Grant Reporting.
How does your organization consolidate, leverage and manage data for maximum effectiveness? Share your experiences below.
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What is the current state of grant management? StreamLink Software posed this question to more than 200 nonprofit and public sector professionals in January 2014.
The infographic below highlights key findings from that study. Download the full results here.
Download a PDF version of the infographic, or use the embed code below to share on your website.
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Key Grant Management Statistics
- 44% of grant-seeking organizations rely on the federal government as their primary grant source. (Click to tweet!)
- 69% of grant-seeking organizations are the lead recipient on a consortia grant. (Click to tweet!)
- 86% of organizations use in-house grant management solutions; 20% use specialized software (Click to tweet!)
- Post-award performance management and measurement is greatest grant frustration. (Click to tweet!)
- Economic conditions and lack of funding top the list of anticipated nonprofit challenges in 2014. (Click to tweet!)
For more insight into the current state of grant management, download the complete 2014 report.
What board portal software features are important to your board?
Once you’ve uncovered that your board could greatly benefit from a technology solution to streamline board management and communication, and improve compliance and engagement, it is then time to evaluate what specific features your board needs.
Board portals differ by sector, organization size, functionality and price. Designed to help simplify the process, the matrix within our Board Portal Software Purchasing Guide allows you to compare platforms and their features—but first, you must decide what features would positively impact your board’s processes.
Align Board Portal Features with Goals
Concentrate your search on the features that align with your goals—not just what’s shiny and new. Every organization differs in what they hope to gain from a technology solution. With this in mind, ensure that the portal you choose makes sense for your board’s specific needs. With the proper feature mix for your organization, you can:
- Promote effective communication
- Create more time-efficient processes
- Enhance overall transparency
- Help board members prepare for meetings
- Access documents and notes anytime, from anywhere
- Keep your board well-informed and active
Board Management and Communication Features
Always assess board portal functionality against your goals as you research vendors. As a starting point, consider the following management and communication features:
- Shared meeting and event calendars
- Task assignment capabilities
- Member expectation and performance tracking
- Ability to create ballots and polls
- Automated email communications
- Centralized board document storage, including 990s, conflict of interest policies and independent director requirements
- Ability to post meeting minutes and notes
Gauge, too, the simplicity of the user interface, product flexibility, and pricing structure.
For an interactive guide to board portal research, decision-making and implementation, download the Board Portal Software Purchase Evaluation Guide.
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