On Sept. 29, 2015, StreamLink Software CEO, Adam Roth presented at the International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) annual conference on the grant ecosystem, evolving federal legislation, and the growing need for an end-to-end grant management solution. Below are key takeaways from his presentation.
Today’s Grant Ecosystem
Today’s grant ecosystem intertwines initiatives across your entire organization, creating a system with many different levels that involve all aspects of grant management:
- Fund distribution: Funders create opportunity applications, solicit responses, assess and choose recipients, and track and report on performance.
- Research and planning: Recipients conduct diligent research to find grants applicable to their organization, and then prepare a proposal that showcases why they deserve funding.
- Activity management: Recipients streamline communication processes, delegate tasks, and align activities with performance and financial expenditures.
- Post-award performance and reporting: Recipients demonstrate their ability to spend funds strategically and appropriately, and create reports that comply with new federal requirements as well as highlight performance.
The above responsibilities are distributed between three main bodies:
- Funders: Federal agencies, foundations and other entities that provide grant funding to prime recipients.
- Prime recipients: The main grantee responsible for managing awarded funds and overseeing sub-recipients.
- Sub recipients: Receive awarded funds from prime recipients.
Typically, each of these bodies mange their day-to-day activities through a mix of spreadsheets, emails and calendars—often resulting in chaotic processes. By implementing an end-to-end grant management solution, communication, performance reporting and workflow management can be simplified.
Legislation Drives the Need for End-to-End Grant Management
As a result of new legislation requirements, such as the OMB Uniform Grant Guidance, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) and Treasury “Do Not Pay” initiative, organizations need to:
- Update processes to ensure compliance and accountability.
- Streamline processes and improve transparency via technology.
- Capture information as data, not as “attachments.”
Compliance requires organizations have visibility and insight into every stage of the grant lifecycle—from pre-award planning to post-award reporting.
How Grant Management Software Can Help
Grant management software can help your organization gain visibility across all grant activities, comply with federal regulations and meet reporting needs. With software implementation, you can:
- Access grant data and information whenever, wherever.
- Automate business processes, reminders, compliance and reporting.
- Centralize and store all grant-related materials, communications and performance data in a single location within the cloud.
- Control financial statements.
- Easily add programs as you grow, without incurring additional costs.
- Integrate with financial systems.
- Standardize report information into data elements.
- Sync with other systems for tracking, monitoring and reporting purposes.
You can also appropriately meet all pre-award and post-award needs, including:
- Search across a wide range of grant opportunities.
- Save and share criteria and results.
- Host competitive bidding for funding initiatives.
- Track funds and projects.
- Oversee performance and budget activities, sub-recipients, external lead-recipients of fund distributions and grant vendors.
- Gain efficiencies by automating grant processes during both pre- and post-award management.
- Record and map tracked time to the correct grant, allowing supervisors to review and approve employee timesheets each week.
Interested in learning more? See below for the presentation slide deck.
Has your organization considered the benefits of end-to-end grant management solutions? Share in the comment section below.
Senior executives are often the glue that holds an organization together, but leadership should never lie in the hands of just one individual.
Nonprofits must have a plan in place should a primary executive step down. This post offers tips on how the board can play a role in C-suite succession planning.
A crucial aspect of any succession plan is to facilitate strategic documentation through institutional memory. Should a senior executive leave your nonprofit, information must be easily accessible to others within the organization. Have existing leaders document:
- Everyday routines.
- Organizational processes.
- Organizational values and traditions.
- Roles and responsibilities.
Just because an executive leaves does not mean information needs to leave with them. As a board, proactively push for processes to be documented.
As a board, communicate openly to identify the traits and skills you’d like to see in your nonprofit’s executives. Should a member of your C-suite step down, work together strategically to identify potential replacements, evaluate hiring processes and assess whether candidates align with the organization.
Build Board Member Networks
Encourage board members to expand their personal networks, which in turn increases your organization’s pool of potential leadership candidates. Board members can often lead your nonprofit to like-minded individuals who align with your organization’s needs and skills matrix. By tapping into board members’ networks to fill executive positions, you are also provided with reliable feedback from individuals you trust.
Evaluate Existing Board Members
Board members may be needed to fill roles in the interim if a replacement cannot be immediately found. Always have board members that are ready to step in and assume leadership roles and responsibilities.
Create board member profiles so your organization can evaluate current members’ strengths and weaknesses. Uncover leadership qualities, such as:
- Fundraising expertise.
- Management capabilities.
- Strategic planning capabilities
- Strong communication skills
- Time management.
Although current board members may only fulfill leadership roles temporarily, it’s still crucial to have the right individuals in charge.
Looking for an efficient way to create and house board member profiles? A board portal may be the answer. Download our free guide to assess your board’s tech needs, “Board Portal Software Purchase Evaluation Guide.”
How does your board prepare for C-suite succession planning? Share in the comments below.
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What is the state of grant management in 2015? To answer this question, StreamLink Software surveyed more than 200 nonprofit and public sector professionals.
The study uncovered major challenges, tools and strategies influencing the efficiency of the grant management process and effectiveness of grant-funded programs. The infographic below highlights key findings. To learn more, download the full report here.
Download a PDF version of the infographic, or use the embed code below to share on your own website.
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Key Grant Management Statistics
- Lack of funding is the biggest anticipated #grant management challenge of 2015. (Click to tweet)
- 8% of organizations receiving funds from other sources cited fund management and reporting as a leading challenge. (Click to tweet)
- Organizational use of #grant management software increased by 20% from 2013 to 2014. (Click to tweet)
- 27% of #grant-seeking organizations rely on #government #grants as their primary revenue source. (Click to tweet)
- 36% of respondents receive more than half of their current #grant funds from federal grantors. (Click to tweet)
- #Grantees expressed that limited resources are a continuing strain. (Click to tweet)
Download the complete 2015 report for a deeper dive into the current state of grant management.
What are your organization’s biggest grant management challenges? Share with us in the comments below.
On September 23, StreamLink Software CEO, Adam Roth, participated in a panel at Data Transparency 2015, moderated by Hal Shelton, member and principal, Blu Ventures Investors Executive Committee.
During the session, Entrepreneurs’ Panel: Future Business Opportunities in Open Data, Adam and panelists, Bob Goldman, senior director of product, Graphiq, Laura Manley, director of partnerships and programs, Center for Open Data Enterprise and Alex Wirth, CEO, Quorum, discussed how government data policies create business opportunities for the new open data industry.
Outlined below are three key takeaways.
1. Focus on Demand-Driven Open Data
Ten to twenty percent of data available has about 80-90% of value to users, according to Manley. To unlock true value, companies must focus on demand-driven open data, or data gathered to meet the unique needs of data users, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, etc. It can be used to dictate priorities and policies based on expected ROI.
For example, the Open Data Impact Map showcases how open data can drive economic value by applying research and findings to business strategies. In the map, users can see how cities and companies across the country strategically use open data. The most common data sets used are demographic, financial, geospatial and weather. With targeted data, organizations can then focus on market data and business optimization.
2. Utilize Open Data for Business Innovation
Open data serves as a catalyst for innovation, creating a new sector of businesses that harness its power and full potential.
Roth discussed two ways businesses can utilize open data:
- Solve a problem by focusing on what’s possible to create better and faster processes using the data and information now available.
- Uncover problems or areas where value could be created by seeing data better.
Roth explained how at StreamLink Software they focused on the first—“If we build a platform that allows us to better manage and move data, then we’ve enhanced the possible, and open data was the driver of that enhancement.”
Wirth stated that even if businesses have grasped the open data concept, they can’t stop there. To effectively use open data in their everyday operations, businesses must brainstorm new ways to make data more publicly accessible and value-focused.
3. Push for Automation and Data Quality
Despite entrepreneurs’ efforts to leverage open data, there are still several data quality and automation challenges that must be addressed for open data to be useful. This is particularly true when retrieving government data. To push for automation and quality data, the government must:
- Have a continuous lateral thinking mindset. Wirth stated that if systems do not adapt to new processes and mechanisms, data cannot be compared over time.
- Have an internal culture shift. Roth discussed how processes must be established to transfer data from old, paper-based systems to data-driven ones. Although this idea may take a lot of buy-in for a total shift, he elaborated how new processes will create a greater movement that instills more value.
- Reduce retrieval process barriers. Goldman discussed how government agencies must digitize data to eliminate the manual effort needed to retrieve it (i.e. filling out forms or not limiting rows of data that can be pulled at once).
Overall, businesses and the government must focus on processes and data usability for open data to thrive.
Is your organization up to speed on new federal initiatives? Download our free guide, “What to Know About Changing Federal Grant Regulations.”
Grant management software can help maintain compliance, generate revenue and streamline processes, but your organization must be ready to implement. Outlined below, we highlight key questions to ask yourself, and your team.
1. How Effective Are Current Processes?
Prior to making the big purchase, first evaluate current processes to determine overall effectiveness. Seek to uncover what is and is not working in regard to:
- Data aggregation.
- Task delegation and reminders.
If current processes make it difficult to find or access data, it may be time to consider new options. Watch for the following red flags:
- Failed audits.
- Grants that are not renewed.
- Missed deadlines.
- Lost drawdown.
- Inability to demonstrate program performance to grantors.
- Inefficient grant management and reporting.
2. Do We Have the Team to Implement?
Although grant management software can be a great asset to your organization long-term, it does require the right implementation team to set you up for success. Determine if your organization has the capacity, talent and resources needed to make implementation possible. Ask yourself:
- Do we have internal support and project champions?
- How will we determine specific roles and responsibilities?
- Do we have resources to develop a training program?
- How long do we foresee implementation taking?
- What strategies will be used to communicate the technology rollout plan?
- What support and resources does our vendor provide to assist?
3. What’s Our Budget?
Purchasing grant management software is an investment. How can your organization arrive at an appropriate budget to fulfill your needs? Start by understanding the potential savings that can result from grant management software. Factor in components that will help determine your return on investment (ROI), such as:
- Less paper and printing.
- Increased staff capacity.
- Heightened process efficiency.
- Increased grant drawdown.
- Reporting automation.
Remember, though, price should not be the only factor when comparing grant management software vendors. Balance your budget against desired features to find the perfect grant management platform for your needs.
Is your organization ready to purchase grant management software? Download our free checklist to find out, “Grant Management Software Readiness Checklist.”
How does your organization evaluate grant management software readiness? Share in the comments below.
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Sometimes a board member’s fire might begin to dull, especially if they have been involved with your organization for a long time.
A "mission moment," or similar moment of reflection, can be a powerful way to bring passion back into your board. This post offers ideas to help reinvigorate board members.
Bring Storytelling to Meetings
Every nonprofit has a story to tell. Utilizing existing board members, staff and volunteers as storytelling assets can be an effective strategy to rekindle passion.
In our Board Management Tips and Tricks Guide, board member, Kathie Roberts of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County stated, “We begin every board meeting with a mission moment—a brief presentation on a recent impact of a program or initiative of the Foundation.”
Encourage one to two people to share their mission moments with the group at each board meeting. This allows board members to express passions and reasons for joining, and helps refuel those that need reminded of impact.
Take a Look Back at Historical Impact
Showcasing stories about previous board members, donors and events can also help reignite board member passion.
Kathie Roberts also stated in our report, “We have also added a one-minute look back in history at our key donors and their philanthropy. This educated the current board on the leaders of the past and how important they were to our current work.”
If board members are looking for a way to boost motivation and passion, a blast from the past may do the trick. It can provide valuable insight on how others have succeeded and inspiration on what’s possible.
Seek New Mission Moments
Look for ways disengaged members can become more involved on a regular basis, so that they feel a stronger connection with the nonprofit.
Provide board members the chance to realign with your organization’s mission and values with hands-on experience. Becoming more involved may be just what they need to find their new mission moment.
Want to learn more on how to instill board member passion? Download our free interactive guide, “Board Member Tips and Tricks: A Community Curated Guide.”
How does your organization inspire board passion? Share in the comments below.
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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG) on Dec. 26, 2013 with the following objectives:
- Eliminate duplicative and conflicting guidance.
- Focus on performance over compliance for accountability.
- Encourage efficient use of information technology and shared services.
- Provide for consistent and transparent treatment of costs.
- Limit allowable costs to make better use of federal resources.
- Set standard business processes using data definitions.
- Encourage non-federal entities to have family-friendly polices.
- Strengthen oversight.
At this year’s National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, StreamLink Software CEO, Adam Roth, and partner at accounting firm Plante Moran, Michelle Watterworth, presented UGG’s impact on grant administration and audits. Below are key takeaways from their presentation.
Implications to Grant Administration
Changes presented by UGG, such as required certifications, strengthened time and effort reporting requirements and modifications to allowable costs, have a trickle-down effect into program administration. Now, more than ever, administrators must:
- Identify and monitor key performance metrics via standardized reports.
- Eliminate program waste, and demonstrate remediation efforts for inefficient or wasteful programs.
- Monitor sub-recipient performance and cost treatment in real time.
- Consider negotiating an indirect cost rate with federal awarding agencies or utilizing the new 10% de minimus indirect cost rate stipulated in the reforms to ensure compensation for overhead and utilities associated with programmatic responsibilities
- Be familiar with the revised cost principles applicable to their programs. UGG clarifies certain allowable costs and related cost principles. Some of the changes could catch an organization off guard if you aren’t aware of them.
- Understand which contingency costs can be included in awards. Risky programs are more likely to have unexpected costs; UGG provides detailed circumstances under which contingency costs may be included in awards.
- Keep track of certifications to avoid penalties. To strengthen awardee accountability, UGG provides explicit and consistent language for required certifications.
- Ensure written documentation of policies and procedures are maintained, as required by the UGG.
Implications on Audits
UGG requirements related to cost principles and administrative requirements are now effective for federal agencies and non-federal agency awards created (or increments made) after Dec. 26, 2014.
Audit requirements (subpart F of the reforms) will apply to awards with a fiscal year end of Dec. 31, 2015 or later. This includes new major program determination and reporting requirements. Changes to major program determination include:
- A single audit threshold of $750,000 versus the old $500,000 threshold.
- A Type A threshold of $750,000 versus the old $300,000 threshold.
- Changes in criteria for low-risk auditees.
- Audit coverage requirements have decreased to 20% for low-risk auditees and 40% for auditees that do not qualify as low-risk
- Certain programs with prior material weaknesses, modified compliance opinions or questioned costs over 5% will most likely be tested.
This means that there will be a higher focus by auditors on programs flagged in the past for having issues, and less testing on programs that weren’t.
In addition, changes to reporting requirements include:
- A raise of the question costs reporting threshold to $25,000 versus the prior $10,000.
- Sub-recipient awards will now be directly reported on the face of the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA) and no longer in the footnotes.
- Summary Schedule of Prior Audit Findings (SSPAF)/corrective action plans are now required for both Section II and Section III findings.
- Extensions are no longer allowed on audit due dates.
See below for the presentation slide deck, or watch our webinar on preparing your organization for compliance on-demand.
How is your organization readying itself for UGG compliance requirements? Share in the comment section below.
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The grant proposal process is becoming increasingly competitive, and results-based funding distribution is soon to be the new norm.
For grant writers, this means that as performance grows in importance, organizations can improve their chances of receiving funding by showcasing historical results. Below we offer tips on how your organization can track and leverage grant performance data to win future funds.
Start with appropriate spending. If your current and past grants were not allocated properly toward goals, you won’t be able to demonstrate strong program performance in new grant proposals. Consistent and appropriate spending assures your organization is using funds to further organizational goals, and demonstrates your understanding of Uniform Grant Guidance cost and compliance requirements.
Create Detailed and Accurate Reports
To properly keep track of data every step of the way, develop grant management processes that comply with new requirements and regulations. Consider implementing grant management software to store data in a centralized system.
Software allows your organization to effectively track time and effort, validating the time workers spend on a program and directly correlating with their expensed wages from funding. Staff is able to enter time on a weekly or monthly basis, and supervisors can review and approve timesheets to ensure accuracy.
Grant management software also helps you easily create internal reports that identify:
- Activities undertaken.
- Deliverable timelines.
- Goals, indicators and milestones.
- Outputs and outcomes.
Internal reports not only assure your organization is staying on track, but also provide in-depth data on what your organization is capable of accomplishing. Use these reports to leverage historical data for future grant proposals.
Showcase Past Performance Data
Having solid performance data allows you to present concrete evidence to awarding agencies that your organization is capable of spending grant funding appropriately.
In addition to using past performance data to win new grants, encourage repeat funding from existing investors by providing accurate, ongoing reports on spend and performance. The more detailed these reports are, the better you’ll be at demonstrating your grant-spending and program-performance competencies.
Is your organization prepared for performance-based grant distribution? Watch our webinar on “How to Connect Performance and Financial Data.”
How does your organization boost grant proposal success? Share in the comments below.
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Strong leaders are a crucial aspect of nonprofit success. Don't wait until a board seat opens up to begin the search for potential candidates.
Create a strategic succession plan with member profiles, feedback loops and ongoing recruitment efforts to help your board maintain a powerful talent pipeline.
1. Fill Your Talent Pipeline
Start the candidate search early. Ongoing recruitment helps your nonprofit identify strong prospects, so when a board spot opens up, you have a natural pipeline of candidates to choose from.
Consider current board member recommendations for prospective candidates. If you feel a recommendation is a good fit for your organization, reach out to them to see if the opportunity might be of interest to them in the future.
If your organization has a junior board, use it as an opportunity to groom candidates toward a management position over time. To ensure a smooth transition, work closely with individuals that showcase leadership potential.
2. Establish Consistent Feedback Loops
Network with potential candidates; assess their ability to transition into a leadership role within your organization by getting to know them on a casual and professional level. Reach out to candidates on a regular basis for a phone call or lunch. And provide them opportunities to get more involved with your nonprofit to ensure they appropriately align with your missions and values.
When a position opens up, communicate openly with candidates. Keep strong prospects in the loop, answer their questions, and be clear on position expectations.
3. Create Member Profiles
For each board candidate, establish a detailed profile that highlights skillsets, strengths, weaknesses and important demographics. Seek individuals whose assets align with your organization’s needs and skills matrix. Specific qualities to assess include:
- Communication skills.
- Commitment to cause.
- Cultural alignment.
- Fundraising abilities.
- Management expertise.
- Strategic planning capabilities.
- Subject-matter expertise (e.g. finance, marketing).
The more detailed candidate profiles, the easier job fit assessments will be when it’s time to infuse leadership roles.
Want to learn more on improving your board? Download our free guide, “Board Management Tips and Tricks: A Community Curated Guide.”
How does your organization plan for board succession? Share in the comments below.
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It can be hard to keep recent grant reforms straight, but with a little education on the new requirements, the transition can be seamless.
This post highlights the similarities between the DATA Act, OMB Uniform Grant Guidance and Treasury "Do Not Pay" initiatives, and flags next steps to remain compliant with all three.
Increase Focus on Grant Performance
All three initiatives strive to make grantees more accountable for performance:
- The DATA Act makes it easier for awarding agencies to compare and analyze grantees’ reports through the adoption of consistent data standards and machine-readable data. This helps pinpoint grant management waste, fraud and abuse, and increases the focus placed on performance for award distribution.
- The Do Not Pay Business Center enables agencies to analyze eligibility information, compliance history and historical performance data for potential grant recipients. If organizations are incompliant with award requirements, agencies have the option to stop federal funds—setting a precedent for drawdowns and paybacks that are contingent on programmatic performance and organizational compliance.
- Uniform Grant Guidance requirements require grantees to demonstrate programmatic performance and a performance management system to remain compliant.
Improve Transparency Into Government Spending
In addition to grantees being more responsible for performance, federal grant reforms also seek to increase transparency into government spending. For example:
- The DATA Act seeks to publish federal spending data online at USASpending.gov to allow agencies, watchdog groups, citizens and others to track how funds are allocated and used.
- Agencies have enhanced visibility through the Do Not Pay Business Center’s online datasets to determine grantee eligibility and prevent improper payments.
- Uniform Grant Guidance encourages (though does not require) grant data to be collected and stored in open and machine-readable formats, so that reports can more easily be shared and published.
Although each reform has a slightly different way of ensuring performance and transparency, they are working toward the same goals. So how can your organization tie these initiatives together and remain compliant? Here are a few tips:
- Align internal identifiers with required federal award identifiers to simplify post-award performance reporting.
- Implement grant management software to streamline grant management communication, automate data collection in a central hub and tie reporting to award goals. Software lets you collect information as data, so that it can easily be rolled up to meet open data reporting requirements.
- Run internal reports that compare financial activities to performance measures, to ensure your organization is on track with goals and budgets.
Is your organization prepared for changing federal regulations? Download our free guide to learn more: “What to Know Abut Changing Federal Grant Regulations.”
How is your organization preparing for changing federal grant requirements? Share in the comments below.
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