Grant Software User and Purchasing Trends: Q&A with Brian Westfall, Software Advice

Recently Brian Westfall, senior market research analyst for the online tech consultancy Software Advice, released a new report that surveyed 127 grant management software users to learn more about these systems and their potential impact. We had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Westfall to gain insight on what his research uncovered.

1) Who would benefit most from grant management software?

If you’re a nonprofit in an area that relies heavier on grant funding than most, like those in arts and culture or human services, grant management software is a necessity to discover new opportunities, manage documents and stay on top of multiple deadlines. Only 37 percent of all grant applications were approved last year. Any advantage that can be gained through software to increase this percentage is crucial.

2) What functionality should prospective buyers look for?

With so much paperwork involved when pursuing funding from multiple grant sources, document management that’s intuitive and secure is crucial. Our surveyed users seem to agree—document management came in as the most used grant management software functionality. Besides that, any features that can lower the time it takes to write a grant proposal and submit it (e.g., asset libraries, reusable templates) are also going to be incredibly valuable.

Submitting a grant application is only half the battle though. In order to better manage the entire grant lifecycle and stay in line with regulations like the DATA Act, prospective buyers should also look for things like grant pipeline management to track the progress of multiple grants (used by 29% of users in our survey), compliance management (40%) and reporting capabilities (47%).

Most Used Grant Management Software Functionality

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3) What returns are grant software users getting on their purchases? Where do these systems impact grant management processes most?

According to our survey results, grant management software is having an overwhelmingly positive impact in a number of areas; the quantity and quality of grant applications chief among them. A significant majority say their system has also helped their organization budget better (97%), miss less deadlines (96%) and create more efficient workflows (95%).

Outside of the submission process, users also reported excellent returns from their system post award. 97% of respondents in our survey say their system has had a positive effect on things like financial reporting and budgeting, showing that dedicated software is vital to planning and compliance.

Most importantly, 98% say their grant management software has positively impacted the amount of grant funding they’ve been awarded. That’s the ultimate measuring stick for success, so it’s good to see these dedicated platforms making their mark on the bottom line.

4) Are cuts in government spending expected to impact the market for grant management software?

My inclination was that this would be the case. With government grant spending expected to decrease this year, it seemed likely that some nonprofits would abandon software as a cost-saving measure. Our surveyed users say that’s not the case though. Sixty-three percent expect their grant management software investment to stay the same in 2017 and 33% actually expect it to increase due to adding users and functionality.

This is a good sign for the software market. Grant management software users are getting enough return on their investments to continue adoption in tumultuous times.

5) What advice would you give to those thinking about purchasing grant management software?

If you’re interested in purchasing grant management software, my advice would be to do your due diligence. It can be incredibly tempting to pick a popular system to get up-and-running as quickly as possible, but just because a certain product is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for your organization’s needs.

Create a list of requirements, ask vendors a ton of questions and demo systems thoroughly. Take your time. In the end, it will be worth it when you have software that fits into what you’re already doing seamlessly instead of software that feels like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Editor’s Note: Looking to compare platforms, download the Grant Management Software Purchase Evaluation Guide for tips on how to assess your organization’s needs.