Technology Trends in Grantmaking: A Few Non-Analytical Thoughts

Tracks to Success

by Cynthia M. Adams, CEO/President, GrantStation.com, Inc.

Before you begin reading this article, let me throw in a disclaimer. Our researchers at GrantStation are incredibly good at their jobs. They all have strong research and writing skills, and a commitment to finding the right information for our Members that is impressive. So everything I have to say about trends in technology grantmaking is based on subjective observations made by those people who are spending their days researching grantmakers.

So, what sorts of changes are we seeing in grantmaking due to the ever changing landscape we call technology? Well, my favorite new procedure is the introduction of the online eligibility quiz to help you determine if your organization has the right profile to apply. As long as the grantmaker keeps these quizzes fairly general, and they don’t get too specific with their questions, I think this is going to be a wonderful new way for grantseekers to pre-screen their own organizations before going through the process of writing a letter of inquiry or a full proposal.

In the area of writing and submitting grant applications you need to get used to submitting online applications – both letters of inquiry (LOI) and full grant requests. As the tech person at your organization, you may want to learn more about the online quiz process and the LOI and full proposal process so you can train those writing grant requests on the best way to approach these tasks.

With the exception of these new online procedures, private foundations have been pretty slow to adopt innovative technologies. Foundation leadership, particularly the board of directors, can be reluctant to change, which of course bleeds over into enhancements in their use of technology. Though some private funders, such as community and family foundations, have embraced a variety of technologies – from social media to online grant applications and grant reporting – there are a fair number who continue to view the role of the IT staff as a consultant or service provider rather than as a strategic partner or a member of the overall grants staff.

That said, IT staff is starting to get a seat at the table when grant requests are being reviewed, so make sure the technology piece of your grant request is solid and well conceived. If the grantmaker (private or government) is encouraging your organization to include technology needs in the grant proposal, then your job is to demonstrate that every bit of software and hardware and every ounce of training has been thoroughly researched and analyzed, and you are presenting them with the best tech option to accomplish the objectives of your project or program.

Another trend I’d like to mention: We are seeing a fair number of private funders starting to use social media (although relatively speaking it is still a low percentage of the overall number of private grantmakers). Possibly because grantmakers find it is a way to put a friendly face on a part of society that has always been some what standoffish? But whatever the reason, I think it is a positive breakthrough, and encourage you to join the social network of those grantmakers who play a regular role in your organization’s financial health.

One final thought, peer to peer fundraising via social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter is growing at a phenomenal pace and may become the most popular fundraising initiative in years to come according to a study recently released by Blackbaud on some of the hottest new ideas in the fundraising world. As far as grantseeking goes, what that says to me is “If I need matching funds for a grant award I’m going to look to my social media network for support.”

Contributed by Grants Station and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.