How to implement Grants Management Software for your business
In this episode, we discuss how to implement grants management software for your business and challenges you'll face. We chat with Clare Brewka, Global Community Manager with Mitek, and explore how her company successfully implemented as well as tips for getting started.
This is part two of our two-part series on grants management software.
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What we discussed:
Karl Yeh (00:00):
So my special guest today, and it's actually part two of our discussion on grants management software. Her name is Clare Brewka. She manages global community initiatives with MiTek. Thank you very much, Clare, for joining us again.
Clare Brewka (00:34):
Thank you so much, Karl. Glad to be here.
So the last time we introduced grants management software and we talked about what it is and why it's important and how to get buy-in and so on.
So in this episode, we're really focusing in on implementation.
So when implementing this type of software, where would you begin? And maybe you can use how you implemented at MiTek as an example.
When implementing grants management software, where would you begin?
Clare Brewka (01:03):
Now our social impact situation might be a little bit unique at MiTek. It was only a few years ago when our CSR function was newly established.
As I mentioned the last episode, we have had big hearts for a long time at MiTek, but no formal structure around that giving of time, talent and treasure.
So only a few years ago, we established dysfunction and began steadily building out our program strategy.
So as we are a new formal program, we coincidentally didn't have hundreds of causes in our partnerships portfolio that we've been working with for many years, for example.
So we decided to shift only those current grantees.
Which again were few, maybe like 25 or so to the platform first, once it was implemented. Because that felt like a manageable number to convert to that particular new process of grant allocations and review.
We did look for new community partners at the time.
We wanted to allow for real time course correction and adjustments within the platform. As we pressure tested the system with what I'm calling our legacy partners.
I found that those individuals who represented those cause partners were quite forgiving if we had a glitch with some dropdown that I accidentally provided guidance on that was not exactly what we wanted it to look like when it was utilized by a nonprofit.
I actually sent out to all of our grantees who received these applications for the first time digitally or an application at all, come to think of it.
And I said, "If there's any feedback you have, I'd actually love to have a conversation with you about what this process was like, what are the things that you liked about it?
What made it frustrating for you? What can we actually in real time adjust in order to lift the burden from your shoulders and make this whole process much more efficient?"
So that was how we actually started that implementation process. And to be honest, Karl, we're still very much in it. We only launched this last year in 2021, midyear. So we're just rounding the bend on the first year of our first grant cycle.
So entering into year two of grant allocations, utilizing the Benevity grants platform. And I anticipate already some changes that will be enabled as we head into this kind of second grant cycle.
Karl Yeh (03:55):
If you're going into your, you've had the system for only a year, what are some of the challenges or significant challenges that you've had to overcome?
And are you still facing some of those challenges today?
Most significant challenges to overcome for a successful software implementation
Clare Brewka (04:10):
Well, let me just say this, and I'm not saying it because I'm on this particular podcast, but Benevity made this process feel very supportive, very clear.
So plug for Benevity.
There were not a ton of challenges, that team was amazing and I'm grateful for their guidance and support as we implemented our grant solution with Benevity.
I think it's important to note though, that when an organization implements a grant management system, it helps to have a clear vision for the type of community impact you're looking to have as a result of your grants in particular.
I know it can be really daunting as part of the grant process to understand the why behind every grant application question.
But that is something that I think is a vital component of this process and enables a company to really get and establish a clear idea of the relationship you want to have with a cause.
When an organization implements a grant management system, it helps to have a clear vision for the type of community impact you're looking to have as a result of your grants in particular.
Asking questions where you're like, "I'm asking it because I should, or maybe I'll need it."
These are questions that take the time of a development professional, filling that application out.
And it's really important to consider that as much as we ask of them, I would think that that relationship would be reciprocal and they can ask of us to be responsible with the information that we ask for.
So I think again, identifying the specific areas in which you want to make change, selecting questions and language that's going to help you pull out data around those areas.
And then connecting that to metrics that you're going to use to measure the impact of that grant is going to be a significant part of this process.
And one where I'm not going to say it's a challenge for us, but it's one that had deep consideration and we're still really wrestling with to say, "How do we approach our grant process in a way that is relationship based is equitable and allows for all stakeholders to really get what they need out of the process?"
Karl Yeh (06:55):
I think what you just mentioned there is, we mentioned this in the previous episode, it's how it's really important to have that strategy, all those goals set before actually getting the software.
Because even though you have maybe the best software, the best implementation team, if your business isn't very clear, as you mentioned, and has all the objectives and its purpose laid out, it won't really matter because there is higher potential to fall flat in your face, isn't that right?
Clare Brewka (07:30):
Absolutely Karl. I think that is a really good point and one not to gloss over as a person who's in the social impact space.
Again, there's a balance between the infrastructure and then the actual process and vision of how that infrastructure is going to be applied.
And so when you have a big vision about making change in a community, moving the needle within a social issue, et cetera, the why and the how is pretty significant.
And I would say that again, you can really have as much of the technology that you want and the best intentions, but the intentional thought that goes behind the questions you ask and the process that you utilize within your grant program, can make or break a relationship with a cause.
And ultimately for us at MiTek, so many, if not all of our grants are really based in trust. We want to ensure that when we send out an application to an organization and say, "You're invited to apply for a grant." We're in a grant invitation only right now, that we know what we're asking.
And they also know us as a company well enough to have confidence in that relationship moving forward.
Karl Yeh (09:16):
Is there anything unique about the way that MiTek or the way that you run MiTek's granting program?
How does MiTek manage and implement their granting program?
Clare Brewka (09:22):
I think every company has unique strengths that they can bring to the table. One of ours is the passion of our team members.
We have a program and it's a new program called transformation teams.
And we've incorporated our transformation teams into our grant process. So just a little bit of background about this program.
Our transformation teams are voluntary groups of MiTek team members who serve as catalysts for change in their local communities.
They enable their colleagues to give back to costs as they care about through service, through charitable giving.
And we have transformation teams across our regional footprint of North America, AMEA, APAC. And we're planning on growing this program as we mature as a function.
Every year, our transformation teams are making recommendations to the global community affairs team, which I'm on, about the local causes that they would like to support through small grants and volunteering projects.
So, many people are familiar with this within the social impact space and we call them champions. We just love the term transformation teams because our vision of this program is looking to transform global communities through our hearts and hands.
And not just through better building, but kind of having those two things work together.
So having been able to grants then has enabled our team to easily vet the causes that are being recommended by these transformation teams.
So this removes the burden of risk from those local transformation teams of reviewing, embedding these NGOs or causes, and enables us to have an instilled confidence in our decision-making around grants. Particularly again, international grants.
So that way we don't make donations that unintentionally damage the reputation of our business.
So for me, it's kind of an interesting way in which you can incorporate a bit of rigor into a program like one which is focused on employee engagement really, like our transformation teams and enable them to make fast decisions, intentional decisions about where they would like to see MiTek's resources directed in their own local communities.
Karl Yeh (11:59):
Since implementing the software, what have you seen as the most significant change or most positive impact for MiTek and your granting program?
Most significant change or positive impact since implementing?
Clare Brewka (12:11):
Well, like I said, we're only about a year in, so I wish we had some longitudinal studies that I could quote to you and provide you with some deep amounts of quantitative data.
But at this point I honestly believe that one of the most important changes we've seen is having all information aggregated in one place.
Being able to redirect our time, having our team redirect our time to other priorities, than running after a form here, a 990 form, or I need your budget, or I would love some more diversity statistics.
Having those already asked and completed within a grant application that's digital and permanent that we can reference at any point and not have to search through emails or Excel sheets is a gift for us to use our time most effectively.
So as small as that might seem, for a new program that also is just brand new into grant management software and learning and real time about how we can best utilize this resource, having everything in one place enables us to again, make really good decisions and set us up for success when it comes to maintaining and sustaining effective relationships with causes.
And ultimately measuring and understanding our results.
Karl Yeh (13:51):
So is there anything else you'd like to add or maybe additional tips that you'd like to provide in terms of implementation of grants management software?
Tips for implementing grants management software
Clare Brewka (14:00):
Involve all stakeholders from the beginning
I'd say as much as possible, involve stakeholders from the start. Everybody within your company has their own priorities, right?
Finance is going to have their priorities, payroll's going to have their priorities communications, et cetera.
And so these are all pretty vital functions that you'll inevitably be working with at some point or another when it comes to social impact within a corporate setting.
And so involving these stakeholders internally from the start is absolutely, to me, a vital step.
Because you do get that buy-in and you do get that ability to elicit opinions and recommendations that will enable success for you in the future.
Externally as well, I would consider your cause partners, major stakeholders for implementing a grant program.
And so potentially connecting with them.
Get stakeholder feedback on experiences with other funders
And before you get started, ask their feedback about their experiences with other funders.
And maybe not like, "Oh, let's name this funder, or name that funder."
But rather the grant experience that they have had over years or recently that adds additional weight to their plate or puts additional burden onto them, I should say.
And if there is something that you can do, if that is a priority of yours, to help lift that to me is a gift to both you and that potential partner.
And I think enables you to develop a trust based philanthropy approach to your work.
Give time to self-assess needs and software vendor capabilities
I'd also give yourself ample time to analyses about your needs and the capabilities of different grant management systems.
It's a significant investment of not only time, but your budget.
And I think that it is prudent of CSR professionals and social impact professionals to really look at the timing of their expansion, I'd say, into an online grant platform.
Karl Yeh (16:28):
So Clare, we could definitely talk about this for another couple hours here, but if our audience wanted to connect with you more on this topic and others, what is the best place to reach you?
Clare Brewka (16:41):
Sure. I am very available on LinkedIn. So please connect with me there, Clare Brewka.
Otherwise, if you'd prefer a direct and more private connection, feel free to contact me my professional email address, that's email@example.com