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The Ultimate Guide to Grant Management Software for Universities

  • Written By: Cheyenne Kolosky
The Ultimate Guide to Grant Management Software for Universities

Many universities rely on spreadsheets as their primary tool for managing grants and funding opportunities. While spreadsheets are versatile and familiar, they often fall short when efficiently handling grant management’s complexities. This reliance on spreadsheets can lead to various challenges, including data fragmentation, version control issues, increased administrative burden, and limited collaboration capabilities.

However, the evolving landscape of grant management software offers a compelling alternative. Grant management software is specifically designed to address the unique needs of universities and educational institutions, providing a centralized and streamlined platform for all grant-related activities. This software not only helps universities automate and simplify grant processes but also offers advanced features for collaboration, compliance, reporting, and document management.

In this context, universities need to recognize the limitations of spreadsheets and consider the significant advantages that grant management software can bring to their research administration efforts. Transitioning from spreadsheets to specialized grant management software can increase efficiency, improve transparency, enhance collaboration, and better compliance with funding agency requirements.

In the following sections, we will delve into the specific use cases and benefits of grant management software, demonstrating why many universities are shifting from traditional spreadsheet-based approaches to more advanced and tailored solutions.

Use Cases for a Grant Management Solution in Educational Institutions

Higher education uses cloud-based grant management software for various purposes for administering and managing research grants and funding. Grant management software helps automate and improve the efficiency of the entire grant lifecycle, from the initial application and proposal submission to the post-award monitoring and reporting. Most nonprofits also use a program management tool for grant opportunities, and the use cases can sometimes be similar. Here are some common uses of grant management software in universities:

  1. Grant Proposal and Application Management: Grant management software typically provides an online platform for researchers and faculty members to submit online applications and research proposals. This includes features like templates, guidelines, and electronic submission capabilities, making it easier for applicants to adhere to funders’ eligibility requirements.
  2. Grant Tracking and Management: Grant seekers use grant management software to keep track of all active grants and funding opportunities. This includes monitoring grant deadlines, requirements, and the status of submitted proposals. It helps ensure that universities do not miss out on potential funding opportunities.
  3. Budgeting and Financial Management: Grant management software often includes tools for budget planning and financial management. It helps universities allocate funds, track expenses, and ensure that grant funds are used in compliance with the terms and conditions set by funding agencies.
  4. Reporting and Compliance: Grant management software helps universities generate the necessary reports and documentation required by funding agencies. It ensures that universities remain compliant with grant requirements and regulations, which is essential for maintaining good relationships with funding sources.
  5. Collaboration and Workflow Management: Research often involves collaboration among multiple researchers, departments, and institutions. Grant management software provides a platform for collaboration, allowing team members to work together on grant applications, share documents, and track progress in real-time.
  6. Communication and Notifications: Grant management software often includes communication tools for sending notifications, reminders, and updates to researchers and administrators involved in the grant application and management process.
  7. Document Management: Storing and organizing grant-related documents, such as proposals, progress reports, and financial records, is a critical function of grant management software. It helps universities maintain a centralized and easily accessible repository of grant-related information.
  8. Review and Evaluation: Many grant management systems have built-in tools for peer review and evaluation of grant applications. Reviewers can access applications online, provide feedback, and score proposals using the software.
  9. Grant Performance Monitoring: After receiving a grant, universities use grant management software to monitor the progress and outcomes of funded projects. This includes tracking milestones, assessing project performance, and ensuring that research objectives are met.
  10. Audit Trail and Documentation: Grant management software maintains a comprehensive audit trail of all activities related to grant applications and management. This is crucial for transparency, accountability, and potential audits by funding agencies.
  11. Fundraising Management: In addition to research grants, universities often engage in fundraising efforts to secure donations and philanthropic contributions. Grant management software can be extended to include features for tracking fundraising campaigns, managing donor relationships, processing donations, and ensuring compliance with fundraising regulations. This integration streamlines the management of both grants and fundraising activities, providing a comprehensive view of financial resources and donor engagement.
  12. Award Management: Grant management software plays a crucial role in managing awarded grants effectively. It helps grantees oversee the entire lifecycle of a grant, from the initial pre-award notification to post-award tasks. This includes tracking grant disbursements, managing project timelines, ensuring compliance with grant terms, and facilitating the reporting process. Award management features within grant management software help universities maximize the impact of awarded grants while maintaining financial transparency and accountability.

Overall, grant management software helps universities efficiently manage their grant portfolios, enhance collaboration, ensure compliance, and improve the overall success rate in securing research funding. It is an essential tool for research administration in academic institutions.

Features to Consider

When choosing SaaS grant management software for a university, it’s essential to consider various features to ensure that the web-based software aligns with your institution’s specific needs and requirements. Here are some top features to consider:

  1. User-Friendly Interface: The software solution should have an intuitive and user-friendly interface that researchers, faculty, and administrators can quickly adopt without extensive training.
  2. Customization: Look for customizable software that can adapt to your university’s specific grant management processes, workflows, and terminology.
  3. Grant Application and Proposal Submission: Ensure the software supports the creation, submission, and tracking of grant applications and proposals, including templates and online submission capabilities.
  4. Budgeting and Financial Management: The software should offer tools for budget planning, expense tracking, and financial reporting, allowing you to manage grant funds effectively and in compliance with funding agency requirements.
  5. Compliance and Reporting: Check if the software helps universities generate reports and documentation required to comply with grant regulations and report to funding agencies.
  6. Document Management: Look for robust document management capabilities that allow for secure storage, organization, and retrieval of grant-related documents, such as proposals, progress reports, and contracts.
  7. Collaboration Tools: Ensure the software supports collaboration among researchers, departments, and institutions. It should facilitate document sharing, communication, and task management for grant teams.
  8. Review and Evaluation: If peer review is a part of your grant application process, the software should provide tools for managing the review process, including assigning reviewers, collecting feedback, and scoring applications.
  9. Notifications and Alerts: The software should offer notification and alert features to inform users of important deadlines, updates, and changes in the grant program and management process.
  10. Integration Capabilities: Consider whether the software can integrate with other systems and tools used by your university, such as financial management software, research databases, or student information systems.
  11. Audit Trail and Security: Robust security features are essential to protect sensitive grant-related information. The software should also maintain an audit trail to track all user activities and changes made to grant records.
  12. Scalability: Ensure that the software can scale to accommodate the growing needs of your university’s research administration as the number of grants and researchers increases.
  13. Training and Support: Look for a provider that offers comprehensive training and ongoing support to assist users in effectively using the software and addressing any issues.
  14. Mobile Access: Consider whether the software offers mobile access or a mobile app, allowing users to access grant management functions on the go.
  15. Reporting and Analytics: Advanced reporting and analytics features can provide valuable insights into grant performance and help universities make informed decisions about future funding strategies.
  16. Cost and Licensing: Evaluate the cost structure, licensing options, and pricing model to ensure it fits your university’s budget constraints.
  17. User Permissions and Access Control: The software should offer robust user permissions and access control features to ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive grant data.
  18. User Support and Community: Research the vendor’s reputation for customer support and whether there is an active user community or forum for sharing best practices and troubleshooting issues.

By considering these features and thoroughly evaluating grant management software options, your university can select a solution that best meets its unique needs and helps streamline the grant administration process effectively.

Build a Free Grant Management Tool with Knack

Building a grant management software for a university using Knack involves several steps. Here are instructions to help you get started:

Step 1: Define Your Requirements

Before you start building your grant management software, defining your specific requirements is crucial. Gather input from stakeholders, including researchers, administrators, and grant managers, to determine the features and functionality needed. Create a list of essential elements such as grant application forms, document storage, budget tracking, reporting, and communication tools.

Step 2: Create a Knack Account

If you haven’t already, sign up for a Knack account. Knack offers a free trial, but depending on your project’s complexity and data storage requirements, you may need a paid plan.

Step 3: Plan Your Database Structure

Identify the data fields and relationships that your grant management software will require. Common database elements may include:

  • Grants: Information about grant opportunities, including funding agencies, deadlines, and grant types.
  • Applicants: Details about researchers or departments applying for grants.
  • Applications: Data related to grant applications, including proposal documents and submission dates.
  • Budgets: Budget details for each grant, including expenses and income.
  • Reports: Progress reports, financial reports, and other documents associated with grants.
  • Reviewers: Information about individuals responsible for reviewing grant applications.

Use Knack’s drag-and-drop interface to create tables and fields to represent these entities and their relationships.

Step 4: Build Your Application Forms

Design application forms for grant submissions. Use Knack’s form builder to create customized application forms that capture the necessary information from applicants. You can add various field types, including text fields, dropdowns, file uploads, and date pickers.

Step 5: Configure Workflow and Automation

Set up workflows and automation to streamline the grant management process. Define the steps involved in grant management, such as submission, review, approval, and reporting. Configure automation rules to trigger actions based on specific events, such as sending email notifications when applications are submitted or approved.

Step 6: Implement Document Management

Integrate document management into your system. Use Knack to create a document repository where you can store and organize grant-related documents, such as proposals, reports, and financial records. Implement access controls to ensure document security and privacy.

Step 7: Add Budget Tracking and Financial Management

Incorporate budget tracking and financial management features. Create forms and tables to input and track budget details, expenses, and income associated with each grant. Use calculations and formulas to automate budget calculations.

Step 8: Set Up Reporting and Analytics

Build reporting and analytics tools to monitor grant performance and compliance. Create dashboards and reports that display key metrics, progress tracking, and financial summaries. Knack offers the ability to generate charts and graphs to visualize data.

Step 9: Enable Communication Tools

Implement communication tools to facilitate collaboration and communication among grant applicants, reviewers, and administrators. You can use Knack to build messaging features or integrate with external communication platforms.

Step 10: Test and Iterate

Thoroughly test your grant management software to ensure that it meets your requirements and functions as intended. Gather feedback from users and make necessary improvements. Knack allows you to iterate and refine your application easily.

Step 11: Train Users

Provide training to users, including researchers, administrators, and grant managers, on how to use the grant management software effectively. Ensure that they understand the system’s features and workflows.

Step 12: Deploy Your Application

Once you are satisfied with your grant management software, deploy it for use within your university. Make sure that all necessary users have access and permissions.

Step 13: Provide Ongoing Support and Maintenance

Continue to provide support and maintenance for your grant management system. Address user questions and issues promptly and make updates and enhancements to keep the software up-to-date and aligned with changing requirements.

Building grant management software with Knack requires careful planning and customization to match your university’s needs. Knack’s user-friendly interface and no-code capabilities make it a versatile platform for customized solutions.