Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Sea to Shining Sea: Meeting the Needs of US Government Granting

No two granting organizations are alike, and this is especially true for government agencies. The levels and layers of funding that move from federal government departments down to state agencies and out into local communities is a complex trail that is challenging to track, validate and report on.

Kenny Lew, CEO, Innovation Network
How are they currently coping with these challenges? What are the key concerns for government granting agencies at the state and federal level? We had the opportunity to sit down with one of our partners, and expert in software implementation, Kenny Lew. Lew is the CEO of the Innovation Network, a D.C. based provider of cloud-based software platforms for organizations looking for flexible automation solutions. “Our team has been working with government granting since our inception 12 years ago,” says Lew.
Lew and his team of experts are keenly aware of the unique challenges facing government granting agencies and the organizations they support at the state and local level. “Tracking and managing the flow of money is more complex because the dollars travel through multiple organizations.
"Let’s say for instance the Department of Justice provides $4 million to the State of Maryland to fund safety initiatives. Those funds would then flow from various state agencies down to select community organizations whose grant applications to the State were approved for initiatives such as educational seminars on community safety, gun safety in schools and the purchase of bulletproof vests. Keep in mind this is just a basic example, the granting process is generally far more complex.
"At the end of the day, the state agencies are responsible to not only receive and approve grants applications, but fund them, track them, and report backup to the State of Maryland and the Department of Justice. It’s a lot to keep track of to ensure that appropriate initiatives are meeting the goals of the federal government agency.
"What can add even greater complexity is that some community groups may only receive funding from a single government agency while others may be funded by multiple agencies, and it all needs to be accounted for. Plus, when you’re dealing with thousands of grants, the sheer volume makes managing and tracking funds even more difficult.”
There’s also a higher level of responsibility required of government agencies to be accountable and transparent. When you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, that’s to be expected. State-funded grants are public record, so tracking and reporting must be complete and accurate.
Up to now, there has been no single tool or software platform robust or flexible enough to manage all this information. “Today, many agencies at every level use their own solution, be it custom software, paper, spreadsheet programs or a combination of all three. It would be absolute nirvana to have one, single, centralized system that could handle everything for every level of government and the community agencies they fund.”
Being a leader in grants management software, SmartSimple already had the expertise and experience to provide solutions for granting organizations with diverse and unique needs, so, with input from the specialists at the Innovation Network, we created a new product geared to meet the complex requirements of government granting agencies.

SmartSimple Revere offers a single platform solution for single and multi-state granting. Now, state agencies and the organizations they fund can track and report on every dollar granted out, starting from the state or federal funding source, all the way through to the organizations receiving their grants.
A highly flexible and dynamic system, SmartSimple Revere also has the ability to evolve and grow as the requirements of individual agencies evolve and grow.
“SmartSimple’s implementation and licensing models are conducive to the processes of granting and re-granting that’s unique to the US government. It captures all of the relevant data in one centralized platform, providing an end-to-end solution. And, SmartSimple Revere imports granting information directly from, supports Federal Grants Reporting, and supports the preferred data formatting requirements for the government,” concludes Lew.
Visit the SmartSimple Revere page to learn more about this latest solution. Curious to know more? Request a demo of the Revere 1 or Revere 2 platform to see it in action.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why 2016 US election issues mean so much – and so little – to Silicon Valley

In an industry that’s been careful not to play political favourites, it’s not hard to guess who Silicon Valley will be voting for in 2016. With the exception of Peter Thiel, “The Donald” is scaring Silicon Valley leaders. A lot.

It should be a good match. After all, Donald Trump is the poster-boy for capitalism and less government. And the new philanthropists from Silicon Valley (while reportedly much more generous with their wealth) aren’t averse to the wages of capitalism. And frankly, they just want to be left alone to go about their business. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Republican Party nominee Donald Trump (left) and Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton (right) 

Silicon Valley unites against Trump

Trump’s vocal anti-immigration stance is the prime reason he has the tech industry worried. In particular, his claim that the H1-B visas have to go has alarm bells ringing up and down the valley. It’s estimated that each H1-B salary offers a savings of $30,000 a year and that these hires are 100x more impactful than their counterparts.

Trump’s policies spell trouble for thought leadership and bottom lines in Silicon Valley, where 37.4% of the population is foreign-born (albeit not all on H1-B visas).

His staunch support of law enforcement in the FBI/Apple issue didn’t win him a lot of fans in the area, either.

Clinton’s love-letter to Silicon Valley

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s tech policy and wooing of the industry stand her in good stead with the tech giants. (You can check in on their courtship via Hillary’s love-letter to the industry).

And, Clinton comes with philanthropy creds. Hillary Clinton’s commitment to helping women could be a turning point for women in the U.S. and worldwide if this level of focus is shared by Silicon Valley philanthropists.

Hillary campaign CTO Stephanie Hannon, red scarf right of center, poses with supporters. Photo Credit: Hillary for America.

Why the outcome matters to philanthropy

The most important reason the 2016 election matters to philanthropy? Government has less and less to spend. The Clinton entourage has experience and proven success in brokering deals and bringing government, corporate and non-profit sectors together.

The potential impact of Silicon Valley philanthropy is staggering, given this opportunity. David Callahan provides an inspiring look at the possibilities in Inside Philanthropy.

Philanthropists participate in a Plan Bay Area Public Meeting in Mountain View, CA. Photos Credit: Noah Berger.

Why then, does 2016 matter so little?

In a nutshell, Silicon Valley philanthropists simply march to their own tune. Engineered solutions to the world’s problems. Disruption and risk-taking. A hands-on approach to giving. Corporate structures for philanthropy. These are all hallmarks of the new philanthropy that Silicon Valley has invented and embraced.

And whether you’re for it or not, this style of giving, born and bred in Silicon Valley by young, determined industry leaders, won’t stand or fall based on the next occupant of the White House.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

SmartSimple is now SOC 2 Compliant

SmartSimple is proud to announce that we are now a Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 compliant organization. 

SOC 2 is the most recognized and relevant standard for cloud security in the world, and it’s a reflection of our dedication to maintaining the highest level of security standards for our clients.

“SOC 2 is the standard many organizations hold their vendors to. It shows we’re on the leading edge of governance practices,” says Cameron McLean, President of SmartSimple. “We’re also currently the only Software as a Service (SaaS) provider in the grants and research management space that has achieved this level of certification.”

SOC 2 builds on top of our compliance frameworks and concentrates on non-financial reporting controls as they relate to the security, availability, and processing integrity of the SmartSimple system. These reporting controls are commonly known in the industry as the Trust Service Principles, and outlines the standards needed to qualify for SOC 2 certification.

Trust Service Principles

  1. Security: The system is protected, both logically and physically, against unauthorized access.
  2. Availability: The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed to.
  3. Processing Integrity: System processing is complete, accurate, timely, and authorized.
  4. Confidentiality: Information that is designated “confidential” is protected as committed or agreed.
  5. Privacy: Personal information is collected, used, retained, and disclosed in conformity with the commitments in the entity’s privacy principles put forth by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accounts (CICA).
SmartSimple’s impartial third-party audit was conducted by Deloitte, a global leader in Enterprise Risk Management.

“A SOC 2 audit is a rigorous, independent review that provides assurance on security, availability, and processing integrity,” says Mark Varma, Senior Manager, Enterprise Risk at Deloitte. “SmartSimple’s SOC 2 certification will help build trust and confidence in their service delivery processes and controls.”

Visit the Security & Privacy page of the SmartSimple website to find more information about the roles and responsibilities we and our clients’ adhere to. Plus, you’ll gain an improved understanding about the shared responsibility of SaaS vendors and clients in the cloud.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SmartSimple July 2016 Upgrade Highlights

SmartSimple’s July 2016 upgrade takes the Arcadia X user experience to the next level, giving you even more reporting and communications options. We’ve introduced new On-Demand features that bring life to your reports and dashboards. And, our enhanced email offering makes it easier to add contacts and quickly edit your communications based on specific, pre-filtered records already in your platform.

List View Charts (On-Demand Feature)
SmartSimple empowers you to create dynamic and impactful charts directly from your current list view without needing to use Report Builder.
List View Charts instantly aggregate your data into easy-to-understand, vibrant charts. This flexible new feature requires next to no effort to use, maintaining the current columns and filtering the information you want to share directly from your list view. There’s no need to re-input any details.

Seven descriptive and colorful chart types are available to display your data in a meaningful way. This feature provides the ability to see the data as tables or charts as well as being able to drill down into the data for a more granular view. Users then have the option to download the chart or table as a PNG, JPEG, PDF or vector image.

Note: This feature is available in the Arcadia X interface only; List View Charts cannot be created from the Classic interface.

BI (Business Intelligence) Dashboards (On-Demand Feature)
This feature is ideal for board members or internal team members who want descriptive graphics that clearly display their information succinctly whenever they open their personal portal. BI Dashboards offer regularly updated overviews of granting data, ensuring you always see the most up-to-date statuses.
There are six charts and a map already built in to make it fast and easy to create your dashboard. Simply select which fields are represented by which graph type and set the data filters for what you need to see (status, start date, end date, etc.).

The charts in the BI Dashboard will always remember the latest settings used and provide options to zoom in for greater detail. Use maps with current addresses to drill down information based on location for more granular analysis. Charts can also be personalized according to each user’s needs, providing the exact results they want to see, every time.

Note: The graphs displayed and their locations on the dashboard are applied by default and are not configurable.

Dynamic Field Controls (On-Demand Feature)
This feature offers you the ability to easily create smart logic to control visibility of sets of fields based on values selected on other fields.
This new feature uses what’s known as ‘branching’ or ‘skip logic’ (showing field information based on your answers. Select X to see details on Y. Select Z to see details on A, etc.). Always ensure that the data shown to every user is only the data they want and need to see.

Note: If you’re interested in exploring this feature further, talk to your System Administrator.

Group Email Enhancements (Global Feature)
Email is a vital lifeline for your community no matter where they are, so we continually look for new ways to increase the usability of SmartSimple’s email function.

For this upgrade, we’ve improved both the user interface and the user experience by making the generation and sending of emails flow more smoothly. Select any number of roles and our email wizard will instantly display the exact number of users on the final list so you know how many people will receive your communication. This new feature also gives you the additional opportunity to double check and confirm your email targets the right audience.

Additionally, you now have the ability to edit content right from within the email template, meaning last minute changes can be made on the fly. All emails are saved as an activity on the Level 1 record.

Learn More
See the full list of all our July enhancements on our Wiki. Be sure to sign up for one of our Upgrade Q & A Sessions on Tuesday, August 2nd or Thursday, August 4th by visiting our Webinars Page.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Four ways Brexit is impacting the nonprofit sector in the UK

With the final results of the Brexit Referendum of 52% to leave the EU and 48% to stay, the majority of UK citizens have voted - albeit by a small margin - to leave the EU. A surprise to many, the result has lead to not only the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, but created a great deal of turmoil in the country, leading to massive speculation about the future.

News articles abound on the impact of Brexit on the automotive industry, energy and climate change, investments, and technology. But what about philanthropy, or, as it’s commonly known in the UK, the third sector? After all, more than 732,000 people are employed in this industry by an estimated 162,000 organizations that spend approximately £38 billion annually on initiatives to assist people in need.

1. Economics and Funding for Philanthropy
It’s no surprise that the initial reaction of the global markets was panic; financial institutions never cope well with change. Not only did the pound plunge against the US dollar by over 10% to $1.32, a 30-year low, investors “...have started to flock to the safety of US Treasuries.”

This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean a windfall for the US. In the short term, market volatility will impact everything from the dollar to trade to tourism. Should economic uncertainty continue for any length of time, it could slow down growth in the US while both businesses and consumers reconsider current spending habits — including, potentially, donations to nonprofits.

There’s another major funding issue that Brexit has created for the third sector. As part of the EU, the UK has been able to tap into the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). This funding had been key in offsetting the ongoing government cuts to the not-for-profit sector, so its loss in conjunction with a highly devalued pound and loss of investment income will certainly be felt.

How much was the UK getting from the ESIF? The Third Sector published the results of a report produced by the Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign. It stated, “British charities would lose more than £200m in funding each year if the UK votes to leave the European Union... 249 charities received £217m from the EU in 2014, the most recent year for which there are figures.”

This is a bad combination at a time when 70% of charities predict demand for their services will continue to increase. How can organizations whose missions are to support those in need keep up with the societal demand?

2. The Future of Employment and its Impact on the Third Sector
The impact on the workforce is also a hot topic. Companies that have been able to take advantage of the open trade and movement of employees across the EU will become a thing of the past. This is making many large global companies rethink their UK office locations.
An article in The Guardian contained a warning from Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan, that “between 1,000 to 4,000 UK jobs at the bank could move overseas.” Morgan Stanley is also apparently thinking of moving UK jobs to Europe.

If those jobs go, leaving the people working in them unemployed, what happens to their taxable income the government uses to fund initiatives? What happens to any donations they would normally make directly to charitable organizations? What if they themselves need services?

This leads to a “double whammy” for the third sector, says Paul Palmer, professor of voluntary sector management and associate dean for ethics, sustainability and engagement at Cass Business School. Combine the drop in donations with continued government cuts and the impact is twofold.

3. Charitable Services after Brexit
If funding starts to disappear, what happens to the people that rely on the services these organizations provide?

The Third Sector spoke with Danny Corry, Chief Executive of New Philanthropy Capital, who said, "The Brexit vote means we are entering a period of uncertainty for charities. The government will now be tied up for months negotiating what happens next, sucking time and energy away from making sure charities are in the best position to make a social impact.”

4. University Research Grants Already Feeling the Impact
One victim has already fallen: university research grants. Forbes reported some UK universities have already been told future funding applications are likely to be put on hold. That’s 19,000 jobs generating £1.86 billion for the UK economy indefinitely delayed.

So what’s next?
Remember, until the UK invokes Article 50, the separation is not “official.” Article 50 comes from the Lisbon Treaty that each member of the EU signed in 2007. This is the formal declaration by the Prime Minister that the UK is leaving and triggers a two-year countdown where both parties negotiate the separation agreement between the UK and the EU.

In the meantime, however, uncertainty rules.

Leaders of the third sector have requested an immediate summit to discuss the possible recovery of revenue to be lost in charitable sector funding, but, to date, no meeting has been set.

It’s a bit early to say what the ultimate outcome will be. There’s wide range of opinions regarding the legality of the vote and whether the vote alone is enough to invoke Article 50. It’s entirely possible that, should Brexit go to parliament for further discussion, the outcome of the referendum may be considered too close to be considered official. There are also legal concerns that Article 50 cannot be called into play until there has been an Act of Parliament, meaning a separate vote by MPs.

The longer uncertainty stands, the more optimistic the talk becomes that the UK may not leave the EU after all. In that case, this last couple of weeks could simply be considered a valuable learning opportunity and potential warning to any other country considering such a move. Still, there’s a strong belief it will come to pass, so it’s imperative the third sector put as much pressure on the government as possible to keep their issues top of mind.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SmartSimple is selected as an Inaugural Partner in Amazon Web Services Government Competency Program

The SmartSimple team is excited to announce that Amazon Web Services (AWS) has selected SmartSimple to their newly launched AWS Government Competency Program. This brand new program includes a number of well-known organizations like Accenture, Trend Micro, Lockheed Martin and Unisys.

Amazon Web Services powers hundreds of thousands of businesses in the cloud. Their customers are located in 190 countries around the world and include a wide array of businesses, including entertainment, travel, manufacturing and IT companies.

The AWS Competency Program recognizes Amazon Partner Network (APN) partners who have shown not only a high level of technical proficiency, but a proven track record of customer success in specialized solution areas.

“By achieving recognition in this prestigious program — and as the only Canadian organization to do so for Government Competency — SmartSimple has demonstrated we’re an organization that offers mission-critical solutions to government agencies on AWS, and showcases another way we differentiate ourselves in the SaaS marketplace,” says Alex Wong, Marketing Manager at SmartSimple. “And we don’t just work with governments; we also provide solutions to Fortune 100 and 500 corporate foundations, and other large organizations.”

Partners selected to join the AWS Competency Program have proven they have a strong overall AWS practice and demonstrated technical prowess within a particular area of competency. Customers in these industries can be assured they’re working with highly qualified service providers, as all partner products and solutions are validated by internal AWS teams.
2016 AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington DC (June 20-23)
SmartSimple has already met the high standards outlined by AWS to work with their FedRAMP-approved GovCloud, a service that helps support U.S. government clients’ strong compliance requirements.

“Just last year, SmartSimple achieved the level of  Advanced Technology Partner. This means we’re among the Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), SaaS, PaaS, management and security vendors that offer software solutions in conjunction with AWS,” continues Alex.

“It’s an honor for us to be recognized once again by AWS for our work, and we look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with our friends at AWS,” concludes Alex.

To request a demonstration of our solution for governments, please visit our website or contact our sales team via email or toll-free at 866.239.0991.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Trending and Transparency - The State of the Granting Industry

Enter the term “trends in granting” into Google and you’ll get back 38,700,000 results. You’ll find a wide range of documents, including reports from well-respected organizations, blogs written by grantmakers, case studies and fact sheets.

That’s a lot of information, and few have the time to sift through it all. Yet grantmakers need to keep up to date on the latest trends to learn what will be a short-term fad and what’s going to impact how they award funding in the future.

How is the granting space changing?
We did some digging ourselves and discovered three major topics of note that all revolve around the predominant theme of transparency in the granting industry.

This is thanks to a range of factors, including the prevalence of smart technology and social media that has lead to the growing use of digital media to share outcomes. This topic is heavily influenced by the millennial generation moving into more senior, decision-making roles. We’re also seeing an increasing focus on more business-like impact reporting of granting outcomes to show the clear impact of funding activities.

Outcomes Based Granting and Impact Reporting
“This is a quickly growing trend in the foundation world. Foundations are looking at ways to track not just their data but also the nonprofits they serve. They want to be very clear about what their dollars are doing,” Danette Peters, the founder of Onyx Consulting and long-standing member of the Grants Managers Network says in relation to this important topic.

The Evolution of Annual Reporting and the Relationship Between Foundations and Nonprofits
While traditionally, foundations would publish an annual report that covered money in and money out, now more information is being sought that digs deeper than just dollars spent.

Rather than simply focusing on amounts awarded, boards and funders are looking for a deeper understanding, such as what changes in the community you serve benefited? What was the impact of those funds on people’s lives?

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, “Nobody gets an A for effort anymore. You get an A for impact.”

“The general trend is moving towards greater donor involvement and transparency” Haifa Staiti, Manager, Client Services, Grantbook Inc. Haifa is a grantmaking and philanthropy specialist with over 10 years of experience working with large foundations.

The Millennial Impact
Those born between 1980 and 2000 have a unique approach to workplace management and engagement as well as philanthropy, so foundations would do well to pay attention to this generation as they move up the corporate ladder, according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey.

“Millennials do a lot of online research before they donate so they can quickly confirm if the cause they are looking to fund is legitimate and the money will go towards something they care about,” says Sandra Liberty, senior consultant at Smartech Consulting. Having worked in the nonprofit world for nearly 20 years, Sandra has experience in a diverse range of organizations including healthcare, education and security.

This is why, according to an article in AdWeek, larger charitable organizations are starting to rethink their strategy, moving away from traditional mass marketing and workplace giving to crowdfunding and social media initiatives to woo this generation of donors.

What granting leaders need to know
Collaborative relationships are being actively developed between foundations and nonprofits and nonprofits and their donors. Impact reporting will also continue to be a major focus, and organizations are developing strategies to entice millennials to engage with them.

How is this happening? Are foundations and nonprofits willing to change how they work together? Are millennials truly going to make long term changes to how the industry is managed and fundraises?
Are you prepared for the next shift?
Combined with impactful statistics from reports produced by Deloitte, The Bridgespan Group, and the Foundation Review Center for Effective Philanthropy, learn what else our experts have to share by downloading our white paper.