Monday, October 26, 2015

Grantmaking Leaders Take the Stage at SmartSimple’s Fall Community Conference 2015

The SmartSimple team is very excited about hosting our first ever peer-led panel discussion during our upcoming Fall Community Conference 2015 in Chicago on Wednesday, November 4th.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for this year’s conference attendees to experience something different than our usual SmartSimple led sessions. Something that would add some additional value for the experts joining us for the day” says Sarah Harris, Director, Client Support and Operations. “Our clients have a vast array of experience to share, and the chance to compare insights, strategies and tactics with colleagues in an open, interactive setting is important to fostering the growth of the philanthropic industry.”

The session’s topic, Strategic Grantmaking, will cover a range of issues from why strategic grantmaking is important to making the transition from responsive to strategic grantmaking.

Meet the Panelists


Kathe Elwell, Director of Grants & Stewardship, YMCA of the USA


Kathe Elwell is the Director, Grants & Stewardship at YMCA of the USA and joined with more than 12 years in corporate sales, marketing and special events. Leveraging her passion for helping local YMCA chapters tell their story, Kathe has spent the last six years building YMCA of the USA’s grant making capacity, directing the strategic and tactical implementation of all stewardship and grant making operations, and establishing best practices for the stewardship, re-granting and risk management of contributed revenue.

Kathe serves as Chair for Grant Managers Network (GMN) Midwest chapter, and is a member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP) and the Grant Professionals Association (GPA). She is also an active member of the North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO) as a presenter and Co-Chair of the 2016 Hot Topics.

Anne Bronson, Director of Member Grants, Feeding America


Anne Bronson is the Director of Member Grants at Feeding America. Over the past five years, she has managed their grant-making activities for distributing funds to member food banks and meeting strategic priorities. Anne focuses on relationship building and collaboration, working creatively with fundraisers, donors, and grantees to identify opportunities that balance stakeholder priorities and achieve measurable results. She has been instrumental in making the granting function at Feeding America a recognized critical component, strengthening its network to support collective, long-term strategic goals towards food stability.

Prior to making the move to the nonprofit sector, Anne spent 10 years as a business/technology consultant. She then became the Executive Director of the Accenture Foundation where she was responsible for such roles as US Corporate Citizenship Lead for Accenture, which included Foundation grants, corporate giving, and employee engagement/volunteering. Like Kathe, Anne is also an active member of the Grants Managers Network.

Tom Irvine, CIO & VP, Chicago Community Trust


Tom Irvine is the CIO and Vice President for Chicago Community Trust, where he oversees the direction, support and maintenance of all hardware and software systems used by the Trust. With more than 20 years of experience, Tom provides technology vision, leadership and direction in support of the foundation’s priorities to deliver excellent service, maximize impact, and increase efficiencies in its operations.

Tom moved from the finance industry to the nonprofit sector seven years ago to use his vast technical experience for the good of the Chicago community. His background in process improvement, change management and requirements gathering furthers the mission-level work of the Trust. His fresh perspective was key in the implementation of the Trust’s online grants management system.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Top Five Challenges for Grantmakers and How to Fix Them

Awarding grants is a complex process. “Every step – from the creation of the grant application to monitoring and tracking of results – must be well thought out,” says Haifa Staiti, Project Manager, Philanthropic Solutions at SmartSimple.*
Haifa Staiti (@haifa_staiti)


Haifa speaks from experience. She’s a grant-making professional with nearly 10 years of experience in managing grant programs. Her areas of expertise include funding medical research, community health promotion, women’s education and empowerment, peace building and human rights, so she understands the challenges facing today’s research and granting organizations intimately.


What are the issues around creating, awarding and managing a grant? Haifa shares her top five challenges of the grants management process:


  1. Developing an application process that is user friendly. If your potential grantees can’t understand what you’re asking for, or find the process too complex or costly – needing to make multiple copies of proposals and shipping them – you may lose out on some great proposals. An online solution like SmartSimple can really make things easier for your applicants.


  1. Screening submitted applications. It’s not unusual for organizations to need to screen a high volume of applications in a short amount of time. With a paper-based system, it means going through each application one-by-one to check every single section before manually entering information into Excel or another database. Again, this is where a good online system can help by alerting applicants if their information is incomplete or inaccurate before they submit.


  1. Managing the review process. The biggest challenge is recruiting reviewers if you have an external review process. The other major pain point is quickly and accurately consolidating feedback and scores from multiple reviewers, then distilling that into summary information used to rank applications and inform funding decisions.

    Online platforms can offer options to make it easy for reviewers to participate in the process. With SmartSimple, for example, reviewers log in through their own portal, where they can share individual rankings, see consolidated scores and provide comments. This saves a lot of time and can shorten the review process considerably.


  1. Tracking payments and reports. Typically, grants are paid in multiple installments and grantees are required to submit progress reports. Often, grant payments are tied to these reports. That means future payments are not made until a progress report from the previous period has been submitted and approved. Tracking all of this information can be very challenging if you don’t have a sophisticated grants management system.


  1. Showing impact. There’s an increasing focus on impact from donors and the public. We no longer measure the quality of a non-profit by how well they control expenses. Grantmakers want to know exactly how their funding is driving change.

    Monitoring grants post-award that show a concrete impact is a major pain point. A good grants management system with strong post-award monitoring functionality that provides very detailed and comprehensive information is invaluable.


These challenges can all solved with the right grants management system (GMS), processes and professionals. The SmartSimple team has experts from the grants and research management sectors that will work closely with you to create a configured system that fits the way you work. Save time, reduce expenses and cut down on paper with a centralized system that provides everything for your entire community in one location.

Request a demo today to see SmartSimple’s endlessly configurable cloud-based solution in action!


*Haifa is currently Manager, Client Services at GrantBook.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Did you miss it? SmartSimple's September Upgrade Webinar

Eric Lauer, Director of Customer Experience, hosted two webinars, showcasing the great new features and enhancements from our September upgrade:



In this upgrade webinar, Eric walks you through the latest Global and On-demand updates to SmartSimple, as well as some upcoming Beta testing opportunities for developers. You'll also see three use cases for the Neo Report Builder introduced in this upgrade.

Be sure to check out our events page to find out how to register for our Fall Community Conference 2015 in Chicago. Stay tuned for news on more upcoming webinars.