How to Create a Balance Between Grants Management and Business Impact
The win-win outcome is the most ideal situation in business, especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility, and particularly grants management.
To achieve this, grantmaking foundations need to think more holistically in terms of resources at their disposal and what they can provide to nonprofits. Grants are complex and take a lot of time to manage properly. It’s not enough to write a check and do a press release - nonprofits and foundations both need more to make your partnership work.
Given the time and resources needed to approve these grants, it’s vital to ensure that your money is being put to good use and providing some sort of return on investment. How do you find the perfect balance of ROI and giving when it comes to grants management, though? While giving back is always ideal, as a grantmaker for a corporation, you still have to be concerned about the company’s bottom line.
Every grant application you approve must in some way contribute to the success of the company in demonstrating business impact and social impact. That’s why it’s so important to make grants management a win-win. Read on to find out how to make it happen...
Collaboration is the key to success when it comes to ensuring both parties are getting what they need out of a partnership. Giving nonprofits a resource rather than just a check is exactly what they’re looking for in a partner. It not only benefits the nonprofits but also helps the grantmaking foundations as well.
You want to be a helpful and available grantmaking foundation, so how should you be collaborating with your grantees? The transfer of knowledge is one of the most efficient ways to collaborate. The Center for Effective Philanthropy found 71% of nonprofit leaders believe they would benefit from having more detailed data, a larger volume of data or more frequently collected data to help them better understand the difference their work is making.
Sending a strategic team to a nonprofit you have recently partnered with gives the chance to guide them and help improve the organization’s operations. By doing this, you let them know you are not just a source of funds but a philanthropic resource for strategy and expertise. Arrive with a game plan as well as an open mind so you have the ability to adapt and ultimately collaborate on the best plan of action to put funds to good use. The spirit of your discussion should be, “What can/did we learn together?” You might ask some of the following questions:
- How are the initial goals of the grant progressing? Has anything changed, improved or happened as a result of our efforts?
- How are the funds being spent in comparison with the proposed budget?
- Have any changes been made in the content of the project?
- Have you learned anything new about your audience, community resources or the issue you’re addressing?
If you can’t physically send a team, let the nonprofit know the lines of communication are open and you’re ready to start working together. Try not to view it as an ‘us’ and ‘them’ circumstance but rather as a chance to share knowledge and ideas to make incredible happen.
Measurement & Tracking
How can you figure out if a specific partnership and collaboration with a nonprofit is actually worth the time and money? First of all, it begins with choosing a charity your company believes in. It must detail a problem and outline a plausible strategy for addressing that problem. It will also propose the method, staffing requirements, duration and cost of the project.
After that, measuring and tracking the effectiveness of a nonprofit program is the best place to start but, unfortunately, there is no exact formula to do so. The terms in which you define effectiveness will be tailored specifically to your foundation or company.
As an example of potential ROI from corporate philanthropy, a large software company might give funds to a nonprofit dedicated to growing interest in STEM subjects for children K-12. By doing so, it is helping these children expand their horizons as well as growing the community in terms of knowledge. In return, the software company may hope for a larger talent pool, as 64% of millennials, who will make up the majority of the workforce by 2025, consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. They may also hope the youths they’re influencing will enter college and major in STEM fields, join the workforce and possibly even their own teams one day.
To ensure this type of tracking and measurement starts from the beginning, though, grants management professionals should provide this strategy to nonprofits as soon as collaboration starts. With a strategy, the nonprofits can then do the tracking internally and report back with the most valuable data in the long-term. All of your tracking and measuring will eventually be delivered to you via reports from the nonprofit. These reports will include:
- A detailed explanation of how grant funds were used
- Any problems that came up during the project
- Any changes that were made to the original proposal
- Testimonials (which will help with the next step!)
- Photos and other evidence of impact
“90% of businesses indicated that partnering with reputable nonprofits enhances their brands. 89% believe partnering leverages their ability to improve the community. (Source: America's Charities Snapshot Employer Research - Charities.org)”
You’ll be able to take all of this information and determine what your return on investment might be. When it comes to corporate philanthropy, ROI is usually fairly abstract, and the fruits of your labor may not be ripe for many years. However, the information you collect from stellar grants management and tracking will help you determine future projects and potential benefits.
Make It Public
After collaborating and tracking progress and impact, finding the perfect balance comes full circle by making it public. Letting others know about the impact and good your foundation has done in conjunction with these nonprofits helps both parties. How? 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about. When you publicize your CSR efforts through grantmaking, you show consumers that your organization cares about something beyond itself; you show that your organization cares about making the world better for everyone, not just themselves.
Publicizing your partnership also helps the nonprofit gain exposure and hopefully boost donations. Putting the spotlight on nonprofits, and not your own organization, is another way to show the public you care about giving back. But remember, going public doesn’t mean just putting out a press release either. Let the world know what your money actually did by sharing highlights from your CSR program on social media. The good you’re giving back to the world is never something to just keep to yourself.
Don’t forget that your plans to publicize your efforts should begin at the same time you consider starting a project—it should never be left to the last minute. Success for both nonprofits and corporations comes about from meticulously planned and well-thought out marketing campaigns.
And, when making your results public - if your impact cannot be quantified with numbers— hours volunteered, dollars donated, percentage increases, decreases, etc, consider demonstrating your impact through storytelling. Your customers, investors, and employees want to hear the stories behind the CSR initiatives and impact being made.
Demonstrating Business Impact
Studies and research have repeatedly and conclusively shown that corporate philanthropy when properly executed – with genuine executive sponsorship and comprehensive employee and stakeholder involvement – goes a long way in boosting employee engagement, productivity, workplace pride, corporate brand, and perception with customers and suppliers. Keeping up with the numerous grants and nonprofits is no easy feat, especially because the most effective grants management requires careful collaboration and plenty of planning. It’s not something that can be thrown together at the last minute, so define what goals your organization wants to accomplish and develop a strategy to accompany them.
When considering your grant-making process, view it as a process that is should be constantly reviewed and refined as well as how you measure its business impact. Determine what is working well and do more of it, pivot on what is not working well, and focus on continuous improvement.
Speak with an expert today to learn how CyberGrants can make grants management a win-win for you!