As Fluxx implementation partners, Grantbook often works with grantmaking organizations to get them up and running in their new GMS. Our team had a blast working with the small but mighty team at The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) on their unique implementation—in many ways it was an ideal partnership—so we wanted to share some of the lessons learned.
The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) is a special regional tax district of the State of Colorado that provides funding for art, music, theatre, dance, zoology, natural history, or cultural history organizations in the Denver Metropolitan Area. In some ways, their structure is similar to a private foundation, and in other areas their structure and requirements are quite unique.
They are funded by seven contiguous counties, each with their own review and reporting requirements. Grant sizes vary widely, from small grants of a few hundred dollars, to large grants of $10 million, and everything in between. SCFD has relationships with hundreds of organizations in their community, some with a fair bit of turnover—and their previous system made it difficult to track those relationships.
The Selection Process:
Limitations to SCFD’s operating budget meant that their previous solution worked “well enough,” but required a fair amount of ad hoc back end solutions to make it work: shadow spreadsheets, manual processes, tons of time spent tracking down historical information, etc. The grantee portal was only set up to take in information—so all of the back end work of processing applications, building reports, and building relationships with their grantees was housed in different systems, spreadsheets, emails, etc., causing a significant manual and administrative burden for the SCFD team.
With an increase to their operating budget, SCFD was able to select a new system. Starting with extensive research looking at over 80 solutions, they shortlisted 10 options, and then further refined the list to 4 for vendor demos. They eventually landed on Fluxx as their system of choice, and engaged Grantbook as their implementation partner.
Lessons from the Implementation:
Implementing a new technology system can be an opportunity for culture and process improvement. If you’re considering—or gearing up for—a transition to a new system, keep these tips in mind:
Find Partners Who Speak Your Language
It’s rare to hear that an implementation was “fun,” but that’s just how Heather Porter, Program Officer described the process, who said that the implementation was “super funtown. We met kindred spirits in Annie and Jamie, and embarked upon a great journey of discovery.” Heather went on to say that “part of why Jamie and Annie were so wonderful was that we were all ‘in this together,’ navigating not only the constant change of life in a pandemic, but also the rapid changes to our grantmaking process—and they were a steady constant.”
For Jessica Kato, Deputy Director of SCFD, this was her third time working through a GMS system implementation, and she cited Grantbook’s willingness to really learn and understand SCFD as a major driver of success. By spending the first few months of the process in deep discovery, getting to know how SCFD works, and building a common vocabulary, both teams were able to enter the implementation itself in close alignment about the organization’s needs—”which made it so much easier to work together. We felt like Grantbook took the time because they truly wanted the product to succeed for us.”
Keep an Open Mind About Your Processes
Prior to this implementation, the SCFD team had spent a fair bit of time dreaming up and planning new ways of working—their system was onerous, and they knew that there was significant room for improvement. So when it was time to implement Fluxx, they had a strong sense of what they wanted and needed in their new system.
Throughout the implementation, Grantbook was able to share ideas and best practices from other projects and systems—and the SCFD team was able to make decisions about changes quickly. They recognized that “because we’ve always done it this way” is a perspective that should be challenged and interrogated. They knew what was necessary to preserve, and where they could be open to new ways of working.
As Heather explained, SCFD was in “a headspace that was very unique, we were constantly assessing how we do things. And so we were able to amend the way we do business on the fly —or it looked on the fly but it wasn’t really, because we’ve looked at the way we do things and thought about the ideal solution many times. Those sorts of moments came up quite a bit, and we were able to shift gears fairly quickly, and that was exciting because Fluxx had the capability, and we could meet in really interesting places.”
Forget “Replication,” Think Improvement
To describe an implementation, we like to use the metaphor of moving into a new house: it’s an opportunity to clear things out, get rid of things that no longer serve your needs, and take advantage of a better layout. If you approach an implementation as an exercise in replication, you end up replicating the same inefficiencies—the equivalent of bringing all your dust, broken items, and outdated stuff from your old house into your new house.
By approaching the implementation as an inflection point for improving processes, workflows, ways of working, etc., SCFD was able to design a new system that they’re excited to use, and that drastically improves their quality of life using the technology.
SCFD has been funding organizations for over 30 years, and many of their processes have largely stayed the same in that time. The team knew that any gains in efficiency would have a major impact on their operations, and free up time for them to do the work that really matters.
As Heather explained: “SCFD has functioned on very little for a very long time, and been able to support our community, and that’s a source of pride for us. We have a tiny operating budget and we do great things with the little we have to use. And so having an implementation partner come in and say, ‘you guys are already doing great things, this is how we can make it even better’—who wouldn’t be open to that?”
Benefits of the new System
Now that SCFD is up and running in Fluxx, they are able to enjoy the benefits of their new technology—spending less time on administrative work, and more time making a difference for their community.
- Increased transparency for grantees: applicants can now log into the system to see the status of their application and historical data (i.e. previous applications and funding awards). This means the team can spend less time tracking down updates, and more time on building relationships with grantees. It also means that grantees are better able to forecast and plan, because they always have up to date information available.
- A single source of truth: the SCFD team was using a pieced together system that consisted of a bunch of different tools, spreadsheets, and manual workflows. Their Fluxx instance now enables them to do the majority of their work in a single ecosystem, cutting down time spent jumping around and looking for the information they need.
- Streamlined application forms: throughout the implementation, the SCFD team was able to simplify the application form, remove questions that were no longer necessary, and streamline their reporting. This means that grantees are spending less money and time on asking for funding, while ensuring that SCFD is able to meet the reporting requirements of their funding districts.
- Less time on admin, more time for community: with the complexities of their funding model, SCFD used to spend at least 3 months—with 3 program officers working full time—processing grants, doing financial reviews, manually calculating data, etc. per grant cycle. With the time saved by their new system, they are excited to have the ability to spend more time with grantees: helping them strengthen their applications, connecting them with other organizations doing similar work, convening and educating their communities.
The process of selecting and implementing a critical part of a funders technology infrastructure can be a daunting task. However, as we learned alongside the team at SCFD, it can also be a lot of fun. When viewed as an opportunity for improvement, incredible gains in efficiency and process are possible—which means that teams can spend less time on admin, and more time on world changing.
Over nine years, and more than 200 digital transformation projects, Grantbook has helped grantmakers around the world select, implement, and optimize their philanthropy tech. Book a call with our friendly and knowledgeable team of experts to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of our people, process, and technology.