Grant-Making System

MatthewS's picture

Edit: This proposal has been removed from consideration because the funding request is too large. Ideas for alternate funding sources are welcome.

Introduction

This is a proposal to create an intuitive, open-sourced grant-making system using the Drupal Content Management system, to facilitate an open source alternative for essential needs of non-profit organizations and foundations.

There is a real need for an open source solution for the grant-making process. The benefits include cost savings, better accessibility, and a lowering of barriers to smaller grant applicants, as well as to the larger grant seekers.

The savings realized from using a robust and effective grant-making software will be translated into a better utilization of grant monies, many times over. pingVision proposes to create an open source solution based on Drupal.

The result of this project will be a module package that: enables custom development of application forms; provides management tools for the review, evaluation and general administration of grant applicants, grantees, panelists, and Grant-makers; and facilitates custom theme development.


This module package introduces to non-profit organizations worldwide a powerful, customizable, extensible alternative to the expensive commercial grant-making systems that dominate this market.

Background

The non-profit community is broken up into two main classes of organizations: those who give grants and those who apply for grants. Often, an organization will do both—re-granting funds received from one agency to provide to other organizations. A good example of this is represented by the block grants given by the National Endowment for the Arts to State Arts Agencies like the Colorado Council on the Arts.

Traditionally, grant making has been practiced in an analog/paper-based manner. Grant forms are printed and the grantee applies for the grant by typing on the form. More recently, fill-able PDFs have allowed applicants to fill out forms on computer. However, filling out the form is only the very first part of the grant-making process. In short the full grant-making process includes the following steps:

  1. Solicitation by the Grant-maker for applications.
  2. Prospects filling out the application and submitting along with whatever supporting materials are required by the Grant-maker.
  3. Review of each application by a Grant Manager to ensure that the applicant has followed the grant guidelines (the rules for applying for the grant).
  4. Rejection of those applications that have not followed the guidelines and acceptance of applications that qualify.
  5. Creation of panel-books (an aggregation of all applications that qualify) that are given to Panelists (individuals who review and score each application).
  6. Panelists review each application and take notes.
  7. Panelists meet to discuss and score each application.
  8. Applications that have the highest scores move onto the Grant-maker’s Board of Directors who formally accept those applications who qualify and have been recommended by the panel.
  9. The grant applicant is notified of the application acceptance and is provided a contract or agreement that they must accept.
  10. Monies are disbursed based on the Grant-maker’s policy. Often monies are provided at the end of a project. In some cases monies are provided half way through a project’s completion. In some cases, monies are provided up front.
  11. It is common for a Grant-maker to require an interim report (a report provided by the grantee to show progress).
  12. Finally, a grantee will normally have to provide a final report that shows the success (or not) of a project that has been funded.

This process can be complicated. Many Grant-makers have kludged together management solutions that include use of Microsoft Access or Excel along with a paper-based mechanism to track and report on grantees within the system. The drawback is that the systems are largely manual, primitive, and thus cumbersome.

The only fully or largely electronic/web-based systems that are available to non-profits are proprietary systems. The drawback is that proprietary systems can be expensive and usually are not as flexible as open source solutions. Moreover, mostly, they require annual licensing fees whose costs can mount up quickly. These systems include, but are not limited to:

  1. Blackbaud
  2. eGrants
  3. eTapestry
  4. CultureGrants Online
  5. Peoplesoft

Few options exist for smaller, low-funded organizations or for those who have embraced open source and wish to make use of ready-made open source solutions. Although recently CiviCRM has offered a partial solution; its feature set is light for Grant-makers especially for those that have significant volume of grants or who need advanced methodologies for managing the process.

These rather costly proprietary packages are out of reach of many grant-makers.

Goals

  1. To create an easy-to-use, state of the art, open-source grant-making system using the Drupal Content Management system.
  2. To allow for custom development of application forms.
  3. To allow for custom theme development.
  4. To provide management tools for grant applicants, grantees, panelists, and Grant-makers.

Proposed Features

  1. Rich permissioning including:
    • Admin
    • Manager
    • Admin Assistant
    • Grant Applicant
    • Panelist
    • Grantee
  2. Simple Creation of Grant Applications by Manager from scratch or pre-created templates
  3. Grant “States” (where the application is in the process) including:
    • Application Started
    • Application Under Pre-Review
    • Application Filed
    • Application Under Admin Review
    • Application Does not Meet Requirements
    • Application Recommended for Panel Review
    • Application Recommended for Funding
    • Grantee Funded
    • Grantee Filed Interim Report
    • Grantee Filed Final Report
    • Grant Closed
    • Others
  4. Payment States for funded applicants
    • Payment Requested
    • Payment Paid
    • Partial Payment Requested
    • Partial Payment Paid
    • Others
  5. Creation of an “Applicant Panel” that will show the status of all submitted grant applications
    • Grants Available
    • Grants Applied for
      • Status of application
    • Grants Funded
      • Agreements to be signed
      • Reports available for filing
  6. Creation of a “Manager Panel” that will show all Grants in systems
    • Status of Grants
      • Open
      • Deadline Passed
      • Panel in Review
      • Grant Funded
    • Reports
      • CSV exports of selected data
      • List of applications by any combination of statuses
      • Panel Book Report (PDF)
      • Other Reports TBD?
    • Roles
      • Create Panelist
      • Create Manager
      • Create Assistant (PDF)
      • Others TBD?
    • Create Grant
      • Is this Grant for People or Organizations?
      • Open Text Question
      • Select Box
      • Pulldowns
      • Radio Buttons
      • Budget
        • One Column
        • Three Column
        • Open Ended
      • Pages/Books specific for the grant guidelines of a specific grant
      • Other
    • Create Panel
      • Easy development of panel list/program to be reviewed
      • Selection of panelists
      • Selection of scoring range(s) on multiple criteria
    • Funding
      • List of Funded Grants per Grant Program
      • List of Grants with submitted Interim Reports
      • List of Grants with submitted Final Reports
  7. Payment States for funded applicants
    • Panelist Panel
    • Grants Programs that have been assigned for review
    • Grant Applicants that have been assigned to a given panelist
    • Primary or Secondary reader on assigned applications
    • Grant Panel Scoring Sheet for each Program assigned to panelist
    • Access to Panel Book (PDF)
    • Comment Form to each application

Deliverables

  1. A well code-commented Drupal 6 module package incorporating Drupal best practices, including:
    • Module and includes files
    • Template files
    • CSS files
    • GPL-licensed icon files
    • install.txt
    • readme.txt (basics on templating, what module does what)
    • Required files (.info)
  2. Installation Documentation to be incorporated into the Drupal online Handbooks.
  3. User Guide to be incorporated into the Drupal online Handbooks

Additional Details

1) Panelbooks and Board Books
Application PDFs will be broken into two main different use strategies.

  1. Full length PDF of all applications for printing or reading on screen. These can be used by panelists or by board members for board review following a panel process and can be generated at anytime
  2. Single application PDFs for use with score cards, giving an applicant pre-submittal feedback, and for an applicant's own paper records

As mentioned in the comments above, there are many instances where paper will be desired by various parties in the application process. While it is possible to heavily reduce the reliance on paper, it can't be eliminated.

2) Reporting

Reporting needs for different organizations can be quite different. The system will allow for flexibility of reporting by allowing csv exports of different data sets. For example, by choosing the following:

  • Org Name
  • Org Address
  • Status -- Grantee funded

One could make a mail merge for all those who need to recieve an acceptance letter.
During development, pingVision will consult with grant making agencies to determine a series of preset reports.

3) Agency Communication

Agencies will be able to communicate with the applicant in several ways.

  • Through mail mail merge using csv export
  • Directly through messaging sent through the system to an applicant's designated email address(es)
  • Through messaging on the Applicant Control Panel

The applicant control panel will be used, if desired, as a mechanism to deliver:

  • Contracts/agreements
  • Program Announcements
  • Applicant specific communications and alerts

4) Audience

This project will be, primarily, focused towards those who need a tool to manage the grants process rather than converting those who already have a tool. It can (is) extraordinarily difficult to convert from one tool (like GIFTS, or Pearl/eGrants) to another tool without significant resources being expended in data export and import. However, pingVision will be available to aid in export/import activities.

5) Support

pingVision plans to support the module and provide consulting services around the grantmaking sphere.

How does your proposal meet the stated goals of the Knight Drupal Initiative program?: 

Knight Drupal Initiative Goals

Increasingly grant-making agencies are looking to Drupal for content management of the organization’s corporate site. Typically these implementation are simply brochure ware sites with, perhaps, a blogging or forum component being used. Drupal could, and would, be used more extensively if there were additional tools that were:

  1. easy to use
  2. easy to implement
  3. provided desired functionality

Grant making clearly falls under this umbrella. This project provides the community Grant-Maker with an alternative to other systems designed in the proprietary realm. Providing tools that any grant maker has the option to download and tailor to that company’s needs serves the grant maker and the grant applicant by reducing cost, increasing access, simplifying process, and reducing organization overhead.

Grant making, at its very core, encourages the free exchange of information. Providing grant makers with tools is an enabler of that exchange.

How long will your project take to complete?: 

Time Frame
The project is estimated to take 2000 hours or approximately 52 man weeks. From initial architecture through release 6.x--1.0, we estimate that it will take us between 6 and 8 months.

How will you implement and distribute your project?: 

Team

The project will be implemented by pingVision's staff.


Development Process
  1. Development of Full Specification/Requirements Document
    • Identification of user roles
    • Identification of features
    • Specification of user experience requirements for each user role re each feature
  2. Development of users stories
  3. Development of Wireframes and Workflows
  4. Final technical architecture
  5. Coding
  6. Templating and CSS
  7. User Testing
  8. Alpha release(s)
  9. Beta release(s)
  10. Release Candidate(s)
  11. Documentation
  12. Final 1.0 release

Distribution

The code will be distributed primarily through Drupal.org. Other distribution points focused on the non-profit community, such as grantsystem.org, may be offered as mirrors.

Issues and patches will be managed through Drupal CVS and Drupal.org project.

Marketing will occur through:

  1. Attending Conferences
  2. Blogging
  3. Contact Lists
  4. Word of Mouth
What is your total budget estimate and how much funding are you requesting: 

Budget

Planning, Implementation, and Deployment is estimated at $300,000. Two people attending two conferences including hotel, airfare, and a conference table is estimated at $6,900. Attendance will include, The American Association of Grant Professionals annual conference and one other conference TBD.


We request support of $306,900.

Comments

I should add

laura s's picture

The genesis of this project, and the person spearheading the requirements, user experience and various workflows will be Matthew. His bio points up why he's eminently qualified: http://pingv.com/about/people/j-matthew-saunders


Laura
pingVision, LLC (we're hiring)

Laura Scott
PINGV | Strategy • Design • Drupal Development

Introduction

MatthewS's picture

Thanks everybody for your responses. They help refine the scope of this project and I think will allow for clarification on what we are trying to achieve, why, and how.

I think it would be helpful for this group to have a better understanding of my background and experience. As Laura mentioned, you could get a taste from my pingVision bio, but perhaps it is appropriate for it to listed here as well.

I have an MFA in nonprofit management focusing on Internet Technologies. I received it from Virginia Tech a number of years back and since have worked heavily in the nonprofit community. From a grants standpoint I have:

1) Managed a grants program with roughly 400 applications per year
2) Designed a ASP model grants system used by many different granting agencies
3) Designed custom grants systems for small and large State agencies
4) Sat on grants panels (including the Technology panel for the U.S. Government's National Endowment for the Arts)
5) Provided panel support and technical support to grant-makers, grant applicants, and grant panelists

All told, I have worked directly with roughly 20 grant making agencies in developing systems. This gives me the view of the grant-making need from multiple points of view. I understand the needs of the grant maker, the grant applicant, the panelist, and the technological side.

Thoughts

geilhufe's picture

First, this is a great idea. Been trying to do it for years :)

My critical comments are meant to improve the chances for success.... it takes very little money to jump start these things, but it is a complex problem you are taking on.

A few unrelated thoughts:

(1) http://www.solpath.org/
This open source grants management initiative has a lot of good experience.
They decided not to build on existing tools like CiviCRM or Drupal since the vast majority of grant makers do not use PHP infrastructures and tend not to care about the tool - they care about the company selling them the tool.
Therefore the tool itself is not as interesting as the business plan from pingVision for supporting, selling and marketing the tool.

(2) You might also want to check out the Technology Affinity Group of the council on foundations... AAGP is definitely the place with customers, but they care about the vendor, not the tool in a general sense.

(3) CiviCRM already has grants management and would greatly benefit from an integrated Drupal-based grants management tool as outlined. Consider integration.
One of the problems with grants management is that it is really three problems: content, CRM & ERP. You'll find quickly that communication tools are critical to the grant making process.... therefore you need a CRM like CiviCRM. The ERP problem doesn't have a good solution (CiviCRM is an OK solution to the proble), but storing structured financial data in a flexible content management system with little in the way of granular permissions scares the living daylights out of me.

(4) You are missing customer(s). Building a grants management system without a few alpha partners is probably a bad idea... you'll end up copying the existing paradigm (GIFTS) instead of crafting a more user-centric approach.

(5) Get George Martinez at Knight to talk with the SolPath board... I'm pretty sure he was involved.

(6) There is no financial sustainability plan. CiviCRM required 4 years of financing to build to a point where it attracted enough users (and investment from those users) to be fairly self sufficient. This buys the 0.9 release, but who is going to pay for the series of 1.x and 2.x releases?

(7) This is a tool building proposal.... we like to think "if we build it they will come", but the data from this marketplace (see the idealware documents on the Solpath site) is 100% clear that that is not true. It all hangs on a vendor-like entity marketing and selling the tool. Not seeing that in the plan.

David, thanks for your

laura s's picture

David, thanks for your feedback to our proposal so soon after it was posted. In general, I can see that perhaps we need to clarify what we're proposing. I'll let Matthew respond to most of your points, and just address a couple here:

Therefore the tool itself is not as interesting as the business plan from pingVision for supporting, selling and marketing the tool....

...(6) There is no financial sustainability plan. CiviCRM required 4 years of financing to build to a point where it attracted enough users (and investment from those users) to be fairly self sufficient. This buys the 0.9 release, but who is going to pay for the series of 1.x and 2.x releases?

(7) This is a tool building proposal.... we like to think "if we build it they will come", but the data from this marketplace (see the idealware documents on the Solpath site) is 100% clear that that is not true. It all hangs on a vendor-like entity marketing and selling the tool. Not seeing that in the plan.

Perhaps we misunderstand the mission of the KDI. We are indeed proposing to develop a module package -- a tool -- to be available to run on an existing content management system, Drupal. The idea is indeed to build the tools that then live in the Drupal open source community much like other modules. We did not think that the KDI was there to finance the start-up of a business venture. Thus we have not made such a proposal.

That said, we have no intention of simply abandoning the module once released. But again, we considered ongoing maintenance to be outside of the scope of the KDI. Perhaps we were mistaken?

CiviCRM already has grants management and would greatly benefit from an integrated Drupal-based grants management tool as outlined. Consider integration.

The question is how far CiviCRM gets us in the goal of developing a robust, configurable, extensible grantmaking system. While integration with CiviCRM is not ruled out, we hesitate to build a grant-making system that depends upon CiviCRM. Grantmaking agencies, foundations, committees, etc. use many different kinds of CRMs. (And if PHP is deemed too narrow of a market, wouldn't CiviCRM be an even smaller subsection?)

Developing an API to ease integration with various systems is perhaps a part of our proposal that we should clarify? We would be happy to even develop an integration/bridge module to hook into CiviCRM, but so far have hesistated to because we want to keep the focus of this project as on target as possible and avoid getting into a kitchen-sink approach, such as developing an entire ERP. However, nothing in what we propose precludes such integration.

(4) You are missing customer(s). Building a grants management system without a few alpha partners is probably a bad idea... you'll end up copying the existing paradigm (GIFTS) instead of crafting a more user-centric approach.

We have a rather deep Rolodex of potential alpha testers to draw from. Do you think we need to name names at this stage of the application process?


Laura
pingVision, LLC (we're hiring)

Laura Scott
PINGV | Strategy • Design • Drupal Development

I agree whole heartedly with David's Points

JacobSingh's picture

While I appreciate all the work that has gone into crafting this, having worked extensively with CiviCRM and non-profits and also being familiar with the Blackbaud solutions out there, I don't think that Drupal is the idea candidate for this solution. Here are my 2 reasons:

1). No CRM. It may not seem like a big deal to a very small foundation, but grantmaking is more about networking and communication than grants, and foundations will need the CRM tools. To my knowledge, this will end up being a massive hack in Drupal (think about the little things like multiple locations, org / ind relationships, etc).

2). Support: Unless PIngVision intends on starting a new company with the sole aim of supporting this thing, it will be very difficult to provide the level of services around it to keep it viable given Drupal's constantly changing API structure. I don't see many (if any) Drupal distros out there, and I think the reason is the massive cost to support the thing going forward while depending on dozens of contributed modules. Acquia is trying, and it isn't cheap.

Sorry, don't mean to rain on the parade. I don't think it's all together a bad idea, and might just work. Would like to see more market research though.

Best,
Jacob

Please see my response to

laura s's picture

Please see my response to David's comments above. We do not intend to replace CRM functionality that is already available elsewhere. And we aren't at this point proposing that Knight finance the start-up of a business venture. (Perhaps we should?)

And we don't "hack"! ;)


Laura
pingVision, LLC (we're hiring)

Laura Scott
PINGV | Strategy • Design • Drupal Development

I too fear that if you don't

dalin's picture

I too fear that if you don't set out to build upon CiviCRM and CiviGrant you'll end up trying to re-invent the wheel. I don't think that is a sustainable model given the tight integration between Drupal and CiviCRM and the Drupal and CiviCRM communities.

Dave Hansen-Lange
Web Developer
Advomatic LLC
East Asia Office
Hong Kong

--
Dave Hansen-Lange
Technical Lead
Advomatic LLC
Great White North Office
Canada

Along these same lines

bonobo's picture

While I actually think that a Drupal-native system has its merits, I'd also like to hear why integration with an existing system has been ruled out as the most effective way forward.

FWIW, we built a very simple, but comparable system, for a client last year. As their needs were modest, we only used Drupal, but the entire application, review, approval, and notification process was managed online -- workflow, workflow access, cck, and views took care of the whole thing.


FunnyMonkey
Tools for Teachers

I can see we need to clarify

laura s's picture

I can see we need to clarify our proposal, as we did not rule out integration with CiviCRM anywhere, as far as I can tell. But we are proposing something of a different animal than what a CRM provides. It's complementary, not a replacement.


Laura
pingVision, LLC (we're hiring)

Laura Scott
PINGV | Strategy • Design • Drupal Development

>> >> Grantmaking agencies,

geilhufe's picture

>

Grantmaking agencies, foundations, committees, etc. use many different kinds of CRMs.

Absolutely true. This is a huge design challenge since the basic task of grant making is iteratively communicating with the grantee regarding their submission. The ideal world is to integrate into multiple CRMs.

However, it is extremely difficult to build a good user experience for the grant maker by going down the integration path. In general, people (Gifts, easygrants, etc.) have not been able to "plug in" to any CRM system..... they end up building a CRM interface into their grants management system. In fact there is not a single grant management system that has implemented the integration strategy. Again SolPath will have data on this.

>

It's complementary, not a replacement.

YES! CiviCRM does not and will never be able to handle the content management component of grants management as elegantly as drupal... drupal is far better suited for this. The flexibility of views, cck and all these drupal tools is a dream come true as long as there is a well thought out install profile that creates a "usable in minute 1" user experience.

What drupal isn't good at is moving the grant business object through a workflow that includes CRM and ERP elements. Yet these elements are critical.

You might get away with csv export from drupal views of financial data, but drupal's security model makes that a bit iffy... Taxonomy Access Control only gets you so far.

Businesses...

geilhufe's picture

Well, my advice to Knight, which they have already heard multiple times, is that creating tools is a useless exercise even in a community as vibrant as Drupal.

The Drupal landscape is littered with failed tools. In contrib, in failed companies, in failed forks, etc.

The only way to support a tool is to have an ecology of users around it. The only way to support a complex tool used for business process is to have sufficient money flow in that ecology.

I would vote for and be 100% in support of this proposal if it included:
(1) Building a business.
(2) Building a tool that addresses the customer needs identified in the Idealware/ SolPath survey data.
(3) Effectively addressed the CRM ERP problems [I vote for CiviCRM, but there are other ways to skin that cat]
(4) A clear plan to deliver a solution to a lot of customers, not a tool to anyone who downloads it.

$300K from knight for the tool, reactivate the SolPath activities to pick up another $600K in grants or program related investment and you have more than enough seed money to make a go of things.

Deliver it as an ASP and mercilessly copy the innovations that have been going on in the sector. Good stuff.

The nonprofit community is

MatthewS's picture

The nonprofit community is increasingly looking at open-source solutions for problems and while many grant makers are not currently using LAMP infrastructures for grant-making many are using LAMP for current web presence. The large and medium sized grant-makers may be able to afford to license packages from one of the closed source providers, that doesn't necessarily make it attractive. Blackbaud, for example, has a steep licensing scheme and to make use of the system for accepting and managing grants, you must also license the Web API, which itself involves a significant annual fee.

Grant-makers, in general, are looking for cost effective solutions--I have personally intersected with many in various capacities. The tool becomes a critical element in making the decision on which vendor to work with.

As Laura mentions, integration with CiviCRM isn't precluded and could be quite attractive. However, we feel that it also shouldn't depend on CiviCRM to operate.

The CRM component is very important, but the needs of the grant-maker are fairly specific within the confines of grant-making activities. The grant-making community and the realm of users that need CiviCRM tools overlap but don't represent a homogenous base. While not explicitly stated in our proposal, this is in our plans.

Simple ledgering, for grants draw-downs on accounts, makes sense for an initial release, however the differences between managing warrants and checks between different grant making agencies (government vs private for example) is significant. Even the difference between different government agencies is wide. This kind of final integration ought to happen on a per grantor basis as needed. Yes, it is a big challenge that I have worked through before.

Some will, almost certainly, come if we build it. Some will come due to industry connections we have. We believe that the open-source movement encourages this.

To Clarify On Blackbaud

MatthewS's picture

This announcement was made in June:

Blackbaud, Inc. (NASDAQ: BLKB) announced the launch of Blackbaud® NetCommunity™ for foundations, which incorporates new online tools developed to meet the specific needs of community foundations. The enhanced functionality will enable community foundations to streamline the grant application process, provide an unparalleled level of service and accountability to donors, and ultimately make a greater impact on their communities and the nonprofits they serve.

The service then appears offer integration of GrantedGE as the back office system:

Blackbaud’s solution for community foundations is the industry’s most comprehensive and tightly integrated solution for grant-making organizations. Comprised of The Financial Edge™ for financial management, The Raiser’s Edge® for donor management, and Blackbaud NetCommunity for foundations, more than 80 community foundations use components of, or the complete Blackbaud solution. Foundations can also include Fusion Labs’ GrantedGE for grant management to provide a complete back-office platform.

Quoted from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/06/prweb995194.htm

Identifing the Audience

LauraSQuinn's picture

Interesting project! As David mentions, Solpath and Idealware did extensive exploratory research into exactly this realm (I was the lead researcher on that project). There's a lot of overlap with their project, so you should certainly check in with them. But also, all their exploratory research is freely available online. I'm biased, but I would say it's critical to take a look at, at www.solpath.org/reports.

It's very extensive - there's both a detailed Consumers Guide defining the features that are important to grantmakers with robust comparisons of the most widely used tools, and a market analysis looking at the qualities of the market that impact those looking to release tools and gaps in the current market. It was also fairly widely read, so I think it would at least be important to make sure your description seems informed by the research. For instance, your list of existing proprietary tools is unusual - it doesn't include any of the grants management market leaders, and Blackbaud doesn't offer a solution for grant makers.

To me, the most challenging thing about trying to build an open source tool in this space is that the small foundations who most need the kind of stripped down, easy to use tool that's most reasonable to build are the folks who are least likely to find the open source model compelling. The price would be right, but many many foundation are VERY small, have no one with technical skills of any kind, and are VERY risk adverse. For many, many of them, they'd like to pay money to have a vendor to get them up and running and answer their questions, and it's important to them to use something well proven. It's also a huge barrier to ask a small foundation to install and configure an open source tool; many simply have no technical knowledge and no relationship with any consultant to do it for them.

And even for this group, the requirements for a system get fairly complicated fast. Word merging is a critical feature (to do agreement letters) I didn't see on your list, as are reports that could flexibly recreate the board book reports they're currently using. Paper is critical to most nonprofits, as most need to support a board that's quite traditional).

The big foundations are another story - they have the technical sophistication - but then you're talking about very, very complex needs, and a whole team of grants managers with a whole infrastructure around their current system. They're still VERY risk adverse, and price isn't as much of a driver as we're used to in the nonprofit and corporate worlds.

I agree with David - I think there's compelling opportunities for an open source tool in this space, but it's going to need a big investment and a customer support component.

Yes, but not a reason not to act

bchoc's picture

I do agree with many of your points about risk aversion, but I think there is definitely space for a tool of this nature. There is absolutely no way many small nonprofits can afford the commercial solutions. Smaller NPOs, such as mine, are left with attempting to find (and then justify) the money to afford these products, improvising, or doing without.

The penny-wise-pound-foolish attitude of many smaller nonprofits, however, isn't a reason not to build this tool. It is absolutely a reason to build this tool the right way.

I think CiviCRM and, for that matter, Drupal are examples open-source delivery into the small-nonprofit space both with their fair share of successes and mistakes. Integration and support are absolutely key, so a sustainable package and community is of paramount importance. At the very least, an open source tool doesn't involve vendor-lock in and proprietary data storage. I have seen too many organizations locked into "big name" tools that they can't afford but are too invested in to get out of.

A number of valid concerns have been raised in this thread, but I am rather interested in seeing the revised proposal Matthew will be presenting.

Possibly too big

agentrickard's picture

If you look at the FAQ, we talk about the funding range for KDI. Given the current commitment we have from Knight, I am afraid this proposal is simply too big.

There is no fixed limit on funding requests. However, extremely small (less than $5,000 USD) or large (more than $100,000 USD) projects might not be practical for this application process. If you have a question about your specific proposal, you can always submit it and wait for public comment on its suitability.

That said, we have no fixed rules, but I think this application will need extra scrutiny just based on its size. I actually need to get my wife to review this, since she writes (and judges) grants as part of her job.

--
http://ken.therickards.com/

I will be fleshing out a bit

MatthewS's picture

I will be fleshing out a bit more based on the feedback given thus far--particularly in the panel/board book area and reporting. That will likely happen this weekend.

I've added a few details to

MatthewS's picture

I've added a few details to the proposal body.

Added some details

MatthewS's picture

Additional details have been added to the body of the proposal.

Sounds like a terrific offering

tsmegan's picture

This offering sounds very promising and is one that stands to greatly benefit the nonprofit community. I'm excited and happy to be in support of this effort.

Status

agentrickard's picture

Review postponed on 02 October so we can get more experienced reviewers to look at the proposal.

This application is still afforded two reviews.

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http://ken.therickards.com/

Interesting initiative

rikomatic's picture

I've been involved in developing a Plone-based grant application management system, and I know how difficult it can be. Matthew I think is well positioned to work on this audacious effort that I hope opens up the very byzantine and difficult grant application process for non-profits.

When we were building our grant management tool, one of our larger goals was to as much as possible make more visible the different proposals. We knew that we would never be in a position to fund every worthwhile project, so we wanted to make it easier for other grantors to see what projects the selection panel (and the general public) found value in, but for whatever reason were not able to fund.

We were also interested in facilitating a matchmaking tool for individuals and groups with good ideas or some kind of resource to find each other to go in for a joint grant proposal. I.e. someone who wants to do a school-based blogging program connecting with a coder with experience working with WordPress and Moveable Type. So in this way, funders are facilitating the best possible proposals coming in, leveraging existing networks and creating new communities of practice.

Lastly, one important deliverable from the grant applicants perspective is getting critical feedback on their proposal from the panelists. We wanted to create a system that facilitated panelists providing suggestions, criticisms, and praise for grant applicants, whether or not they got funded. For unsuccessful applicants, this is particularly helpful so they can figure out where they got off the boat and improve their chances for next time. Also this helps deal with the perception of any inside baseball in the deliberation process by showing how the panelists weighed and applied the different grant criteria among the set of proposals before them.

These are all easier said than done, obviously. The system I helped design only scratched at the surface of these concerns. There are many nuts to crack in making more transparent, efficient and fair the grant application process.

All the best in this worthwhile effort!

Concept of interest.

MacRonin's picture

I don't yet have the background to make a substantive evaluation of this project and it's methodology, but as the tech coordinator for a non-profit I can definitely say that this is a niche that we are interested in. We are small but growing fast, and at the moment much of this process is manual and we will need to get some type of system in place as we grow. Of course since our goal is to keep our over-head as low as possible so we can fund the projects themselves instead of administrative over-head, I use open-source source software where-ever possible ( Thank you Drupal & CiviCRM !! )

Looking forward to keeping an eye on things and doing what I can.

Worthwhile Proposal

ddillon-gdo's picture

I can support this proposal for many reasons, not the least of which is that most non-profits are small, and are constantly looking for tech applications which offer both low cost and accessible technical advice.

The low-cost aspect of this is inherent in it's description, and the wide-spread nature of the Drupal community promises the possibility of excellent tenchnical advice, 24/7 (most questions we (as end users) come up with are essentially trivial in nature, but not transparent to those of us who are not so technologically advanced).

I have also had the chance to talk to Matthew S. both in person and on-line and am confident that his background, skills and abilities are well-matched to the initiative.

Finding alpha-testers would not be difficult within the non-profit world in my opinion.

Dick Dillon

"Cha tèid nì sam bith san dòrn dùinte."

"Cha tèid nì sam bith san dòrn dùinte."

Good idea

forestmonster's picture

We currently work with a grantmaking system that has a reputation for being quite a pain, to put it mildly. Our grantor faces no end of very public complaints every time a funding cycle rolls around, and they're clearly not able to get the kind of help they need with the proprietary system they currently use. The community of Drupal developers is no doubt much wider than the community on which our funder currently relies.

I think Drupal could form the basis for a great solution to this problem and I think the pingVision folks, with Matthew's project leadership, are eminently qualified to carry this project out. It's a great idea whose time has come.

Great idea and funding prospects for non-profits

ravijaray's picture

I think creating an open-sourced grant-making system for non-profits through the Drupal Content Management system is a great idea. By the way, here is an easy way for non-profit organizations to access funding prospects: www.ngoresearcher.com is the first website to provide free access to foundations around the world. Users can search the global database by the name of a foundation, location, subject focus and/or geographic area of interest. This service is absolutely free and users do not even need to register!

Additional information is

mega1's picture

Additional information is not encouraged unless it is absolutely essential to our understanding of your project. We will contact you should we need further information on which to base a decision.

Free Government Grant Money

Grant Making Data Tracking

chkofi's picture

I work for a non profit and we are looking to update our system. can anyone recommand a software that we could use to track our grantees.