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How can automated workflows help streamline grant management?

In a world of digital transformation, at AIMS we believe that automation can significantly lighten the load of manual tasks involved in the complex environment of grant management. Using workflows efficiently can help streamline and automate repeatable business tasks, reducing the possibility of manual errors and increasing the overall efficiency of your organisation. Grant managers and stakeholders can make quicker, smarter decisions and employees are empowered to collaborate in a more productive and agile way. From an external point of view, applicants are presented with a streamlined experience that ultimately, improves the quality of submissions and reduces the need for time consuming communication between both parties. Every grant manager or award maker we have ever spoken to has always wanted to do more with less. Workflows are a really effective way of doing this.

At AIMS we have designed workflows for organisations of all sizes and budgets, which allows us to guide clients through the process of tailoring a grant management system to fit their needs and finances. 

What is a workflow?

A workflow in grant management can be described as the method by which an application is processed from initial application through to closing out of the grant.

An automated workflow in a grant management system is a meticulously designed digital process that streamlines the entire grant lifecycle. It begins with the submission of grant applications and progresses seamlessly through stages like application review, decision-making, award disbursement, monitoring, and reporting.

Automation eliminates manual tasks by triggering actions based on predefined criteria, such as eligibility checks, score calculations, and compliance assessments.

This not only accelerates the grant management process but also enhances transparency and compliance by maintaining a centralised and audit-friendly record of every step. Automated workflows empower organisations to efficiently allocate resources, improve communication, and ensure a fair and consistent approach to grant management, whilst also increasing efficiency and, as a corollary, reducing costs in making each grant.

“The benefits of AIMS are to be found in enhanced speed and quality of the work processes, and in better information for internal use and external parties. We are in more control of our workflows and we can support the advisory process much better because of analysis and reports of digitally stored data.” Financial Director, Netherlands Performing Arts Fund

AIMS Workflow

AIMS contains a flexible workflow tool which allows the user to specify the processes that each application must go through.

Workflows can be created and changed by the system administrator using the Graphical Workflow Editor located in the admin view of AIMS. If necessary, each funding program can have its own unique workflow to reflect the different processes an application has to go through. This provides the maximum flexibility for the organisation to redefine their processes – without having to resort to expensive programming and testing.

When creating the workflow, the administrator can define stages in the process, define who is responsible for these different stages and assign tasks to be completed within each stage. These tasks can include documents to be read, forms to be filled out, template letters to be sent, reviewers to be assigned, payments to be added, reminders, etc.

Once all the tasks have been completed, the user then moves the application to the next stage in the workflow automatically routing the application to the correct person. The application then appears in the next person’s inbox of tasks or “Work Stack” (depending on the terminology used in the organisation). This automation of the process is proven to cut down on errors and confusion when faced with multiple funding streams. 

Workflows can be created to describe any process within the organisation be it the grant awarding process, meeting workflows, reviewer workflows, or even non-grant workflows. Workflows can also be configured to call on other workflows (orphan workflows) if required and pass the case back to the original workflow again. The system is very flexible and can have time-outs, automatic steps, deadlines and business rules all configured within the workflow.

Organisations who use AIMS grant management software are not restricted to a single template workflow. AIMS workflow is changeable by the client system admin, to reflect unique processes in any given funding program.

Typical AIMS Workflow

Which workflows can be automated?

In AIMS, any process or workflow can be automated.  Here are some of the areas that we find clients most often automate to save time and money throughout a grant lifecycle.

  • Grant application and submission: This is the initial step where potential grantees submit their proposals or applications for funding. The workflow includes the creation of grant application forms, guidelines, and deadlines. Applications are typically reviewed for eligibility and completeness.
  • Application review and evaluation: Once applications are received, they are reviewed and evaluated by a grant review committee or individuals. This step involves assessing the merit, feasibility, and alignment with the grantor’s goals and criteria. A scoring or ranking system may be used to compare and prioritize applications.
  • Award decision: After reviewing applications, the grantor decides which applications will be funded. This decision may involve internal discussions, negotiations, and final selection of grantees. The workflow includes notifying successful and unsuccessful applicants.
  • Grant agreement and disbursement: Once grantees are selected, a grant agreement is drafted and signed. The workflow involves the disbursement of funds to the grantees, which may be in one lump sum or through periodic payments, depending on the terms of the grant.
  • Grant monitoring: Grant management includes ongoing monitoring of grantees to ensure they are using funds for the intended purpose and are meeting the project milestones and reporting requirements. This may involve site visits, progress reports, financial audits, and communication with grantees. A workflow can include prompts to your staff to carry out monitoring inline with an agreed schedule.
  • Reporting and compliance: Grantees are typically required to submit regular progress reports and financial statements. The grant management workflow includes the review of these reports to ensure compliance with the grant agreement and performance expectations.
  • Renewal and evaluation: For multi-year grants, the workflow may involve evaluating the progress of the grantee and deciding whether to renew the grant for additional funding. This evaluation considers the impact of the grant on the intended beneficiaries and the achievement of project goals.
  • Grant closure: When the grant period ends or the project is completed, the grantor conducts a final evaluation and ensures that all reporting and compliance requirements have been met. The worksflow may involve a request for final reports, financial reconciliations, and the return of unspent funds.
  • Communication and stakeholder engagement: Effective communication with grantees, stakeholders, and the public is a critical component of grant management workflows. This includes announcing grant opportunities, providing updates, and sharing the impact of funded projects. As we mentioned earlier, not all workflows are specifically related to grant adminstation.
  • Risk management: Identifying and managing risks, such as financial mismanagement or non-compliance, can be an important use of grant management workflows.
  • Continuous improvement: Grant management workflows should be continuously reviewed and improved to streamline processes, enhance transparency, and better achieve the organisation’s mission and goals. With AIMS, a workflow can be tweaked by your staff or by your dedicated team at AIMS.

Workflows are instrumental in making grant management easier, faster, and more efficient for all stakeholders and applicants. These structured automated processes not only expedite the entire grant lifecycle but also enhance transparency and consistency. Stakeholders benefit from streamlined procedures that allocate resources fairly, improve communication, and ensure compliance with regulations. Applicants, on the other hand, experience a fair and level playing field as workflows eliminate bias and maintain a consistent approach. Overall, workflows support better grant management by simplifying complex procedures, reducing manual efforts, and ultimately facilitating the fulfilment of an organisation’s mission. And, as always, at AIMS we are here to help you give grants better. 

We understand workflows – even when you don’t.

We can help you make the most of your existing processes and suggest new ways of working.

Get in touch with our experts – we can answer any question about workflows.

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