How the Chicago Community Trust Foundation Revolutionized Their Granting Process
The Chicago Community Trust was using a grants management system, but it wasn’t meeting their needs. The online function was only able to accept applications, and they needed a system that had more in-depth functionality. It wasn’t an efficient or intuitive system for applicants, as forms couldn’t be broken out to make them easier to complete. When the Trust made the decision to move to SmartSimple, all their needs were met, and more. Every piece of information became saved and searchable, all the data they need for reporting easily accessible, and they’ve eliminated the need to print applications for their reviewers.
About The Chicago Community Trust
The Chicago Community Trust is a community foundation dedicated to improving the Chicago region through strategic grantmaking, civic engagement, and inspired philanthropic initiatives. They serve nonprofit organizations working to make a difference, bringing to life their bold vision of creating lasting community change. The Trust brings together local businesses, governments, and organizations to solve pressing challenges. By connecting thoughtful donors with smart solutions, they leverage collective knowledge, creativity, and resources to make a strong, positive impact on the lives of everyone in the region.
A solution that fell short
The team at The Chicago Community Trust was already using an online grants management system, but it was far from being a complete solution. “The online application function was alright, but we needed a system that did more than just accept applications,” says Nestor Avendaño, Grants Manager at The Chicago Community Trust. “Ultimately, what we wanted was a better experience for everyone in our granting community; not just grant applicants, but reviewers, and our internal grants administration team as well.”
The Trust wanted the entire granting process to move more quickly and smoothly, with every step of the process – including revisions, requests and reporting – contained in one place so they didn’t need to use multiple systems to complete their work. “We were looking for a software solution that would centralize our process but also be easy to use. For example, we thought it would be great to have a system where applicants didn’t need to re-enter their information every time they applied for a new grant. Our old system involved a lot of scrolling through pages and pages of text. We wanted a system that sorted information in a much more concise manner.”
The Trust brought a consultant on board to help select their new vendor. “I strongly suggest using a consultant when choosing a system,” continues Nestor. “She first helped us define our requirements and grant process improvements as part of the selection process. A short list of vendors we wanted to consider was created, and she made sure that the right questions were asked during their system demos.”
A unique solution for a unique organization
The Trust ultimately chose SmartSimple for a variety of reasons. “Community foundations have very specific needs. Our granting process is extremely complex, due to a combination of work done by the core business, funding priorities, initiatives, and the range of geographic affiliates. Each area has such different requirements that present their own challenges. With SmartSimple, we've been able to modify and personalize the system in ways that help us manage the process of grant reviews and upkeep of organizational information.”
"I love how easy it is to relay information directly from the system to our grantees. It's a huge difference from our old system, which really did nothing but store data. Moving to a highly personalized business process means we're able to centralize all our functions into one great system. We now have much more robust reporting, and are managing all our one-on-one communications seamlessly. That means better relationships with our constituence, since we can send messages right from within the system. This direct connection is so much less tedious, and provides a better flow of information."
The advantage of Premium Support Services
The Trust added Premium Support Services to their service package. “We’re thrilled with the additional features offered with Premium Support Services. The best part is having our very own Dedicated Support Representative (DSR), who has intimate knowledge of every aspect of our grants management system.”
“With a single phone call, any member of my team can reach out to our DSR and receive exclusive assistance with absolutely anything related to our SmartSimple system. Our DSR is uniquely qualified to help us make changes, solve problems, and give us a hand adding or amending features and functionality. It’s a real benefit when we have any issues or run into a problem. We simply reach out to the person who knows everything about us and our configuration. Our questions are answered quickly and efficiently, giving us more time to do our work and help our communities rather than tinkering with software.”
A holistic solution for the entire community
Thanks to SmartSimple, everything now runs more smoothly at the Trust. “The system saves our grants management staff a lot of time. We don’t need to print applications, grant record forms, and award letters as we did with our previous system. We’re able to easily communicate with everyone involved in our granting process and track all our activities in one central location. SmartSimple has definitely improved efficiency.”
“I would absolutely recommend SmartSimple to anyone looking for a grants management system that makes life easier for every grantor, grantee, and reviewer. Our experience was extremely positive; it’s a great company with great people. The system meets our needs and the support we receive is excellent. Everyone is wonderful to work with and the platform is intuitive and easy to navigate.”