Technology for the Future of Grantmaking

September 12, 2017 Charlie Vanek

Grantmaking is changing. The ways in which nonprofits and other change-making organizations fundraise have expanded: donations from individuals based on social media campaigns, investments from billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, and massive crowdfunding days like Giving Tuesday. With multiple funding sources, pressure has increased for both funders and recipients to amplify their reporting capabilities, and provide clear goals at the onset of new initiatives. We are in a new era where both foundations and nonprofits are held accountable for achieving the goals set for each initiative, and as a result require a new technological solution that can support this changing environment.


Blackbaud’s software solution provides one platform where funders and grantees can set the goals for their project, track their progress towards those set goals, and perform an evaluation on the success of the initiative. As transparency continues to grow as a priority for the social sector, speaking the same language around results is going to become more and more important. The social sector will also require an agile technical platform, as requirements could continue to shift as the players and the sector evolve.


This knowledge drove Blackbaud to create Blackbaud SKY. After listening to our 35,000 active customers, and observing other industries who went through similar disruption, it was apparent that the future of technology in the social sector is flexible, configurable software. Customized software will not be able to keep up with rapidly changing requirements, funding sources, and new initiatives like collaborative projects. Blackbaud SKY is a set of technical capabilities that customers are enjoying today and will soon be able to get with any Blackbaud product. It is the leading cloud technology in the sector, and as a partner of Microsoft Azure, Blackbaud SKY exhibits world class security and availability.  In addition, our products that leverage Blackbaud SKY are flexible and agile, which allow them to be in a state of continual innovation and improvement. These enhancements are pushed out to our customers on a frequent and regular basis to ensure that they are always using the most up-to-date and best technology.


Blackbaud SKY helps foundations to work with more efficiency and at greater scale than with any other platform. Implementation time of new software is 30 days or less, and SKY API uses REST APIs so your team can configure, integrate, or extend functionality of the solution for your changing needs. Most important, you can be assured your data is secure in the cloud. With the help of Blackbaud SKY you will soon even be able to have a single sign-on, for all of your software.


Still not convinced the future of social good technology is with Blackbaud? Let’s talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a great application of how our innovative, configurable solutions can take global goals and integrate them into your day-to-day work. Blackbaud Outcomes, a part of the overall technical solution, was developed to include the SDGs as part of your reporting capabilities. With this enhancement, you can speak to a greater impact your work is having on a much larger scale, beyond your community. Blackbaud is consistently in these conversations around the future of philanthropy, which includes participating in and speaking at UN-led events, as well as serving on the Impact 2030 Council and the Impact 2030 Measurement Committee.  We share our time, resources, expertise and knowledge, and we take what we learn through our involvement and incorporate that into our products for the benefit of our customers.


Let’s talk about those software solutions now. As I mentioned, Blackbaud equips all types of organizations in the social sector with technology to effect change, from foundations to corporations running CSR programs to nonprofits. As the role of philanthropy in each of these organizations continues to expand, our products evolve in both capabilities and relevancy for each of these organizations.



The recent integration of DonorCentral into FIMS has transformed the way community foundations can interact with donors. As the philanthropic space becomes more and more crowded, it is essential to engage your donors on a consistent basis, and with content most relevant to them. DonorCentral provides up-to-date information on your foundation’s activities, real-time information on funding opportunities, and all the details you need on specific grants for reporting. The result is a streamlined process that enables you to be smarter about your fundraising, and better prepared for any donor conversation. Plus, DonorCentral was built on Blackbaud SKY, so you’ll see the same efficiencies and ease of operations that I discussed earlier. We built this product in response to customer feedback.  You requested it and we delivered it!  We look forward to collaborating further with our customers as we remain devoted and committed to serving community foundations.


GIFTS Online

GIFTS Online has evolved with the needs of the social sector, providing one technological solution for foundations. As results-focused giving gains more traction, nonprofits and foundations are having conversations around the desired outcomes of a project before a grant is even awarded. The Outcomes module in GIFTS Online helps facilitate this conversation, providing clear goals. Once the project kicks off, both parties can check on their progress and realign their work accordingly.


As I previously mentioned, reporting on funded initiatives is now an assumed reality, delivered upon conclusion of the project. GIFTS Online includes real time dashboards, so you can access the data you need quickly. Integration with third party products like Microsoft Excel, and access to hundreds of presentation templates amplify your ability to produce detailed reports in a short timeframe.

With a 97% retention rate, customers of GIFTS Online agree that our technology serves their current and future needs. So what about the future of grantmaking? Let’s take a moment to discuss that.


The Future of Grantmaking

The future of grantmaking is a technological platform that goes beyond a one-to-one relationship, facilitating relationships amongst numerous stakeholders. The result will be unparalleled efficiencies and collaboration opportunities: one platform to find peers working on similar projects, one search to identify relevant potential grantees, and one dashboard to see outcomes from your peers and like-projects. This centralized platform can only be made possible with cloud technology, which Blackbaud currently runs with their software solutions. The cloud provides one, integrated system, with the same interface throughout all platforms.


​Charlie Vanek is the Director of Product Management at Microedge + Blackbaud.

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