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Simplifying the complex art of grants management
Creative New Zealand is the trading name of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. It is synonymous with encouraging, promoting and supporting the arts in New Zealand and internationally.
Funded by Vote: Arts, Culture and Heritage and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, Creative New Zealand are the arts development agency responsible for delivering government support for the arts.
Providing and administering numerous funding opportunities to the New Zealand arts sector is a complicated business. Each Creative New Zealand funding programme can have a range of variables, including different financial values, unique closing and announcement dates, its own assessment criteria and approval process, differing contracts, and varying monitoring and evaluation criteria.
The old grants management solution was built in 1999. It managed approximately 20 funding programmes, capturing applicant information, application assessments and outcomes, as well as any contract and payment information.
Either individually managed spreadsheets or a separate grant management system were used where the old system was unable to support a new or changed funding programme. This approach meant information was trapped in silos rather than shared across teams. And because Creative New Zealand didn’t have a single view of their programmes, or applicants, pulling together information for essential reporting was a laborious task.
Applicants downloaded application forms from the website and printed them off, or collected them in person from their local Creative New Zealand office. These paper applications (usually with multiple copies) had to be delivered, often couriered, back to Creative New Zealand offices along with any supporting material like CDs, samples of scripts or photographs of work.
Creative New Zealand staff were obliged to manually enter application details into the grant management system. Further copies of applications and the supporting material were often needed by internal and external reviewers. Slow, and lacking visibility, this process required manual handling at every touch point. The evaluation cost for each application was relatively high, and the entire process was less than efficient.
“We had all this paper flowing around everywhere,” said Angus Evison, Business Services Manager for Creative New Zealand. “We had to courier applications to our advisors at our Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch offices, and to external subject matter experts around New Zealand. Then they would assess the applications and courier them back to us. It didn’t make sense. We knew we had to improve efficiencies by automating these processes.”
“It’s much easier now for applicants to choose the right programmes for their project on the website, and then directly apply for funding online. The response to the new GMS web portal has been overwhelmingly positive.”Angus Evison, Business Services Manager for Creative New Zealand
While the Creative New Zealand project initially encompassed an electronic document management system (EDMS), a financial system, a grants management system (GMS) and a customer relationship management solution (CRM), Angus considered the GMS to be the most important and pressing solution needed.
“We placed a priority on the benefits we’d achieve by automating our processes and bringing our funding programmes to one system. This was going to deliver the biggest dividend for our organisation, so that was leading the charge.”
Angus and his team whittled down the multitude of responses the tender attracted based on which potential partner had the capability to deliver all the solutions together. Fusion5 impressed the panel by using a range of actual Creative New Zealand scenarios to demonstrate how their grants management would work for the organisation. “The solution really spoke to us,” said Angus. “Fusion5 talked to us in our language, showing they clearly understood our processes and organisation.”
The new grant management system is based on Pivotal CRM. Its strong functionality and unique business processes, along with its single business hub, made it the ideal core for Creative New Zealand’s GMS. Additionally, its look and feel was similar to the Microsoft products that Creative New Zealand staff were already comfortable with.
Sven Martin, Fusion5 Director CX/CRM Australia and New Zealand, said “Many organisations feel they have to opt for vanilla CRM implementations, despite the complexity of their business needs. Pivotal’s framework enables customers to easily combine their unique business processes and compliance requirements with integrated CRM functionality into a single hub. We’ve had considerable success leveraging this to develop industry solutions.”
“With our expertise, and Pivotal’s flexibility, Creative New Zealand benefits from both a best-of-breed GMS and the strong underlying CRM capabilities they need, including people management and self-service, in the one solution. We think that’s a pretty compelling business proposition for many businesses.”
A project shared
To maximise budget, Creative New Zealand opted to share the project management with Fusion5. This highly collaborative approach was praised by Audit New Zealand who reported, that despite the somewhat unusual arrangement, the close working relationship between Creative New Zealand’s Business Services Manager and the Project Manager effectively mitigated any risk to the management or progress of the project.
Angus agrees with this assessment completely. “Working with Fusion5 has felt like a partnership. They know this project is a core part of our business operation, and they’ve invested a whole lot of time and money to make it work. If we get it wrong, it cuts to our heart.”
“What’s always been great is that the Fusion5 guys are always a step ahead of us in terms of what the system can do. They’ve given us the functionality and modules of Pivotal CRM needed to run funding programmes. The modules are similar to building blocks that we can adapt to manage each funding programme. This has given us flexibility as we can make changes ourselves, which in turn reduces the total cost of ownership.”
Creating more time, saving more money
Creative New Zealand achieved improved automation, better reporting, enhanced cross-team working and greater transparency. “However,” says Angus, “the main dividend of the new GMS is the time saved.
“Now, each external expert receives an email telling them which applications are waiting for them on the GMS web portal. Their dashboard shows them what to review, and by when. Creative New Zealand’s dashboard tracks every application from pending, to submitted, reviewed, approved or declined. They can also see which applicants are applying to what programmes no matter what part of the business they are managed from. No more silos and no more spreadsheets.
“It’s much easier now for applicants to choose the right programmes for their project on the website, and then directly apply for funding online. The response to the new GMS web portal has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Angus.
“We surveyed our applicants and found that what they really love is the time they are saving. New applications are prepopulated with their personal or organisational details, and they can invite others to help in preparing, reviewing or editing their online submission. Another thing they say they love is the ability to save their application if they run out of time or need to find additional information. They can close it down, and pick it up again later right where they left off. They used to have to provide us with multiple copies of their application, often which they needed to courier to us. Now they’re saying ‘we don’t have to do that anymore. It’s saving me time. It’s saving me money.’”
From an applicant’s own dashboard, maintained in the GMS web portal, they can see the history and status of all of their past and current applications, plus the current live programmes they may wish to apply to.
The new GMS prevents applications from being submitted if all the mandatory information hasn’t been supplied, ensuring that only completed applications enter the workflow.
Fusion5 reviewed the number of application forms and requirements that Creative New Zealand provided on their website for applicants to download. From approximately 60 individual versions they were able to redesign and rationalise the number of templates to just three which can be used across all programmes.
The online process also makes the funding programme more sustainable, saving Creative New Zealand document storage space, courier costs and printing. “As an example,” said Angus, “we had a funding round close not long ago. If you’d turned up to the office when the previous round closed prior to implementing the Pivotal GMS, there’d have been paper everywhere. Boxes of stuff everywhere you turn. This time there were just five paper applications out of the 340 that came in.”
Fast and fantastic
The new GMS is fully scalable. By moving from a system that could cater for 20 funding programmes, Creative New Zealand now runs a further 60 funding rounds and programmes through the new Pivotal GMS.
“Our programme managers can decide and set funding rounds,” says Angus. “They can decide and apply their own workflows within the GMS without any external IT help.”
Angus says that the GMS integrates smoothly with our finance and banking systems. “Our accounts staff make payments out of several systems, but they say the Pivotal GMS is by far the easiest one to use. They can clearly see the process, and once an approval is flagged, the necessary journal and payment files are generated and uploaded directly to these systems.”
The average time taken to process an Arts Grant was over 300 minutes. Angus anticipates that with their new GMS this will reduce to less than 200 minutes. He expects similar time savings in the processing of Quick Response and Special Opportunities Grants, and that the cost to process applications to decrease by 14-22%.
One of the clearest operational efficiencies that Creative New Zealand has been able to pass onto the clients is the reduction in time to notify applicants of decisions on grants. For example, the Art Grants funding programme has gone from a 12-week turnaround to 10 weeks, and the Quick Response Grants from 6 weeks to 5 weeks. It is hoped that this times can be reduced further as the processes are streamlined.
Angus is a self-proclaimed fan of the system. “I’ve seen the benefits that it’s delivered to us already, and it’s not fully complete. When you go back to the initial business case, and the business benefits we wanted to achieve, we’re starting to hit those immediately, and that’s really great.”
Ideally, Angus wants to integrate Pivotal GMS with the complex solution Creative New Zealand currently uses to manage the monitoring and evaluation of their “investment” clients.
And once the organisation gains full access to all its data, they’ll be able to see – and even more importantly share - the big picture when it comes to how well the projects they fund are doing. "This seems like a simple thing," says Angus, "but its value to both Creative New Zealand and the artists, art practitioners, groups and organisations they support can never be overstated."
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