Tech Tools for the Grant Pro

I love tech tools! I am an early adopter. That is a 'good news, bad news' statement.

Sometimes, as an early adopter that I use new technology in the early stages and I grow as that technology advances, often locking in a great introductory price. Other times, I waste my time on that shiny-new-object. 

What that means for you, my friend, is that I am happy to answer questions about tools and share what, why and how a particular tool works and doesn't work for me. I created a Tech Tool Workbook for you. You can get it here

This week on GrantChat, we will be chatting about tech tools. I want to share a few of the tools I consider essential to the way I work and what I produce. 

Collaborative Writing: Google Drive

If you are already using Google Drive, then I don’t need to convince you that using Google docs and spreadsheets it the best thing for collaborative writing and development. If you are like some of my dearest friends who will tell me over and over, ‘I hate Google Drive’ (you know who you are and you know I love you), then this is for you.

More than half of the nations primary and secondary-school students use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs. When they graduate from high school, the school encourages seniors to convert their school account to a personal Google account.  

What are the key advantages of using Google Docs over Word?

  1. Sharing document development in one document with everyone on the team in real time. With Google Docs you do not need to save different versions. Everyone is using the same version, and they can all use it at the same time.
  2. Templates You can create templates to save time and ensure consistent page formats.
  3. Auto Save and Revision TrackingWhat grant professional doesn’t love autosave? Google tracks every revision by person and time to the Google Cloud. The document keeps track of every addition and edit made to the document. To review, compare, or revert to a prior version of the document, all you need to do is visit the revision history. Revision history gives each contributor to the document a different color and allows the team to see easily what each team member contributes to content and comments.
  4. Real-time, any time, feedback and communication. You can give different levels of access to individuals so they can edit or limit their access to commenting or viewing. The document also has a chat section. If I am editing a section on a grant narrative and a team member comes in to edit another section, they can see that I am in the document, and they can send a quick chat to let me know they are there and what they will be editing.  Also, a team member may pop into the chat to let me know the data I have been waiting for is available. Team members that have editing or commenting access can highlight text and insert a comment.
  5. Research Tools Google integrated a research tool in Docs. Click on the lower right side Explore icon to find and add suggested content to documents in Google Docs. The suggested content is related to what’s in your document. You can also search your docs and the web from within a document. Let’s say you have an annual report in Google Drive or on a website that has data you need in your narrative, click Explore and a link to that Doc or website will appear.
  6. Integrated Reference Tools  Docs has a built-in thesaurus and dictionary that supports 12 languages and allows users to look up words without leaving the document.

Google Docs provides support for collaboration in real time so that grant professionals and the people they work with can have a virtual mini-conference about the work from any location.

Editing and Proofreading: Grammarly 

We all need another set of eyes to catch spelling and grammar errors. I highly recommend having a real person skilled in proofreading and editing review your final draft.  As you go through the document development process, there are tools that can help you when you are self-editing.

I have used Grammarly for many years. Grammarly automatically detects grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes. Grammarly offers a lot of integrations and options that include free browser extensions, an online editor, and integration with MS Word, Outlook and (Beta) Google Docs and Gmail.

I have recently added ProWritingAid, and I will write a review soon. (I will put a link here once the review is ready.)

Social Media Management: Buffer

There are lots of tools I have tried, and I like, including Buffer, Hootsuite, SocialSprout, Meet Edgar, and CoSchedule.  

My favorite tool to manage posts is Buffer. Buffer lets you create and schedule content and posts it according to the schedule you set. Buffer offers a freemium model that allows you to manage three social accounts and have ten posts per account in your scheduling queue. Buffer provides analytics showing you how successful your posts were and allows you to repost your previous posts.

Buffer provides one of the best blogs about social media, and you will find their company culture prides itself on transparency, being available to their customers, and providing the highest quality easy to use social media scheduling tool available.

Design and Graphics: Canva

I love Canva. I received an invitation from their first US brand ambassador when they were just starting. I was hooked from day 1. Canva continues to evolve and impress.

Canva makes creating visual content for social media platforms, websites, reports, announcements, presentations, marketing materials, and almost any other design element you might need, simple. Canva is easy to use. They offer templates, useful how-to, and design information, and a lot of extras you didn’t even know you needed–until you have them!

With their premium version, Canva Work, you can do even more! You can set up a branding kit to include brand colors, fonts (you can upload your brand font if they don’t offer it), and logos. You can have teams, share files, animate designs, gain access to free icons, illustrations, and photos. They also give you a way to organize all of your designs by creating folders in your account.

Want some amazing news? Canva offers Canva Work for FREE to nonprofits! WHAT? True story!!

Cloud-based Content Management

I use Google Drive and Dropbox.

Google Drive is part of Google Suite. It syncs with all of my devices. It includes Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more. As I mentioned above, the collaborative development process is an essential part of the way I work with clients and my teams. I do not sync my Google folders with my laptop. If I do not have internet access, I do not have access to those files. This was a choice I made to speed up my laptop and to reduce the storage demand on my laptop.

Dropbox is the tool I use to ‘back up’ all documents, videos, pictures, and files that I have on my laptop. It is also the tool I use to share public folders (not developed using Google Drive applications). When I had a laptop hard-drive fail, I was up and running with most of my files within an hour of purchasing a new computer. Lesson learned -- I had a few things in download or on my desktop that were not saved in Dropbox.

Office Suite - Software

If you are a grant consultant and manage your own software, then Office 365 is for you. 365 is a cloud-based monthly subscription service that includes Microsoft desktop and mobile applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and more. The affordable subscription price is great for a small business or nonprofit.  

Project and Task Management: Clickup

There are so many great tools out there for managing your time. I could go on and on about tools for time and project management. There are several tools that we use which help users with task management or project management.

 We have been using Asana for the past couple of years, and it is a great tool. There are things I find to be confusing and don’t fit my style, but other people who I have worked with or who are on my team have not had the same challenges. So, with that said, in 2019 I have moved to a new tool, Clickup.

I chose Clickup for more reasons I can list here. Key features include process management, task management, time management, complete customization, collaboration and reporting, links with apps and all of my devices, and INTEGRATIONS!

Yes, I used Asana and leaving that tool seemed overwhelming because we had projects in play and templates that I thought I would need to spend hours replicating in a new tool. Not so, dear grant pro.

Clickup allows you to upload from other tools, including Asana. The other element I love is that Clickup integrates with all of my favorites – Google Drive, Dropbox Google calendar 2-way sync, and much more.

ClickUp allows you to add guests, create teams, and make projects or tasks private. When I have project based-clients, using a tool that allows my team and the client to have access to the project management, project Gantt view, task assignments, folders, and links to Google documents.  Oh, and if you are like me, you will feel like Clickup knows what you love when you see how you can color code everything.

Clickup helps me to standardize our client or project processes for intake, development, tasks, and completion.  

Password Management: LastPass

I started to use LastPass for password management nearly a decade ago. If you have ever complained to me that you can’t remember a password you have been on the receiving side of my LastPass sermon. Over the years, new password management tools were developed, and many of them offer very similar services. So, whatever you do, please find a password management tool that will save you time, reduce your anxiety, and provide you with greater security for all of your password-protected accounts and more.

Password managers create stronger passwords that are difficult to hack, they track your passwords, and they make it easy for you to access and change your passwords. A password manager allows me to more easily manage multiple clients and logging into their grant management software, grant applications, and more without having to remember too many passwords or becoming careless and assign one password for multiple accounts to make it easy.

I like LastPass because it is secure and syncs across all the platforms and devices I use. I can access my passwords on my phone and my laptop. I can store credit card information and addresses to help speed up purchases and reduce the need to leave my desk to find a credit card for an online purchase. LastPass can also allow you to share passwords with other people and grant emergency access to your account to a loved one.

What is next?

Throughout 2019 at SmartEgrants, we will be posting more resources to help you get comfortable with using technology to advance your work and improve your productivity. And, yes, that includes you, our dear community members who are self-proclaimed Luddites.

Technology tools are an investment in your success. Today’s grant professionals need to be tech-savvy to work efficiently, collaboratively, securely, and effectively.

What solutions are you seeking that a tech tool could solve? Which tech tool has been a game changer for you? 

Ways to Connect with SmartEGrants

Please connect with us on our new GrantChat Community Facebook Page where we will continue the weekly dialog, share upcoming events, and build our professional networks.

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