Tag Archives: Fundraising

A Database for Grant Research

I put together a grants database screen (click to view full size) to consolidate information for funding sources, and to track dates and interactions.

It is definitely an evolving project, but contains the basic information need to contact the funder, the deadline dates involved, the funder’s areas of interest, and the typical range of a grant award.

So far, I’ve been concentrating on foundation funding. Many foundations typically ask for a letter of interest before you put together a full proposal. So, I’ve included multiple date fields, a deadline for a letter of interest, a deadline for a full proposal, and a date when they announce their award.

Originally I thought that this database would be mostly for research, but after working with the online grants database, Grantstation, I think I will reserve this database for funders that I really expect to submit to. Some ideas for future enhancements include:

  • Links to standard “boilerplate” paragraphs that are used in an application. 
  • Links to edit the proposal or letter directly in Word. 
  • Links to the PDFs of the proposal. 
  • Reports that create a grants calendar. 
Before anyone comments that “you should really use X software” for this purpose, I just want to say that I’ve used several in the past, including DonorPerfect and Blackbaud, and evaluated many others. Right now, I’m in the process of rethinking my entire workflow automation from the ground up, and this very lightweight approach is just what I’m looking for. Plus its in FileMaker, so I can run it on my Windows machines at work, or my Macs at home.     

Tech Friday: Bento database – First Look

Well, although I’ve managed to not worry about a database for several months, it finally happened and I need to keep track of my “opportunity matrix”, that is, a list of grants, their deadlines and status, the responsible contact person, partners, and whether I’ve created all the necessary collateral: prospectus, project summary, grant application, etc.

Typically this would be done in Access on a Windows machine, and I’ve got Access 2007 installed in my copy of Parallels so that I could run this up pretty quickly.

But, since I want to stay native on the Mac, I poked around at an old favorite, Filemaker Pro. One thing I’ve always thought about FMP is that is relatively expensive, even in an academic edition, especially if you want to share the data using a server. But FileMaker now offers a “home” version called Bento for about $50.00, and this looks promising for my app.

I’ve downloaded the 30 day trial, and installed without fuss. Installation consists of dragging the the file to the applications folder. I started playing with one of the templates, and after ten minutes or so, I’ve ended up with the following data entry screen:

Points of Interest:

  • Bento integrates with iCal, Mail and the Address book. You can eMail from a field which is designated an email field.
  • One to many relationships are supported. For example, you can have a task list for a project, with multiple tasks displayed for a single project. Some relations are already connected; for example the tasks list from iCal can be embedded into a Bento form
  • What one would consider to be a “database” in Access, or, loosely, a “group of tables” in another database program is called a “library” in Bento.
  • What might be called a “recordset” in Access, or a “cursor” in an SQL database is called a “collection” in Bento. Collections are much like playlists in iTunes, they are a subset of records from the entire library.

You can create your own drop down list, so I’ve attempted to capture the workflow in a “status” field which currently contains the following:

Seeking Partner: Since virtually all my projects are with others, this is the first step in any application project.

Developing Project

Application Submitted

Awaiting Feedback from Funder (may be redundant with the previous step)

Under Revision

Revised Submitted



I was curious about the name, but I think it refers to a Japanese bento box, which are the compartmented dishes for serving Japanese food.

Here’s a review of Bento in MacWorld. They point out a couple of limitations. For one thing, there is no way to export data in anything other than a comma delimited ASCII format. 

Another limitation is that the Bento data libraries are strictly single-user data files for a single machine. Anything larger needs to go into something like Filemaker. So, is is inadvisable to think that we could run a multi-user grant flow application using Bento. That’s OK. For $50.00 we can play with Bento for awhile and work out the data that we need to keep track of. We’ll be that much farther ahead when we’re looking to move up.

Salesforce for nonprofits – Database Alternative

Salesforce is one of the most popular web-enabled databases, and it’s gaining adherants among nonprofits. Accessible from any browser, customizable in myriad ways — and available to nonprofits for no fee through the Salesforce.com Foundation (up to 10 seats) — it’s a powerful tool. But how can a database with a name like Salesforce be used by the nonprofit sector? This webinar will explore the functionality and community of Salesforce. We’ll look at how several nonprofits, from a group of more than 1500, use Salesforce to cultivate and recruit donors, manage their electronic communications, and more. If you are looking for a new CRM solution, or just want to know more about Salesforce, this webinar will be a great starting point.
Presented by Rob Jordan, Idealist Consulting

Register now at http://nten.org/webinars.

Trackrecords: Client Outcomes Software Database

A few days ago I wrote about potential holes in non-profit record-keeping systems, specifically the problem of tracking program outcomes or client outcomes. Today I started looking around and with a quick Google search I quickly found a discussion of just this problem at TechSoup. Several people commented on the article, and gave examples of the systems they use. A quick click and I found myself at Track Records Software. This package, Track Records CM (client manager?) was designed for a service provider who provides counseling and training and assistive technology for clients recovering from brain injuries.

This is an unreview, I didn’t actually run the software. Instead I walked through the online screencasts which give a pretty good idea of what the package can do. Some impressions:

  • This is a web-based system. The screens and reports are pretty much plain-vanilla html-type forms. Reports are basic html tables.
  • The system is client-centered.
  • Staff members have a password and can be restricted to seeing “their” clients.
  • You can “attach” another staff member’s name to the client record. This allows the staff person to access that particular client record.
  • You can make unrestricted log entries with a date and staff person who worked with that client.
  • Monthly reports are available which is pulled for all transations per months.
  • You can track goals and instructional data, and keep case notes.
  • You can schedule a client, and record whether they kept the appointment or not
  • You can schedule recurring appointments (“every week, Thursday at 10:00AM”).
  • There is a “document repository” which allows you to upload documents created or scanned from outside the system. These are held in a secure database which is subject to the same restrictions as the client records.
  • They mentioned donations and pledge tracking, however, this wasn’t demonstrated in the online screencast.
  • There is a “lending library” function which allows you track materials on loan to clients.
  • In keeping with the “outcomes” theme, there are fields and reports which track the placing of clients in job programs.
  • On-screen reports have embedded links to allow drilling down for more detail.
  • There is a very nice client record report which shows a summary of all activity related to the client on a single screen.

Things I’d like to know…

  1. What is the back-end database, and what are the hardware requirements?
  2. What is the cost of the system?
  3. Is the source code available, or is it possible to make modifications, add fields, etc? There is a simple and more complicated query/report writer available within the system already which may be sufficient for end-users.
  4. Is the system currently being enhanced?

The same vendor also has a payroll/staffing package.