“You don’t need a consultant to run and manage Salesforce and foundationConnect. Following our implementation in 2012, key staff were equipped as Salesforce Administrators, and we are able to handle most changes and system build-out in-house. That’s the beauty of it!”
– Andrea Landes, Vice President, Grants Management at The Commonwealth Fund Foundation
The Commonwealth Fund – among the first private foundations started by a woman philanthropist, Anna M. Harkness – was established in 1918 with a broad charge to enhance the common good. Its mission is to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency – particularly for society’s most vulnerable. The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy.
The Commonwealth Fund was an early adopter of MicroEdge GIFTS. Over the years, the Fund started to experience issues with data stability. Moving from Access to SQL presented some improvements, but there was still demand by grants management and program staff users for more flexibility and customization.
Grant seekers sent applications to the Fund via mail and email, which staff entered into the system for processing. An internal IT department also built a simple online portal where grant seekers filled out a form, but this data needed to be manually entered in and attached to the system as well. Once applications were logged, the process for review and decision on whether to invite a full proposal was largely a paper nightmare, and in more recent years involved lengthy email exchanges between program staff and grants management. For approved grants, grantee reports were tracked by program staff in large overflowing binders.
As new technology became a hot topic amongst peer foundations around, The Commonwealth Fund started exploring other options to manage grants in 2012.
foundationConnect appeared on the Fund’s radar through a peer foundation. Salesforce ecosystem partner Idealist Consulting (led by affiliate Value Stream Consulting) worked with Fund staff to implement their new technology, involving staff in every step of the process. This proved to be a great approach, as users immediately left old systems behind at the time of launch. Today, over 50 staff members use the platform.
Moving to foundationConnect for grants management has eliminated the use of paper. Grant seekers and fellowship applicants now submit all applications digitally through foundationConnect’s Grantee Portal – and with all this data in a single place, the Fund has increased transparency across the organization. The handwritten comments and email messages are now captured in Salesforce fields and staff are able to view other comments without opening emails or documents. Fund staff have made the most of Salesforce applications, such as Conga Composer, DocuSign, and Dataloader, to support seamless integration with all grant-related processes.