“We looked at several cloud-based systems, but chose foundationConnect because it is natively built on the world’s #1 CRM platform, Salesforce.”

– Jennifer Burran, Grants, Contracts, and IT Manager at The Lemelson Foundation

The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives, by inspiring and enabling the next generation of inventors and invention-based enterprises to promote economic growth in the US, and social and economic progress for the poor in developing countries. Established by prolific US inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in the early 1990’s, and led by the Lemelson family, to date the Foundation has provided or committed more than $200 million in grants and Program-Related Investments in support of its mission.

Background

When The Lemelson Foundation migrated from Access to a custom Oracle-based system in 2009, there weren’t many robust solutions offered that could facilitate the Foundation’s grant-making strategy focused on a low-volume of complex, high-dollar, grants and program-related investments.

The migration to the custom Oracle solution was costly and time-consuming. Data cleanup took place after the migration and the Foundation made sure to scan and upload all paper applications, grantee reports, agreement letters and amendment letters in an effort to build a complete electronic record-keeping system.

Several years in, the Foundation discovered that the system continued to be costly. Specialized technical support was needed for every single tweak. Given the low volume of grants, it was difficult to rationalize the high cost of ongoing maintenance and customizations.

Solutions

The Lemelson Foundation began to explore other systems in 2012 when several cloud-based grants management systems became available and expanded marketplace choice. The shortlist consisted of three solutions: foundationConnect, Fluxx, and SmartSimple. Ultimately, foundationConnect became the solution of choice because it is natively built on the Salesforce platform.

The Foundation adopted a phased approach to the migration to the Salesforce platform and foundationConnect. To ensure a smooth transition for grantees, staff hosted 1-on-1 sessions and webinars to ensure they felt confident using the system for processes such as grant applications and submitting documentation. These sessions also provided grantees with an opportunity to give feedback about the system.

The Foundation also uses Salesforce-based application Conga and financial management system Intacct, both of which seamlessly integrate with foundationConnect. While a Salesforce ecosystem partner still adds customizations to foundationConnect, it is now much easier for staff to manage and maintain their grants management system in-house. After moving away from the custom Oracle-based system, the Foundation realized a 40% in cost savings.

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