Managing grant applications with CiviCRM? There is finally a nifty solution.
The core business of foundations and other organizations that have to distribute funding can be summarized as follows: Receiving, checking and approving applications; disbursing funds; receiving and checking accountability reports. It sounds simple, but it involves a lot of administrative work, both for the funding organization and for the applicants. A powerful solution for digitalization and process support is therefore urgently needed - preferably open source, of course.
In the past, CiviCRM did not have a really well-suited solution for these requirements. The core component CiviGrant is not exactly the most elaborated component of CiviCRM. CiviCase can be used to support the administration process, but with clear limits in terms of customizability and expandability - a holistic solution for the entire application and funding management process is hardly feasible. We were therefore delighted that we were finally able to develop a proper solution on behalf of Arbeit und Leben: a funding application portal and management solution for CiviCRM.
Our project not only called for software that could support all aspects of the administrative process with precision. We also wanted to offer an optimal user experience for applicants in the form of a web portal. The aim was to provide information about funding opportunities, allow submission of applications, view ongoing application procedures, download approval contracts, apply for disbursements and create accountability statements.
(All screenshots were created in our demo environment.)
Since the CiviCRM core components did not provide a good starting point, we implemented numerous new entities with APIs, SearchKits and forms in a CiviCRM extension. Instead of "bending" grants or cases, we work with specially developed objects such as applications, grants and approvals, contracts and disbursements, etc. So, we were able to optimize the internal logic of these structures to exactly meet the requirements of application management.
Our application portal implemented in Drupal is separate from CiviCRM and only communicates with the backend via API. Our API extensions provide all the necessary data: Which actions can the applicant perform, which applications do they have access to, how should the application form be structured, etc.? User-friendly forms and views are generated from this information in the front end, whereby the style and layout can be customized.
This is how the application portal looks for applicants:
In CiviCRM, the funding extension adds the tools to manage funding programs, applications and the disbursement of funds:
Most of the development work has already been completed and together with our pilot customer, we initiated the go-live this fall. We are proud to say that this is one of SYSTOPIA's largest and most innovative development projects to date. In addition, all tools are of course published under a free license and are available to the community.
As part of the project, we have so far developed, enhanced or integrated the following extensions and modules (not exhaustive):
- funding (CiviCRM extension)
- civiremote_funding (Drupal module)
- drupal-json_forms (Drupal module)
- Opis JSON Schema + opis-json-schema-ext (PHP packages)
- Symfony ExpressionLanguage + expression-language-ext (PHP packages)
- external-file (CiviCRM extension)
- civiremote + cmrf + de.systopia.xcm + de.systopia.identitytracker (tool chain for connecting Drupal portal environments)
- de.systopia.civioffice (provided with new development interfaces)
This already covers the majority of the requirements in the pilot project, and the system is already in productive use. The creation and approval of accountability reports is still to be finalized in the next few months.
Seeking support - offering first-class solutions based on a highly flexible framework
In addition to our very committed pilot user, we would like to thank the two previous sponsors of the project, the German Foundation for Civic Engagement and Volunteer Work (DSEE) and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs (BMFSFJ). However, that list is not exhaustive, as we at SYSTOPIA are also currently doing much more than our budgets allow. In this respect, we ourselves are one of the biggest supporters of the project and, as developers, are dependent on further support from the community.
Why is that the case? Why didn't we just implement what was feasible with the initial budgets? Above all, the lack of resources is due to the fact that we spent a lot of time building generic and modular tools. This is always much more time-consuming than implementing just a single application scenario. The above list of tools made available to the community may give a first impression. As is usually the case, there are also many requests for additional functions (e.g. more configuration options). We will not be able to implement all of these without additional resources.
We are therefore now looking for further pilot users who can support our development efforts with a contribution according to their means and who would also like to benefit from a first-class, customized solution for their funding application management. Last but not least, pilot users also make particularly valuable contributions to the success of open source projects like this one.
Interested? We would be happy to show you the funding application portal in our demo environment and discuss your requirements and the effort involved in implementing it with you - please contact Lena Jukna at firstname.lastname@example.org.