A sneak peek at future SmartyGrants improvements

Posted on 01 Sep 2022

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, SmartyGrants

Outcomes image
The Outcomes Engine is now available to SmartyGrants users, and was a popular discussion topic at the 2022 SmartyGrants Grantmaking Intelligence Conference.

One of the most popular sessions of the 2022 SmartyGrants Grantmaking Intelligence Conference was “Behind the Curtain”, showcasing the new and upcoming features of the SmartyGrants system.

Platform developers and leaders gave details of what’s new and planned for the system and how those additional features will operate.

Highlights included:

  • the new SmartyFile platform, aimed at making life easier for applicants (and grant managers)
  • improvements and innovations involving standard sections, smart choice lists and more
  • the latest reporting tools
  • the latest developments and findings of the Outcomes Engine measurement tool.

Grants platform plans better analytics and support for grantseekers

Jodie Shanks

Director of platform transformation Jodie Shanks said the system now boasted more than 490 funders and had handled 16,000 grants rounds since January 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

In that time, Ms Shanks said, the organisation had prioritised helping clients roll out covid-19 support, emergency funding and other rapid response funding.

She said a future focus would be building embedded reporting analytics into the system, including third party tools.

“We’re working incredibly hard on those improvements,” Ms Shanks said.

Among the new features will be a new tool for grantseekers: SmartyFile. In a live demonstration of the tool, which she described as a “central repository for applicant organisations”, Ms Shanks showed how it will enable groups to collaborate on applications. Powerful features include pre-filling of forms and safe storage of user data, she said.

Max Penno
Max Penno

Tools to power up your grants program

Support and training team leader Max Penno took users on a tour of some new platform features such as using new standard sections to more easily add budget details, milestone data or other important information; adding images and logos to applications to “bring them to life”; smart choice lists; and adjusting account settings to make best use of the platform’s functionality.

He stressed that his support team listened closely to user feedback, saying this continually prompted improvements.

“Our system development usually comes from you,” he told delegates.

Jen Riley
SmartyGrants chief impact officer Jen Riley

Outcomes Engine has the potential to create grants magic

SmartyGrants chief impact officer Jen Riley gave a compelling presentation of the Outcomes Engine, which is putting more power into the hands of grant managers to measure the impact across their grant portfolios.

An expert in the field of evaluation for over 20 years, Ms Riley said demand for outcomes measurement was strong and growing exponentially.

Following beta testing with pioneer users such as Ecstra Foundation and the City of Parramatta, Ms Riley said the Outcomes Engine could now be added to any SmartyGrants account for less than $3,000, enabling a suite of features, including access to a set of widely used outcomes frameworks.

Grantmakers could now begin measuring outcomes by selecting outcomes and metrics for selected programs and rounds, with data collected through application and progress/acquittal forms.

This creates a powerful data flow into acquittals or final reports.

As Ms Riley put it, “This is the unicorns and fairy dust!”

“Millions and millions of dollars go through our grant programs collectively, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew the impact that we were making, if we knew what was working, what wasn’t and why? The opportunity is huge.”

Innovation Lab director of data science Dr Paola Oliva-Altamirano.
Innovation Lab director of data science Dr Paola Oliva-Altamirano.

Taking data analytics to the next level

SmartyGrants director of data science Paola Oliva-Altamirano once described grantmaking as more complicated than the astrophysics of galaxy formation, the field in which she developed her data analytics abilities.

But Dr Oliva-Altamirano loves a challenge and has been working intently on a new tool that generates good data by automatically detecting the social sectors funders are helping.

CLASSIEfier is powered by an existing social sector “dictionary” or taxonomy, CLASSIE.

Using keyword matching, the algorithm reads a grant application and predicts the key subjects, populations and UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) involved.

Dr Oliva-Altamirano expects the functionality will be added to the SmartyGrants system later in the year, enabling grantmakers to automatically classify new and existing programs in bulk, and possibly discover new areas of impact they hadn’t considered.

Grantmakers will be able to adjust the classifications in cases where the algorithm cannot clearly identify the social sector involved.

Dr Oliva-Altamirano also outlined an upcoming application programming interface (API) known as OData. This will allow grantmakers to more easily employ third-party platforms such as Power BI to analyse, visualise and use their SmartyGrants data.

She said the API would enable the creation of compelling dashboards, diagrams, maps and plots by linking SmartyGrants information to Power BI and other visualization tools, including new data being generated by the Outcomes Engine.

SmartyGrants users should keep a close eye on SmartyNews, which is sent to all users, for the latest news on tools and improvements.

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