System Print


First is a web-based grants management system from the Bromelkamp Company built on the Microsoft Dynamics platform. The system brings together the robust CRM functionality of Dynamics with solid grant tracking and management capabilities. An optional add-on extends the functionality of First to allow foundations to collect and review grant applications online and also to collect grantee progress reports online. First can also be configured to work with other online application software. The system’s deep integration with Office 365 allows clients to work with contacts, emails, appointments, and tasks set in either Outlook or First and have those changes appear in both systems. Letter and document templates take advantage of Microsoft Word’s mail merge functionality and the merged documents can be customized and edited in the system. An Outcomes module allows an administrator to define outcome measures for a program and to roll up grantee-submitted metrics for program-level outcome reporting. A report wizard allows users to create, save, and share ad hoc reports either using a previous report as a base or from scratch. Report data and charts can be added to user dashboards as well. Annual pricing for First is based on the…


Grant, Contact & Organization Records: Because First is created in Microsoft Dynamics 365, it provides strong customer relationship management functionality to complement its grant tracking abilities. Grants are tracked through their full lifecycle and can be tracked by program cycle or board meeting date, and by categories, as well as by percentage or dollar allocation across programs. Organizations and contacts are tracked separately from grants and a deep integration with Office 365 allows contacts, emails, appointments and tasks set in either Outlook or First to appear in both systems.

In addition to storing all system-generated letters and emails for each grant, once you connect an email in Outlook back to a request or opportunity, all replies go back to that record. It is also possible to associate contacts with their job function and tailor communications to go to the appropriate contact at an organization. Additional interactions such as phone calls, tasks, and site visits can be stored in the “Activities” section of a record, with the system holding a variety of different activities that each have distinct fields to capture related information.

Administrators have a great deal of control over the fields that store information in the database, and can specify the display names for fields, define dropdown values for fields such as program or grant codes, define custom categorization codes for tracking and reporting, and create a virtually unlimited number of custom fields that can be used to capture a wide variety of information, including demographic data for organizations, programs, and projects. Fields can be grouped on records to make it easy to find the information a user needs. Documents uploaded to records in the system are stored on clients’ cloud storage—the vendor recommends that clients use Sharepoint for this purpose—and can be downloaded or viewed in the system.

The system has an integration with GuideStar Charity Check to allow clients to view an organization’s 501(c)(3) status and automatically update the organization record with the results of that check. Administrators can schedule this check to run at certain times or intervals or can run it manually, but this is done on an individual basis rather than in batch. At this time the system does not bring in demographic data from GuideStar, but the vendor reports that this functionality is in development. The system also supports multiple currencies by allowing administrators to manually add and maintain exchange rates for selected currencies or integrate with a third-party solution to update exchange rates automatically. Each record will display currency amounts in the chosen currency for the record as well as the base currency amounts and exchange rate.

Grant Applications: For the purposes of this evaluation, we looked at how online applications are collected through the optional platform, although First can be configured to work with other online application software. The platform integrates directly with First, whereas other systems are connected via import/export of data. Out of the box, requires the vendor to create new grant types and applications (which is done for a nominal hourly fee) but an optional add-on allows administrators to add grant types and make changes to grant applications on their own.

When a new user creates a profile in, the system will check to see if the email address already exists in the database and will prompt the user to recover their password if it does. The login screen for the system can be customized with the foundation's logo, text, and colors. The system supports eligibility quizzes that can branch to multiple applications as well as branching logic within applications.

Grant applications will auto-populate with an applicant’s contact information if it already exists in the system. While the system does not automatically bring in organization information when an applicant enters the organization’s tax ID number, the vendor reports that it can work with the customer to implement this functionality for an additional cost. Information entered on an application is not auto-saved; applicants click the “next” button to save the data. The system allows applicants to choose whether to enter a budget using the online form or upload a budget that is attached to their application. The system also integrates with DocuSign and Adobe Sign for electronic signatures.

Application Review: For the purposes of this evaluation, we looked at how online applications reviews are collected through the optional platform. The reviewer portal provided by allows reviewers to log in, view and download applications that are assigned to them, and provide comments and ratings for each application. Reviewers receive automatic notification when applications are ready for review. The system allows administrators to set up different scoring schemes for different programs, define multiple workflows, and view/report on numeric scores. If an administrator allows it, reviewers can see scores from other reviewers as well. Because online reviews are conducted in a standalone system, it is not possible for administrators to assign additional permissions to reviewers within the core grants management system.

Communications: First provides robust communication tools. Users can send emails and attachments through the system to an individual or group or they can use Outlook to send emails that can be captured in the system. The vendor also offers pre-built integrations with MailChimp and Constant Contact for bulk email. Emails sent from the system can include both standard text and merge fields.

The system also facilitates automated emails that can be sent based on certain events and provides several standard letter and electronic templates that can be generated using information from grant records. Letter and document templates can be created using Microsoft Word mail merge functionality and can be customized and edited in the system. Templates can include attachments and workflow rules can automate these attachments.

The vendor reports that it sets up a board book layout as a custom report for most clients but the system does not provide any board portal functionality. Clients can use the system’s API to integrate with third-party board portal software.

Payments & Budgeting: Payment schedules are set up on the individual grant level. The system supports a variety of payment schedules, including one-time, quarterly and multi-year payments. Payments can include notes and can be made conditional on the completion of a grant requirement. In order to automatically hold a payment if a requirement is not completed, an administrator needs to set up the requirement check as a business process flow for a payment. Administrators can add in a section to the payment field for in-kind and quid pro quo donations to track the item/service and fair market value. At this time grantees are not able to view their payment schedule online, but the vendor reports that this feature is in development. Approved payments can be exported to accounting/finance or, for an additional fee, the vendor can create a bridge to accounting systems like Quickbooks to allow for two-way data transfer.

Program budgets can be set up in the system to track the amount available, awarded, and paid out in a given year. Grants can be split across more than one program for budgeting purposes. These budgets can be hierarchical. Administrators can use previous years’ budgets as a base and adjust them for the current year and can set up additional views to track budgets across multiple years.

Grant Requirements & Outcomes Evaluation: Online progress reports are collected via Progress report forms in the system need to be created by the vendor and incur a nominal hourly cost for development. Requirements can be set and tracked within First and the system can automate reminder emails in the lead up to requirement due dates.

First includes a module to track outcomes across programs. An administrator defines outcome measures for a program and during the application process applicants choose a measure (or measures) and provides their goals for that measure. When grantees submit a progress report online via, the data they enter for that outcome will be added to the system to allow a foundation to evaluate outcomes by program, by grantee, and for the foundation as a whole in a single year and over multiple years. The system can also accommodate the collection of qualitative data for outcomes, but this requires some additional configuration work by the vendor.

System Querying & Reporting: Users can search for grants and applications in the system by a number of criteria and use that data to run pre-packaged reports. First includes a universal search that can return results from any record in the system but the search does not include the contents of uploaded documents. The system includes a variety of pre-packaged reports and users can create and save ad hoc reports either from a previous report or from scratch using the system’s report wizard. Reports can include graphs and charts and can include custom data columns, datasets, sorting, grouping, logos, and headers. Report data and charts can be added to user dashboards as well. Reports can be set to run automatically via workflow.

Security, Permissions, & Data Access: Administrators have a granular ability to grant, limit, or restrict user access to system information, extending down to the field level. Login security is facilitated by system-enforced password complexity rules and automatic log out after a specified time of inactivity. Single Sign On (SSO) is available for First via Office 365, and this includes the ability to enable two-factor authentication. SSO is not available for Clients have the option to store their data on a virtual private server or a dedicated physical server. All system data can be exported by an administrator. The vendor does provide a number of pre-built integrations to third-party tools and also offers an API to allow clients to extend system functionality with additional integrations. At this time, the system does not offer end-to-end encryption or a virus scan for file uploads, but the vendor reports that both are in development.

User Experience: The interface for First is polished-looking and neatly laid out, and similar in style to Microsoft Office 365. Section menus are accessible from the grid icon in the top left of the screen and a contextual action toolbar appears under the header. The system includes a lot of fields and options once a user gets down into individual records and actions, which can be confusing for casual users, but administrators can limit the amount of options these users can see using system permissions. Administrators can also set up process dashboards for grants managers to help simplify their experience as well. First is accessible via mobile app on tablets and mobile phones. is responsively designed to display across a variety of devices. The vendor reports that both software options have some accessibility features for users with disabilities.

Support & Training: First clients can access technical support online and via email or telephone and the vendor provides support to clients for their grantees. Implementation includes two days of initial training delivered in-person or via the web. Additional training is available through free educational webinars, paid educational webinars, Bromelkamp Academy, and through customized training available for a fee.

Stability in the Market

First has been in use since 2011. The vendor reports that First has 65 active clients, 26 of which are private or family foundation clients, and has 61 active clients, 18 of which are private or family foundation clients. Bromelkamp Company LLC also provides similar grants management solutions for community foundations and corporate giving.

Customer Experience Survey
Number of survey respondents who reported using the system: 15
Percent of survey respondents who would recommend the system: 93.3 percent
Training Score: 0.99
Implementation Score: 0.86
Support Score: 0.76