System Print


SmartSimple is a flexible cloud-based platform that provides grants management solutions for a wide variety of grantmaking programs. The system can be configured to provide a great deal of advanced functionality via robust workflows and a marketplace of pre-built integrations to third-party tools, but this requires the platform’s more expensive customized Deploy implementation. In addition to solid grant tracking, application review, and payment tracking, there are a few notable advanced features. The system provides multilingual support for more than a dozen languages for system text in its applicant, grantee, and reviewer portals, and client-created content can be translated via client-provided language-specific translation files or via a native Google Translate integration. Two system features are especially helpful to foundations that work with grantees with low or unreliable online connectivity: a PDF parser that allows an administrator to generate a PDF form that can be filled out offline, and that automatically enters the data in corresponding fields in the system when uploaded; and a Microsoft Excel parser that can extract values from Excel files and map the data into a variety of fields. SmartSimple’s pricing structure has two main components: a one-time implementation fee for the system build and ongoing recurring subscription…


Grant, Contact & Organization Records: SmartSimple provides solid support for tracking grants, organizations, and contacts throughout the entire lifecycle. All information is linked so that users can view related records and data across records, and grants can be tracked by program cycle, board meeting date, or categories. Organization records are separate from grant records and foundations have the flexibility to track nearly any type of information on an organization profile, including demographic data.

The system can pull data from the U.S. Census by state, city, and tract into the organization record based on the organization’s location (configuring this feature incurs additional implementation costs based on complexity). Organization profiles include sections to add both contacts (individuals employed by the organization) and associates (individuals affiliated with but not employed by the organization).

Communication with a contact can be determined and even automated based on the role of the recipient. For example, once a payment has been approved, a payment letter can automatically be generated and sent to the individual in the role associated with payments on that record. The system can also integrate with an external contact management system via the API.

Administrators can specify the names of fields used in the administrative interface and can define dropdown values for fields. The system allows administrators to set up a virtually unlimited number of custom fields on different types of records to store internal tracking codes or information submitted by grantees and can be organized into sections for ease of use. The system does not come with a pre-loaded taxonomy but the vendor will generate one for the system based on the client’s business processes during the system implementation.

All system-generated communications are captured on associated grant and organization records. In addition, SmartSimple includes a feature called Email Anything that generates unique email addresses for any object or record in the system that can be used to capture email communications occurring outside the system on the related object or record. Users can also upload files to records and can even edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files without leaving the system.

SmartSimple allows users to check organizations’ tax status either as needed or on a defined schedule via an IRS search and can also link to Guidestar. The system also checks organizations against OFAC databases and can bring in LexisNexis data related to an organization.

Grant Applications: The system provides a portal for use by applicants and grantees. New users can register themselves; if an account with that email address already exists in the system, the users will be notified and prompted to log in to the existing account. (The system also conducts checks for duplicate records and flags potential duplicates for an administrator to review.) Once users log into the portal, they will have the option of choosing from three different interfaces (Web, Flat, and Classic) and of selecting their preferred language. The system supports more than a dozen languages and each field supports multilingual captions, help text, and validation messages. When the users select their language of choice, the related language captions are displayed. Narrative data can be translated through a native Google Translate integration and clients may also provide language-specific translation files.

Applications can be customized with logos, colors, fonts, and navigation, and can include a wide variety of field types. Applicants can upload documents, images, and videos as attachments to an application. A foundation user can collaborate with an applicant by using annotation mode to add notes to fields that display to the applicant. Multiple employees within an organization can work on an application and a foundation can set up multi-organization applications to allow affiliated organizations to collaborate. Support for eligibility quizzes and Letters of Intent are available to clients with SmartSimple’s Deploy implementation. Support for electronic signatures is available via integrations with several third-party providers that are available in SmartSimple’s Marketplace.

Two system features are especially helpful to foundations that work with grantees with low or unreliable online connectivity. The first is a PDF parser that allows an administrator to generate a PDF application or form and email it to an applicant. The applicant can fill out the form offline and email it back to the administrator. When the completed application is uploaded, all data from the completed form is automatically saved to the corresponding fields in the system. This can work for any form in the system, including application reviews, progress reports, and site visits. The other feature is a Microsoft Excel parser that can extract values from Excel files and map the data into a variety of fields. This can allow applicants to upload budgets in Excel documents that can be mapped to fields in the system. A client has the option to set the Excel parser up themselves or to have it set up by the vendor. The PDF parser in most cases requires Deploy implementation.

Application Review: SmartSimple provides advanced functionality to support application reviews. The system supports different scoring schemes for different programs and administrators can create multiple review workflows. An administrator can define a default format for grant summaries and select which fields to include, and reviewers can view and print summaries and full grant information. Reviewers can be assigned to applications individually or as part of a panel group and assignment can be automated so that the system will assign them based on a set of defined business guidelines. An administrator can also create a workflow to check for reviewer conflicts of interest before making an assignment.

The reviewer receives an automatic notification when they are assigned an application and can log into a reviewer portal to see the applications assigned to them. Administrators can allow reviewers to see the relationship history that the foundation has with an organization as well as other reviewers’ scores. Administrators can view the numeric review scores and report them as summary statistics. Reviewers can also complete reviews offline via a form created with the PDF parser and a user can upload the completed form to the system. Reviewers can also be assigned other system permissions to allow enhanced system access.

Communications: Users can send emails to individuals and groups through the system or the software can be configured to send emails and attachments through the client’s system. In addition to direct emails, SmartSimple includes the ability to send broadcast emails and view performance metrics for emails sent using the broadcast email tool. Users can create email and letter templates that include both standard text and merge data, as well as attached files. Administrators can print letters or grant summaries either individually or in a batch (using workflow functionality). The system also supports the creation of board dockets and can provide board portal access, as portal access to the system is role-based. SmartSimple can also integrate with third-party board portal software via API.

Payments & Budgeting: The system allows administrators to set up a general payment schedule for all grants and adjust manually or to schedule payments on a grant-by-grant basis. Payments can be split across funds and can be made contingent on the completion of a grant requirement. Users can also deny pending payments and place them on hold. All implementations allow export of payment data to accounting and clients with the Deploy implementation can set up two-way integration with accounting systems to bring in payment details.

Users can track budgets in hierarchically defined categories or program areas and by the amount available, awarded, or paid in a giving year. Previous years’ budgets can be used as a base and adjusted for the current year and predictive analytics can be used to forecast budget outcomes.

Grant Requirements & Outcomes Evaluation: Reporting schedules for grants can be defined in advance either for all grants, by grant opportunity or program, or on a grant-by-grant basis. SmartSimple’s SmartCheck Validation checks for contingent activities such as progress reports and, as the due date approaches, the user would get reminders to submit their reports. Once the due date passes, things like payments would not be finalized until the progress report is submitted. Grantees can also check the status of required reports on their portal dashboard.

The system supports online submission of progress reports and can automatically calculate progress toward goals defined by the grantee in their application based on progress reporting that roll up to a grantmaker’s program-level outcomes. The metrics related to these goals can be aggregated and reported across programs and for all grantees. The Direct implementation includes one post-award reporting form and additional forms can be developed, with the cost of the additional forms depending on complexity.

System Querying & Reporting: SmartSimple includes contextual searches inside different modules of the system as well as a “search files” function that can search the contents of readable attachments uploaded to the system. Users can run basic reporting and advanced search on any list view in the system. While the system does not include a set of pre-packaged reports out of the box, the vendor reports that it works with the client during implementation to collect reporting requirements and build the reports into the system. Users can create ad hoc reports using a drag-and-drop interface and these reports can include calculated fields, formatting, and charts and graphs. Ad hoc reports can also be added to dashboards. Administrators can create pre-built reports for specified user roles and users can use those reports as templates to build other reports or create new reports. Reports can be scheduled to run periodically and sent to individuals or groups using workflow rules. The system also includes “SmartCards” that allow users to click a star on any record in the system—individuals, organizations, grants, reports—and it will be added to a card that can be accessed by the user and/or shared with other users.

Security, Permissions, & Data Access: SmartSimple’s access control permissions are both attribute-based and role-based. Administrators have the ability to configure an unlimited number of attributes that can be used to control view, add, edit, delete, and assign user permissions down to the field level. Login security can be enforced with password complexity rules, automatic log out after a specified time of inactivity, and the ability to enable multi-factor authentication by role. Users can also self-select Multi-Factor Authentication. The system does support Single Sign On integration for clients using the Deploy implementation. SmartSimple’s platform includes native GDPR-compliant features, including data categorizations and policies that enables information to be flagged down to the field level as Personally Identifiably Information (PII).

SmartSimple provides a variety of hosting options including multi-tenant (public cloud), single-tenant (private cloud), and on-premises. Clients also have the option to combine cloud deployment with on-premises backup. SmartSimple and its hosting partners are all SOC 1 and SOC 2 certified. All data within the system can be extracted by a system administrator. The system includes a number of pre-built integrations with third-party solutions via its Marketplace and the vendor also provides both JSON- (including OData) and SOAP-based APIs to enable clients to build custom integrations.

User Experience: The interface is polished and neatly laid out, with clearly-marked colored action buttons. The system modules run across the top of the page with contextual menus on the left side and tabs separating sections within a record. Administrators have a great deal of control in configuring the system for users, but the number of modules and depth of functionality means that more casual users will likely require training to use the system effectively. The system is designed responsively and the vendor also provides a mobile app. Administrators can define which system modules and tasks are available to app users. The vendor reports that it has a consultant who works with the development team to ensure that the system is fully accessible to users with disabilities, but accessibility can be compromised if a client does not set the system up properly.

Support & Training: The vendor provides technical support to clients via phone, email, and live agent chat 24 hours a day, five days a week. Optional add-on Support360 provides technical support for applicants, reviewers, and grantees. Clients can select the types of training that meet their needs and budget, with training offered in-person, online via web conference, and online via video. Training costs are included in the initial system price estimate. Additional training sessions are available as needed and quarterly training packages are available.

Stability in the Market

SmartSimple has been in use since 2003. The vendor reports that the software package has more than 350 active clients, with 90 of those being private or family foundation clients.

Customer Experience Survey
Number of survey respondents who reported using the system: 63
Percent of survey respondents who would recommend the system: 83.3 percent
Training Score: 0.81
Implementation Score: 0.86
Support Score: 0.81