Vancouver Foundation Accelerates Community Response and Grant Funding with SmartSimple on AWS

Executive Summary

AWS Partner SmartSimple helped Vancouver Foundation streamline its grantmaking processes, respond faster to community needs, accelerate grant funding, and ensure high availability at all times. SmartSimple worked with the foundation to implement SmartSimple Cloud for Grants Management, which runs on Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS.

Seeking a Better Grant Funding Process

Vancouver Foundation is a charitable public foundation dedicated to improving the lives of people and communities across British Columbia through grant funding for a range of community organizations. The foundation helps donors find effective ways to give, supports charities and other groups, and leads initiatives for youth participation, partnerships, and community engagement.

One of Vancouver Foundation’s major tasks is managing a competitive grant funding process. Until recently, that process was challenging because the foundation relied on several different technologies for grant management. “We had some disparate applications that tried to mimic what a more mature grant management system does,” says Charles Boname, director of information technology at Vancouver Foundation. “We used paper-based manual processes and handwritten notes to track funding and enter information into tracking spreadsheets. At the time, we managed over 1,600 funds. That figure has now increased to over 2,100 funds, and will continue to grow. It would be much too difficult to track everything through spreadsheets and other applications given the margin for error, volume of funds, and general inefficiency. This situation was also unacceptable because the Foundation has to abide by certain parameters such as respecting fundholder wishes and donor intent and restricted vs. unrestricted dollars, to correctly align dollars with a given grantee and/or grant project.”

“SmartSimple allowed us to pivot quickly to help vulnerable groups, nonprofits, and community organizations who depend on grants and donations to sustain their efforts.”

- Charles Boname, Director of Information Technology, Vancouver Foundation

Using SmartSimple Cloud for Grants Management to Streamline Grantmaking

To overcome its challenges, Vancouver Foundation turned to SmartSimple Software Inc., a provider of cloud-based tracking and reporting solutions that help organizations automate their critical processes. An Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner, SmartSimple offers process automation solutions that run on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and other key AWS services. “We have more than 400 global customers, and AWS gives us the global reach to serve them all,” says Eric Lauer, senior vice president of platform solutions at SmartSimple. “AWS has enabled us to rapidly scale and grow our business.”

SmartSimple helped Vancouver Foundation implement SmartSimple Cloud for Grants Management, a comprehensive solution that centralizes and streamlines the entire grantmaking process. SmartSimple Cloud for Grants Management runs on Amazon EC2 instances and uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to support its database capabilities. The solution integrates grant applicants and their proposals, and then a committee of Vancouver Foundation advisors reviews them and decides whether to approve or decline the proposals. Next, the solution automatically moves these decisions through processes for issuing payments and gathering reports to gauge the community impact.

SmartSimple worked closely with Re-Solved, an end-to-end IT services provider, to configure and deploy SmartSimple Cloud for Grants Management for Vancouver Foundation. Re-Solved specifically extended SmartSimple Cloud to enable system-assisted fund matching and then led the configuration and implementation.

Responding Faster to Community Needs

Relying on the SmartSimple Cloud platform on AWS, Vancouver Foundation gained the agility to quickly establish a Community Response Fund (CRF) to provide faster relief to communities impacted by the pandemic. The CRF provided critical resources and immediate relief to charities across the province, primarily in the arts and culture and health and social services sectors. “Using SmartSimple Cloud on AWS, we were able to respond to those in need in our community,” says Boname. “SmartSimple allowed us to pivot quickly to help vulnerable groups, nonprofits, and community organizations who depend on grants and donations to sustain their efforts.”

Vancouver Foundation has also streamlined its grant funding because SmartSimple Cloud has increased automation and process efficiency. “Managing the fund matching process was a cumbersome process largely based on human intuition. That process is streamlined now thanks to application of a taxonomy that Re-Solved built for us on the SmartSimple platform,” says Boname. “In a typical year, we provide around $60 million in grant funding, and we process about $20 million of that using SmartSimple. We increased our funding using SmartSimple Cloud during the pandemic.”

“In a typical year, we provide around $60 million in grant funding, and we process about $20 million of that using SmartSimple. We increased our funding using SmartSimple Cloud during the pandemic.”

- Charles Boname, Director of Information Technology, Vancouver Foundation

Ensuring High Availability for a Critical Platform

Vancouver Foundation has improved its solution availability since implementing SmartSimple Cloud. “SmartSimple has increased our uptime and availability because it’s based on AWS,” Boname says. “Previously, if our building had a planned power outage or an unplanned event, our system wouldn’t be available and grants couldn’t be processed. Our IT team could never build and maintain something as robust as the SmartSimple platform on AWS on our own. This cloud infrastructure is essential to our ‘always available’ public presence as well as application stability.”

In addition, AWS helps Vancouver Foundation meet its regulatory compliance requirements. “Data governance and client data privacy are becoming more and more important to us and our clients—and federal legislation is coming that will further mandate these controls in these areas,” says Boname. “SmartSimple Cloud meets important standards such as SOC 1 and SOC 2 Type II, and ISO 27001, which helps us ensure that we stay compliant.” Vancouver Foundation plans to further expand its grant funding capabilities with SmartSimple. “SmartSimple Cloud tightened up our operations and increased our overall efficiency,” concludes Boname. “We look forward to serving our community even better with this solution.”

Vancouver Foundation

About Vancouver Foundation

Vancouver Foundation, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a nonprofit that provides grant funding and other initiatives to organizations across the province. The foundation manages more than 1,600 funds and assets on behalf of individuals, families, corporations, and charities.

About SmartSimple Software Inc.

Toronto-based SmartSimple Software Inc. provides cloud-based tracking and reporting solutions that help organizations automate their critical processes. Based on AWS, the company’s SmartSimple Cloud platform supports some of the world's most prominent foundations, Fortune 500 companies, higher education and research institutions, and government agencies.

Published December 2021