In This Article: Author Tasha Van Vlack

Time to stop standing for the status quo in grant management: An interview with Ansley Fender

Frustrations within the grant management industry pushed this nonprofit professional to strike out on her own and create Atlas Solutions.

Grants – the bane of many fundraising professionals. Talk to almost anyone in the nonprofit industry, and it becomes evident that grants and grant writing is the task that everyone loves to hate. For starters, finding and applying for grants is expensive. Finding a grant can take from one to three days, and writing a grant application can range from $600 for a small foundation grant to $18,000 for a complex federal grant. This is a huge expenditure for most nonprofits when you consider that only 40% of applications are awarded. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t do this type of return-on-investment calculation, or they are so strapped for cash that they are forced to incur the costs on the chance they might win the funding.

This was the constant battle that founder Ansley Fender witnessed in her work as a nonprofit professional. And so was birthed Atlas Solutions, a collaborative platform for finding, managing and reporting on grant funding.


“Nonprofits exist to break the status quo, so why settle for the status quo with grant management.”

Disheartened by the status quo

For Fender, nonprofit work never proved to be quite the right fit. In college, Ansley studied music until her career was sidelined by injury. She turned her focus to nonprofit management, which seemed to be a natural fit given her upbringing in nonprofit arts organizations.

The characteristics of nonprofit work that Ansley admired are ones that you can see mirrored in her startup:

  •           Scrappiness
  •           An agile mentality
  •           The ability to innovate with little-to-no resources

But it was these exact same characteristics that Fender began to find disheartening as she began her internships in nonprofit management: the constant struggle of manual processes, the dreaded spreadsheets, ancient software programs, and processes that no longer provided a clear return to the organization. Ansley entered the nonprofit world with a desire to work with teams solving the world’s problems but watched instead as the nonprofits she so admired were cut down by budget constraints, a lack of resources and government red tape.

Frustrations within the grant management industry pushed this nonprofit professional to strike out on her own and create Atlas Solutions.

A move to consulting and the advent of Atlas Solutions

After starting her family, Fender decided to pivot to nonprofit financial consulting where she did everything from basic bookkeeping to financial consulting and education for organizations that did not have the resources to hire internal financial professionals. Over time, Ansley began offering grant management and witnessed how time-consuming and manual traditional grant management processes are. She wondered how nonprofits providing critical services to the community could be financially cut off from missing a single grant reimbursement deadline and how nonprofits spending 50-60 hours each week on grant management could still need support from her business.

It made Ansley question every step of the grant cycle and begin thinking of ways to improve it. And thus, Atlas Solutions and the dream for capacity building came into being for Fender.

Redesigning grant management from the ground up

20-30%–the percentage of grant funds that are wasted on manual administrative tasks. Annually, that amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars in North America alone that would otherwise be spent on initiatives like environmental cleanup, housing unhoused individuals, educating children, and curing disease.

Ansley began researching grant management software offerings, incorrectly assuming that a lack of technical capacity within nonprofit organizations must be the reason for high administrative costs. Instead, she found 2 distinct problems:

  1. Grant software was ridiculously overpriced, or
  2. It was horribly outdated and insufficient to meet today’s grant management needs

The end result? Nonprofit organizations stuck with a 3rd option, manually managing grants in spreadsheets.

Atlas Solutions solves several distinct problems for nonprofits:

  1. Grantseekers can utilize Atlas Solutions’ free grant database that uses tailored insights to help organization find new funding sources. Grantmakers can list their funding opportunities for free and find new organizations to fund that they otherwise may not know exist.
  2. Atlas Solutions eliminates the data siloes that further slow grant management by creating a single place to track an organization’s funding pipeline, tasks, and documents.
  3. Atlas Solutions is a two-sided software that brings grant funders and recipients together so they can collaborate throughout the grant cycle. Furthermore, Atlas Solutions enables organizations who are both a funder and a recipient, such as municipalities and foundations, to manage their grant input and output in a single platform.

Yes, all this for free. For a fee, organizations can also manage grant finances, real-time budget tracking, program management, outcome metric tracking, and reporting. In addition, grant funders can pay a small percentage of funds dispersed to review applications, manage awards, and collaborate with their funding recipients on the award budget, tasks, and documents. Atlas Solutions also creates custom reports for grant funders to use with their recipients to ensure that all their funding recipients are reporting on the same information in the same format, making it easier for them to articulate the impact of their grant programs.

Frustrations within the grant management industry pushed this nonprofit professional to strike out on her own and create Atlas Solutions.

The future of nonprofit grant management

For Fender and Atlas Solutions the future is still being written. While the offerings in the grant database are constantly being updated (anyone on the hunt for a grant??), Atlas Solutions’ grant management software is fully deployed and ready to onboard new users.

As for the changes Fender sees coming to the nonprofit industry in the next 1-3 years, she is remarkably cheery. Maybe it’s her experience in the nonprofit management arena, but the current push for automation is a move that Ansley feels will only be of benefit for a short-staffed industry. She hopes the advancements in machine learning will automate grant searching to the point that a grantseeker would never have to manually search a grant database again.

And lastly, while recessions tend to tighten everyone’s belts, it is often when grant funding from government increases –creating the ideal scenario for Atlas Solutions to support nonprofits across North America and help them shoulder the burden of grant management.

If you are looking to learn more about Atlas Solutions or are looking for support in finding and managing your grants get in touch with Ansley  -ansley@getatlassolutionscom

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