How CBIS' GrantScape Generates Audience and Revenue

Share |

Log on to GrantScape and you get this:

Get Direct Access to the Most Comprehensive Resource of Grants Opportunities
From Foundations to Federal, State, and Local Governments

It's followed by a big "Quick Search" window showing 6,294 Active Grants and"Total Funds Available $24,578,352,100." The message is clear: Give us a spin and you will be impressed with what you find.

In 2017, Columbia Books & Information Services developed "a new proprietary web-tracking system that notifies the staff whenever a grant-making entity updates their website with new grant opportunities. Monitoring websites for relevant changes, rather than blindly searching for updates, allows for maximum efficiency in data collection and improves the currency of the data available."

The goal in this case was a grants opportunities database called GrantScape. For its development and revenue earnings, CBIS won a first place 2018 SIPAward in the category of Best Use of Data.

"GrantScape is still going strong, with new opportunities being added daily and a host of planned new features under development,"Duncan Bell, vice president, data services, Columbia Books, Inc., wrote me in an email. Credit for GrantScape goes to him,Saleh Karaman and Julie Rachlin.

"We are currently bringing in hundreds of thousands of awards from both private and federal grantors. These sources include foundations and federal agencies. We are including this information in our data feed service, in which we directly provide raw data to customers and clients, with the potential of surfacing this data for search purposes within GrantScape sometime in the future.

"Users will be able to see awards that grantors have given out," Bell added, "and also be able to find awards via their recipient, so that an organization can search similar organizations to themselves, and view their award history."

Here are more key points that have made GrantScape a big success:

It freed up staff time. 
Prior to GrantScape's development, opportunities from Thompson Grants (a division of CBIS) came through a weekly newsletter that staff would actually curate. As such, the offering was limited in scope and listed opportunities that may not even have been relevant to an individual user.

It answered customers' calls. 
Many of Thompson Grant's customers had expressed frustration when searching for grants in their field. Platforms had been based more on their ability to bring in information than on providing personalized assistance. Also, search functionality was not good in any previous platforms and information collection was not uniform.

It uses filtering criteria to personalize. 
The number of grants opportunities available through GrantScape has grown significantly in every category type since its inception. As the user creates and saves customized searches based on filtering criteria, including location, funding amount and organization type, it returns more targeted results.

The current weekly "newsletter" (now an alert) is a much more targeted and efficient. 
Users can choose to receive updates to their searches as weekly alerts, ensuring that new and targeted funding opportunities are delivered straight to their inbox.

There are several strong features. 
The "My Dashboard" section displays saved opportunities that the user would like to track as well as analytics around those saved opportunities. It also includes a calendar feed of deadlines and reminders that can be exported to an external calendar.

It's easy to use. 
Customer feedback has praised the ease of use of GrantScape's interface. The navigation features save users an incredible amount of time. The popular "My Dashboard" had been a feature that only enterprise grant systems had provided. There is no additional cost to the user.

They've kept the price affordable. 
The price to use GrantScape remains relatively low compared to the competition—thanks to the way Thompson Grants is able to leverage CBIS' technological capabilities. It keeps manual labor and support down. A GrantScape subscription can be purchased separately or bundled at several different tiered price points. Such bundles move customers up the subscription ladder.

It expanded their client base and increased per-customer spend. 
By launching GrantScape, Thompson Grants was able to round out its offering to include a sophisticated tool for the grantseeker. Subscribers are upgrading from a single online resource like the Federal Grants Management Handbook to the Grants Compliance Expert 360 which offers a library of online resources plus a subscription to GrantScape and includes three licenses. So, just to use a number, a $420 renewal might turn into a $2,150 sale.

GrantScape was developed with multiple audiences in mind. 
CBIS can sell GrantScape both directly to the (business) consumer and as an API feed to enterprise clients, growing both its subscription revenue and lucrative licensing revenue as well. In fact, CBIS was able to secure multiple private licensing clients from the inception of this product development.

They've started to use artificial intelligence. "
We are currently using machine learning process to filter our awards and classify them based on both category and geography," wrote Bell. "Our future plan is to begin using machine learning to recommend grants to our users based on their saved searches, similar to the 'Suggested' items section within Amazon's product page."

It expands search capabilities. 
Bringing in award information from, 990 tax forms, and non-federal sources in a uniform manner allows GrantScape users to search for grant awards previously won by grantees "like themselves."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…