No More Paper Chase: Automating the Workflow Process at the California HealthCare Foundation

California Health Care Foundation

This report describes how CHCF replaced outmoded procedures for documenting and tracking its grantmaking work with a fully integrated, web-based system. A companion essay explains the importance of making a strong business case.

March 2011

Organizations that engage in philanthropic grantmaking know that there is nothing simple about the process. And all too often, the difficulties include not only deciding where money should go and in what amounts, but also documenting and tracking the life of a grant from beginning to end.

For most of the California Health Care Foundation's history, this work was accomplished using an unwieldy hybrid system that mixed paper forms with multiple computer databases. Moving a grant from stage to stage required routing slips and cover letters, as well as laborious data entry tasks. Errors were easy to make and hard to catch.

Today, those antiquated procedures have been replaced with a new integrated workflow system that has eliminated much of the old drudgery while putting crucial information at staff members' fingertips. Routine operations can be accomplished with the click of a mouse, and detailed reports are easy to generate — without the need to create or store a physical document.

In hopes of encouraging similar projects at other organizations, CHCF has documented its own experience in two publications. No More Paper Chase: Automating the Workflow Process at the California HealthCare Foundation details the mechanics of designing the new system and describes the many ways in which it improved upon the old. A companion essay by Craig Ziegler, CHCF's vice president of Finance, Administration, and Investments, focuses on the crucial, behind-the-scenes role of the business case which CHCF developed to justify the project, and how the calculations differ from similar planning exercises in the for-profit world.

Both publications are available as Document Downloads.