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12 grant tasks to do during the COVID-19 crisis

We’re a little over a week into processing and responding to the COVID-19 crisis. By now, you’ve probably worked through most of the logistics of keeping your staff and clients safe, canceled programs and events, and considered how you can best serve your community during these unprecedented times.

You’ve also probably thought about (or stressed over) grants – the grants you’re managing and the grants you need, especially if your organization relies heavily on grant funding.

So, what should you do about grants at a time when grants are probably the last thing you want to think about? The short answer – keep up the good work!

This post contains 12 grant tasks you can work on right now to:

  • Leverage and successfully manage the grants you have;
  • Secure new funding to support unexpected and ongoing expenses; and
  • Lay a strong foundation for future grant success.


Got grants? If so, now is the time to consider how you can leverage those grants to support your most urgent needs. You’ll also want to make sure you stay compliant with any grant reporting requirements.

Here are 3 grant tasks that will help you leverage and successfully manage your existing grants:

Review your restricted grant funds

Do you offer programs or services in group settings (e.g., afterschool youth groups)? If so, there’s a good chance you won’t need to fund these programs in their current format any time soon. If you’ve received restricted grant funds to support these programs, consider ways those funds could be put to better use.

Here are 3 considerations:

  • Does it make sense to offer these programs virtually right now? If so, you may be able to make some program budget adjustments to cover technology costs required to deliver programs virtually.
  • Could those funds be used to serve a more urgent organization or community need?
  • Or would you prefer to roll any unused restricted funds into the next fiscal year?

Ask funders to redirect restricted grant funds, if necessary

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, call your funders to discuss your need to adjust or redirect funds. Many large foundations are proactively contacting grantees to allow for more flexible use of funds, so your request should not be a surprise to your funders.

Let funders know about delayed reports

Hopefully your funders are expecting grant reports to be delayed. But if you have the time, give them a call to let them know about the delay. Not only does this keep your organization compliant, it also gives you a chance to share how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting your organization and community. Plus, this candid discussion may open up opportunities for emergency funds.


Search for grants to cover unexpected expenses

You may find yourself working to address a new set of needs for your clients or community at this time. This might include setting up hand washing stations for people experiencing homelessness, establishing a drive-thru testing clinic, or distributing emergency supplies to homebound seniors. Regardless of the work you do, it’s likely you’ll need funds to support these unexpected expenses.

Fortunately, funders realize the immediate needs facing many nonprofits and are offering emergency funds. Most are also shortening the application requirements significantly and have committed to make funding decisions quickly.

Both GrantStation and Instrumentl have started compiling grants that can support nonprofits’ COVID-19 response efforts. You can access them both for free (no subscription required!) at the links below:

Ask for extensions and help with upcoming grant proposals

Submitting grant proposals for normal expenses may seem trivial during this stressful time. But when our world goes back to some state of normal, you will still have an organization, programs, and services to fund. And most likely, there will be even more people relying on your support.

If you have a looming grant deadline that you might miss, call the funder and ask if they plan to offer any extensions or open a funding cycle later in the year. If not, and if you can’t finish the proposal alone, put out an urgent request to volunteers or board members to help. Many of your supporters are at home right now and would love to help you.

Keep up your non-grant fundraising efforts

It may feel insensitive to ask people for money during a crisis. But keep in mind, there are many people who want to help and are waiting for an organization to let them know how to help.

Use social media and email to keep your supporters and donors informed of the work your organization is doing in response to the crisis. Also be sure to let them know exactly how they can help and what their support can do for your organization and the community.

For more tips on fundraising during crisis, register for the American Philanthropic’s Fundraising During Uncertain Times webinar series or check out the following articles:

Click here to get your free Win More Grants Blueprint


​Once you’ve addressed all the emergencies and settled into your new isolated work routine, you may find yourself with lots of extra time. Given the stress of the crisis and the distractions of kids and partners in your home workspace, this is an ideal time to work on somewhat mindless tasks that will strengthen your chances for winning grants in the future.

Here are 6 tasks that will keep you busy for at least a week:

Follow funder social media accounts

Social media is a great way to keep track of what grants are available. If you’re not already using it to connect with funders and find grants, now’s the time to get started. For more tips on using social media for grants, check out 5 easy ways to use social media to find and win grants.

Create and organize grant folders

If you always find yourself digging for attachments or old grant proposals, use this time to create and organize your grant folders. Here’s one approach to getting organized:

  • Start by standardizing your file naming convention (e.g., “Organization Name_2019 990”). Not only will this help you find documents, it will also make things easier on your funders who have to sort through thousands of organization attachments.
  • Create and name folders in a way that makes sense to you, such as naming folders by the funder’s name and year. Then start moving files into the appropriate folders.
  • Archive any old documents that you won’t need any time soon (like the audit from 1999).

Create standard grant language

Grant applications are all different but there are some standard questions that show up all the time. Use this to your advantage and create documents with all your favorite responses to these standard questions. Simply read through recent grant proposals, copy your favorite responses, and paste them into a “standard language” document. Then, the next time you need to write a grant proposal, you can reference your favorite responses and simply modify as needed.

Update your GuideStar profile

More and more funders are turning to nonprofits’ GuideStar profiles to learn more about their operations, programs, and outcomes. Don’t give them the wrong impression by leaving your profile blank!

Not sure about how to update your GuideStar account? Check out all the details here: Update your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.

Pre-fill the short answers in online grant applications

Filling in the short answers in online grant applications can take a lot of time. If you have a list of grants you plan to apply to over the next 6 – 12 months, go ahead and create your online accounts and add in all the organization details like phone, address, mission statement, etc. Your future self will thank you!

Update your needs statements with new data

By now, many national organizations have updated their community data for 2019 (e.g., population demographics, poverty levels, rates of obesity, etc.). Go through the needs statements you commonly use and update all the data. This will ensure you’re using the most relevant information in future grant proposals.


Hopefully these 12 tasks will help you navigate this crisis and come out stronger (and with more grant funds!). I’d love to hear what grant tasks you’re working on at this time. Comment below with your most important grant tasks right now.

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Grant Finding, Grant Management, Grant Writing

March 24, 2020

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