As a new year approaches, it’s essential to think about your development plan and how grants will impact your overall budget. Creating a strategic grant calendar that’s timely and resourceful can set your organization up for a successful fundraising year.
Here are some tips that will set you up for a productive year:
REVIEW YOUR CURRENT FUNDERS
Take a look at your current grant funders. Are there opportunities to reapply for grants? Since you have an established relationship with these funders, there’s a good chance they will give to your organization again. It’s important to carefully read all the application requirements and know how many times you can apply for a grant from the same organization. While some funders do not want nonprofits to apply for grants consecutively, many will allow you to reapply several years in a row.
Note: Make sure you have all your end of year reports compiled and submitted on time. Having your reports submitted in a timely manner will put you in good standing for the upcoming funding cycle.
REVIEW LAST YEAR’S DENIED GRANTS
Next, review the grants you submitted that were denied last year. Just because you didn’t win the grant the first time, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply again — unless stated in the application. Use this opportunity to review your past applications and make sure you completed all the information correctly. Most importantly, make sure you are aware of all critical deadlines for each funding opportunity. Missing a deadline can be a reason why a nonprofit doesn’t receive funding (one reason why a grant calendar is essential!). If you have questions, contact the funder directly to make sure you understand why you didn’t get the grant the first time around.
Related: Your grant was rejected. Now what?
FIND NEW GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
Finding (and winning!) new grants is a great way to ensure program and organization sustainability. You can find new grants by doing a thorough grant search or by asking others to help you find new grants. Reach out to your board members and make a list of potential business or foundation affiliations. Often, your board members know of funding opportunities through family foundations or corporations in the community. Use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with board members while engaging them in the planning process. They will be excited to see how funding from their business or foundation connections makes an impact on the organization they serve.
FINALIZE YOUR GRANT APPLICATION APPROACH
Now that you have your list of potential grants compiled, it’s time to finalize your list of applications you will apply to in the upcoming year. Before you get too excited about the possible funding opportunities available, make sure you are realistic about the number of grants you can write and submit. While having grants in your budget mix is essential, a nonprofit can’t solely rely on grant funding. However, if there’s a grant that’s a good fit with a current, past, or potential funder, then look at that as a green light to move forward.
Remember, writing a grant requires time, energy, and lots of patience (along with all the other daily tasks your job demands). Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations or deadlines to fill a calendar or to please your board members.
CREATE A GRANT CALENDAR
Once you’ve completed the steps above, it’s time to create your grant calendar (or make edits if you are updating from last year) with relevant information based on your funding needs. The template you choose for your grant calendar depends on your organization and personal preference. For many organizations, an Excel spreadsheet works well. If you are working with a team, software such as Google Docs, Microsoft Outlook, or a shared Excel file can be useful tools to ensure everyone is informed.
Regardless of the template, every grant calendar should give you a quick snapshot of vital grant information. Key information will include the funder, focus area, amount requested, deadlines, the status of the application, and action items. It’s crucial to include notes such as the end of year reports or special events. Listed below are examples of information you may want to include in your grant calendar.
- Grant Funder: Riley M. Johnson Foundation (fictitious foundation)
- History with Funder: Yes, awarded grant funding in 2012, 2015 and applied in 2019
- Focus Area: Children’s Mentoring Program
- Request amount: $10,000
- Deadline: August 1st at 6 p.m.
- Contact Person: Kathy Johnson – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Awarded Grant: Yes, for $10,000 for KidsCamp Mentoring Program
- Action Items: Contact grant organization for information on the final report on December 1st. Reports must be submitted by December 28th.
- Notes: Our organization can apply for a grant again on August 15th. All applications will be submitted online.
EFFECTIVELY USE YOUR GRANT CALENDAR
Congratulations! You have successfully created your grant calendar. While it may look fancy with all the color-coded tabs and detailed information, it’s important to remember your grant calendar is not a static document. You will be using this as a guide and reevaluating it throughout your fiscal year to make sure it aligns with your organization’s ever-changing needs. It’s essential to reserve time in your schedule to regularly review deadlines and make necessary edits to your grant calendar. This will keep you organized and ensure your year ahead is productive and successful. Happy funding!
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