Advice on making and keeping New Year’s resolutions abounds in early January, but we promise that this post won’t contain a single exhortation to eat less and exercise more. Instead, our focus here is on helping you improve the health of your grantwriting efforts over the next 12 months. We hope you’ll be well served by the following 9 tried-and-true techniques drawn largely from my previous experience working in the development department of the Foundation Center, a nonprofit organization that disseminates information about foundations and their giving, and is supported by about 500 grantmakers annually.
- Update your master schedules of grant application and reporting deadlines.
At the start of the year, foundations typically list their 2017 grant priorities and application deadlines. Now’s the time to collect them! It is also a good time to see which reports to your current funders are due when. Remaining diligent about this will not only make it easier to stay on track, but will also help you anticipate the busiest periods of the year and plan accordingly.
- Front-load 2017 funding requests.
Although foundations’ application deadlines fall at different times throughout the year, some months are more deadline-heavy than others. Taking advantage of slower months to get a head start on applications due in later months will more evenly distribute the workload throughout the year and give you a competitive edge if foundations’ grant funds run out before year-end.
- Start preparing your 2016 narrative and financial reporting materials.
If your fiscal year closes with the calendar year, grantmakers will want to hear about your accomplishments ASAP. Make sure you have all the programmatic information you need from your colleagues—including revenue and expense reports—to tell donors a compelling and information-rich story about your organization’s work.
- Check your profile on GuideStar.
Many funders use GuideStar as part of their due diligence research to confirm that applicants and grantees are in good standing with the IRS. Ensuring that your organization’s profile is current and accurate—and that your organization’s latest Form 990 tax return has been filed—will reflect positively on your work in the eyes of both current and prospective donors.
- Create an “FAQ file” of answers to frequently asked application and reporting questions.
Similar questions tend to appear across various application and report forms, so avoid reinventing the wheel by creating an electronic document of questions you’ve encountered and answers you’ve submitted. The next time those questions pop up, you’ll be ready to adapt your existing answers accordingly.
- Make electronic backups of all application and report packages.
If an application or report you submit to a funder somehow gets lost (it happens more often than you might imagine), it will be infinitely easier to regenerate if you save electronic copies of all documents you submit (including signed cover letters for requests sent via postal mail) in email or fax-ready format.
- Create electronic and print folders for each new grant you receive.
Keeping together all materials related to the same grant will streamline the reporting process and will also prove helpful if you need to resubmit any documentation that gets lost later down the line.
- Follow up on unacknowledged requests each quarter.
If you submitted a funding request that was not acknowledged by the funder via email or postal mail within a three-month period, email or call the appropriate contact person to confirm that your material was received, that no further information is needed, and that the request is on track for a decision. Doing this each quarter reduces the risk of being too late to resubmit a lost application if a foundation’s grant funds have run out before the final quarter.
- Keep in touch with other departments about progress on organizational goals. There’s no need to wait until reporting deadlines to request updates from your fellow staff about new and ongoing projects. Gathering updates on your organization’s critical metrics and goals (such as animals adopted or spayed/neutered) on a quarterly basis will give you fresh content for applications and help shed light on how plans are (or aren’t) meshing with reality while there’s still time to course-correct.
"Gathering updates on your organization’s critical metrics and goals on a quarterly basis will give you fresh content for applications."
If you’re interested in applying for funding from the ASPCA, we invite you to visit the Grants section to read about our 2017 funding priorities. Best of luck in the New Year and keep up the great work that you do!
ASPCA Director, Grant Strategies
Claire Sterling works to increase the ASPCA’s grantmaking effectiveness and transparency by helping the Grants department to implement and promote promising practices in philanthropy, form partnerships with other philanthropic organizations and develop grant metrics for measurable outcomes. She previously did foundation fundraising for six years at the Foundation Center.
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