You probably have had the experience of celebrating an achievement when, suddenly, panic sets in and you hear a nagging voice say, “Now what?”
Being successful with grant proposals for your nonprofit, especially if you’re a new grant writer, may give you that same feeling: “we’ve been awarded a grant, now what do I do?”
Keep celebrating. You’ve got this!
You’ve been successful getting through the funding hurdle, which is the biggest challenge. By following these three essential steps you’ll stay on course and keep your funder happy.
First, review the grant contract and keep track of all requirements.
Funders typically provide a grant award contract that outlines the terms of the award, the end date the money needs to be expensed, any restrictions on spending, the promotional credit the funder may want to receive for supporting the project, and the funder’s grant reporting requirements.
Before you do anything, stop.
Read the contract thoroughly.
Knowing what the expectations are for the grant award, and what commitments you need to fulfill, will help keep you on track and make you a successful grantee.
Once you’ve signed the contract, input all reporting deadlines immediately into your calendar and a grant tracking spreadsheet. This will ensure you meet all deadlines and keep multiple funders and due dates organized. Charting the deadlines ensures others working on the grants will keep on schedule, too.
Don’t miss important reporting dates.
This will frustrate the funder and put your present and future funding in jeopardy. Progress or interim reports and final reports are important to funders. They demonstrate the impact of their funding and how important it is to your nonprofit.
Be positive and thorough in these reports. This is a great opportunity to make your funder proud of supporting your nonprofit and all the great work you’re doing. Great grant reports can lead to more funding down the road.
Second, be organized and keep all documentation.
Your goal is to keep accurate records and comply 100% with the terms of the grant contract. Keep the documentation of all grant activity and the money you’re spending separate. If you’re not the one tracking the financial expenses, make sure your bookkeeper, board member, or whoever is responsible is maintaining organized, detailed financial records.
Being able to trace expenses to each grant will assist reporting and audits and may be critical for government or other grants that are reimbursable and not paid in advance. This will guarantee that you spend funds only as approved in the grant proposal.
In addition to the financial information, keeping all documentation of the grant activity organized will make completing progress and final grant reports easier. Information including attendance statistics, proposals from consultants, material orders, plans, layouts, or any document used solely for this grant should be kept in one place so you can easily access the information and attach necessary documentation.
The easiest way to be accountable?
Third, always keep the funder informed –of changes and progress.
Don’t be one of the nonprofits that receives a grant and then never communicates with the funder again until the next application. Make sure the funder is aware of any significant changes to the project or budget that may be caused by unexpected delays, issues, cost increases, or a variety of factors.
Equally as important as communicating changes, staying in touch formally through grant reports is critical and may be a contractual obligation. Further, staying in touch informally, through emails, phone calls, and personal invitations, is just as important.
If funders feel connected to your nonprofit and the project and can see first-hand how their money is being spent, they will be more inspired to keep funding your efforts and perhaps increase their funding in future years.
Nonprofits need champions. Your grantors can be some of the best supporters of your work. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to have them know about your efforts, help you, and perhaps leverage other support.
The next time you receive a grant award and start hearing that inner voice say “now what,” turn it off.
You know what to do.
Read the contract. Record the deadlines. Keep the documentation organized. Communicate with your funder. You’ll create a positive, strong relationship with your grantor and make certain your nonprofit receives more, maybe even larger, grants in the future.