Oftentimes the nonprofit clients I work with explain their existing grant application process as unorganized and “we do what we can when we have the time”. Does this sound familiar? Do you have a difficult time keeping up with what is due, and when?
Wait a minute – you have a lot going on as a nonprofit staff member! You’ve got staff to work with, marketing to handle, financials to prepare, networking, board meetings, event planning, maintaining the quality of services that you offer, AND on top of all of that, you are expected to fundraise and solicit donations.
*APPLAUSE* YOU ARE AMAZING!
The nice thing about the grant process is that you are typically aware of the deadline at least 30-60 days prior to when they are due. Typically the federal grants give notice 30-45 days prior to the due date. State grants are usually pretty good about making you aware of the deadline at least 60 days in advance. Foundations are frequently the easiest to schedule in that most of them operate on an ongoing basis, and when they don’t you are typically aware of their deadline at least 90 days in advance.
Would you like to hear my suggestions for the best ways to prepare for upcoming grant deadlines? While these may not work for everyone, I’ve seen it work for most.
Set aside one full day to do the following tasks:
1. Write down the names of all of the grants that you intend on applying for in the next 12 months. If you don’t know where to research grant funders, you can visit my website (dottedifundraising.com) to acquire my How to Find Great Grants Checklist.
2. Research those grants and find out if they have an ongoing application process or if there are specified dates that the applications are due. If you do not see those deadlines on the website, email or call the listed contact person and ask if they can provide you with their deadline information.
3. Write out a realistic timeline over the course of 12 months that shows which applications you will apply for each month. Base your timeline on deadlines for each application as well as how much time you will have monthly to prepare these applications. Are you really able to write more than three applications per month with all of your other responsibilities? Be realistic in your timeline.
4. Schedule it! Sit down and put the deadlines in your calendar (or add/assign those deadlines and tasks into GrantHub). Remember, grants don’t typically come together in one day so set aside enough time in your schedule to complete the grant application at least one week in advance to submitting it (four to six weeks in advance if it is a federal grant).
5. Follow through and work on the grant applications and the tasks that are assigned to you based on your schedule. If you are stretched too thin and need help, assign those tasks to other qualified staff in your organization that may have more time available. If you and your staff are booked and will not have time to complete the larger grants, look into hiring a consultant that can complete them for you.
As you may have experienced in the past – missing a deadline is frustrating! What is even more frustrating is trying to pull together a comprehensive and quality application at the last minute. Do NOT get yourself into this predicament and avoid it by proper planning!
My grandma always said, if your plate isn’t at the table, how will you get fed? I translate that into advice for nonprofits; if you do not submit an application on time – your chances of getting funded are 0%.
Wishing you the best of luck!