Need a Quick Project Management Fix? Try a Checklist!

My son is now in first grade, and is becoming more independent and responsible. One of the more recent challenges we encountered was having him remember all of the items to include in his backpack as he prepares to head off to school. He forgot his library book one day and then he forgot his reading book another day. I didn’t want to keep enabling him by packing up his backpack myself, so I decided to set up a system whereby he has a checklist taped above his backpack and he is responsible for looking at it each morning to make sure that he has all important items in his bag. Checklist ImageGuess what? It works!

Now, as a project manager and nonprofit consultant, I use checklists of various types and complexity on all sorts of activities, and I find them extremely helpful. I am including below some of these useful checklists that you can use and adapt into your own work.

1. RFP Response: All grant proposals that are responsive to a particular RFP (whether these are government grants, corporate or private foundation opportunities) must adhere to a particular set of requirements. A grant application must be responsive to all the requirements requested in the application by addressing all questions, formatting proposals in a certain way, including all attachments, and aligning the budget to the narrative.

What should be contained within this RFP checklist? These checklists should include all submission requirements as detailed in the RFP, a list of all required attachments to ensure they are included in the application, the submission deadline (including the specific time the application is due) and the manner in which the submission must take place.

2. Style Guide: Each organization has a unique “voice,” and likely use terms and phrases that are particular to the program and sector. In addition, there might be colors or fonts that should align with the organization’s logo and branding materials to ensure consistent flow, look, and feel. 

What should be contained within a Style Guide checklist? A listing of acronyms, the placement and use of the organization’s logo and/or tagline, indication of stylistic preference (i.e., use apostrophes or not), formatting, font size and type, and any colors that should be used. This guide should be used across materials, and not just grant applications and reports.

3. Prospect Research: When an organization engages in prospect research, there are a number of elements that are required to develop a robust prospect research list. Have you looked at all the elements and what might be applicable to you?

What should be contained within a Prospect Research checklist? An organization should be able to respond to additional details on each potential funder and the program/organization for which funding is sought. This information can include, but is not limited to, keyword terms to describe the program/organization, funder’s geographic preference, funder’s eligibility requirements, giving history (check the funder’s prior 990 forms), funder’s assets, funder’s board of directors, pertinent deadlines, application type (are unsolicited applications accepted?) and average award size.

4. “To Do” List: Do you sometimes feel like a chicken with your head cut off? Trust me, I understand. We all have a running list of items we need to do each day, but these items may just be listed on a Post-it note or scrawled on a sheet of paper.

What should be contained within a To Do checklist? A clear list of all items that you should complete, organized by priority and deadline. Sometimes creating a separate email folder, flagging items in your email or even writing them on a white board are great ways to remember. I use project management software to keep track of my straggling deadlines (which syncs with my phone), and that has helped me tremendously. Is there a grants management or project management tool that you can use to help streamline this process?

What is the next checklist you plan on preparing? I hope you get to cross off those items soon; it always feels good to complete everything on your list.

About the Author

Rachel Werner

Rachel Werner is the Owner and CEO of RBW Strategy, LLC and provides grants and project management consulting support to nonprofits, government and business entities.

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