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Record Your Recipe: A Lesson in Workflow

I used to work for a bookstore owner named Harriette who had several nieces. Each time one of the nieces turned 18, Aunt Harriette would teach her the guarded family recipe for yeasted crescent rolls, walking her through each important instruction in the multi-hour baking process. Even with a day of training from the family’s master baker, the nieces would still be given a neatly scripted recipe that outlined the ingredients and detailed each step. The recipe gave suggestions for doubling the dough when unexpected guests arrived and noted times and temperatures for each stage of preparation and baking.

Just like copying a recipe, documenting your workflow provides a record of each of the steps required to accomplish a task or deliver a product or program. This can be helpful when you are only running a grant or scholarship program once or twice a year or if you are not using your GLM/SLM software every day. If something unexpectedly keeps you away from work, co-workers will have the resources they need to manage until you return, or if you finally buy the winning lottery ticket, your successor will have somewhere to start.

NOTE ALL THE INGREDIENTS. A workflow document should include:

  • Timelines and “due by” dates, so that administrators can coordinate calendars and plan activities
  • Names of staff and volunteers, noting team or committee leaders and responsibilities of each party involved
  • Detailed steps, outlined within relevant stages

*TASTE TEST Here are a few lines from a client’s example workflow document.

While having an editable and easily accessible document available in a shared location (a spreadsheet on your server in a common folder, for example) is important, there are also ways to document your workflow right in your GLM/SLM database.

SET A TIMER. Use emails to remind you of your next steps.

Automated email templates that alert administrators when a form has been submitted can include a detailed list of tasks.

TASTE TEST. Here’s an example email that could be automatically sent to administrators.

Hello, A new application has been submitted. Please log in and review the submission using the steps below.

  1. In the Application Submitted workload page, click each review icon to see the application.
  2. Respond to STAFF REVIEW section questions, and if eligible, mark Complete.
  3. When all eligible apps are marked complete, batch assign them to evaluators.

*Committee evaluators should be selected or deselected in the Process Manager, Application/Evaluation

BAKE IN EXTRA PROTEIN. Leverage question visibility to detail tasks within your forms.

If all questions within a question group are marked with Internal or Administrator visibility, applicants will not see the group or any of the questions within it. Administrators can record staff evaluation comments or answer important questions about the request right on the form. Internal and Administrator questions that are marked required must be completed before the submitted form can be marked complete, a good precautionary measure to ensure that important information is added by an administrator.


The Shared Documents feature in the Tools menu can be a repository for workflow documents for both staff and evaluators. Any time an evaluator is in the database, they will have access to your instructions. Custom instructions can even be added to the Evaluator Dashboard directing evaluators to this digital file location.

Recording your workflow is the best practice and creates a recipe for anyone to follow. Use your GLM/SLM software to help prompt you and your team with important instructions, reminders, and next steps, so that you have all the ingredients you need for a fully baked program.

About the Author

Ashley began working in the nonprofit community in Memphis, TN in 2005 and joined the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis as a program officer in 2008. In 2013 she became the Director of Grants and Initiatives, managing the foundation’s competitive grant programs. During this time, Ashley helped develop GiVE 365, which became a model for collaborative giving programs in foundations across the United States. She has been a leader in the community foundation field and served as the Chair of ProNet, previously the Council On Foundation's professional development group for community foundation program staff. Ashley is happy to continue her career with a team dedicated to supporting the philanthropic sector. Outside of work, she enjoys being outdoors, especially during bird migration along the Mississippi flyway.

Profile Photo of Ashley Harper