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Nonprofit Grant Tracking: Best Practices for Managing Grants
If you’re looking for ways to improve your current nonprofit grant tracking process or create one from scratch, this article can help.
Nonprofit grants management can have a lot of moving parts: researching opportunities, compiling application materials, meeting reporting deadlines, and cultivating grant funder relationships, to name a few. A sound nonprofit grant tracking process helps to ensure your team doesn’t miss any critical steps.
Nonprofit grant tracking can optimize your ability to secure needed funding for your projects through an effective, streamlined approach. If you’re looking for ways to improve your current nonprofit grant tracking process or create one from scratch, this article can help.
Below, you’ll find five best practices to follow for efficient and coordinated nonprofit grant tracking.
1. Use a Grant Tracking Calendar
A grant tracking calendar is a way to visually organize your grant opportunities by month. Some of the items you’ll want to track on your calendar include:
- Due dates of annual recurring grants that you want to remember to apply for each year
- Deadlines for new grant opportunities as you become aware of them
- Internal deadlines for different components of a grant application
- Reporting deadlines for grants you have received
- Stewardship activities throughout the year with your grant funders
Using a grant tracking calendar helps you to:
- Keep track of the grant opportunities that are the most important for your nonprofit
- Pace out the different elements of your grant applications well in advance of their deadlines
- Identify “crunch” times when multiple grants are due so you can plan for how to increase staff capacity and be efficient in your processes
- Avoid missing important reporting and stewardship activities that could impact your future ability to receive additional grants
There are many ways to create a grant tracking calendar. The key to establishing an effective one is to make sure all involved staff can easily access and update it from wherever they are. It also helps to be able to assign tasks within it, store notes and links to more information, and keep it well-organized.
Creating a shared calendar through Google, Outlook, or whatever calendar platform your nonprofit uses is one way to approach this. Another way is to use software with grant tracking capability like Instil, which allows users to create a fully customizable grant tracking board. In addition to tracking the progress of your grant applications as they move through the grant lifecycle, you can assign tasks to team members corresponding with grant deadlines for the year ahead, so that as important dates approach they'll receive automated reminders to start working on the grants in question.
2. Assign Tasks to Your Team Members
Have a clear picture of who is responsible for what parts of your grants well before their deadlines. This ensures you’re assigning work to team members who have the capacity to complete it at the time when you need it most.
The tasks you assign out to different team members may vary based on a grant application’s requirements, but could include actions such as:
- Collecting client stories to include in a narrative about your impact
- Filling out cover pages and application forms
- Gathering board of directors information, Form 990s, or other required supplemental documents
- Updating your grant tracking calendar
- Researching new grant opportunities on a quarterly basis
- Creating a project budget for your grant ask
- Pulling requested data about your programming and operations
The tasks you’ll assign out will also depend on where your grant application is in the grant lifecycle. For example, whether it’s in the research stage or has been submitted, awarded, or received.
You can assign tasks to team members directly within their corresponding cards in Instil’s grant tracking board. As you move a card from one stage to the next, you can add in new relevant tasks. For example, once you move a grant card from submitted to awarded, you’ll want to identify who is responsible for sending a thank-you note to the funder and completing any requested paperwork to process the payment.
3. Organize Grant Language and Materials for Reuse
It’s important to tailor each of your grant applications to the specific funder. That said, many grants ask for similar things. You can speed up your process by keeping track of key documents and existing drafted language to reuse for other grants.
Create a grants folder that includes subfolders for:
- Commonly requested documents, like your Form 990, list of current board members and their term lengths, organizational budget, 501(c)(3) letter of determination, and organizational chart
- Stock language about your mission, organizational history, and programming
- Draft language from past grants about your different project requests or other items for which you’re seeking funding
It’s a good idea to assign one of your staff members the task of reviewing grant applications once they’re finished to see if there is anything new to add to your “reuse” folders.
4. Track Your Spending Carefully
Nonprofit grant tracking doesn’t end after you’ve received your award. Many grant funders want follow-up documentation that shows exactly when and how you spent their gift.
Once awarded a grant, keep detailed information on:
- Where and how the money was spent. For example, whether it was used for staff salaries or for purchasing supplies at a store.
- When the money was spent. Make sure to keep receipts and documentation of your expenditures to track spending dates.
- How much of the grant is left at any given time. Keep a close eye on your projected budget compared to how much grant funding you have left. This is helpful for both your own organizational planning as well as ensuring you meet any expenditure deadlines the grant requires. You don’t want to spend too quickly, but you also don’t want to miss any expenditure deadlines and have to return unused funding.
Should you encounter any project changes or challenges along the way, having a detailed record of your spending will help you communicate those hurdles to your funder and let them know how you plan to get back on track.
5. Implement a Stewardship Timeline for Grants
Remember that grant funders are not faceless entities. Once awarded a grant, you have an opportunity to make an impression on them that will assist your efforts to receive that grant again in the future. This post-award stewardship could also inspire some of the grant’s committee members to become individual donors.
Create a timeline for stewardship activities such as:
- Sending a thank-you note to the funder
- Announcing the award on social media and tagging the funder
- Providing project updates (in addition to any required reports)
You can assign these tasks to team members within your grant tracker board to make sure you never miss an opportunity to strengthen your grantmaker relationships.
Follow Best Practices for Easy Nonprofit Grant Tracking
Nonprofit grant tracking helps you manage institutional relationships to keep your funders happy and ensure support for your programs.
A solution like Instil makes this process easy through our intuitive, customizable relationship management board. Through its collaborative, visual design, you can track each of your grants throughout its lifecycle and steward relationships with foundations, corporations, government entities, and others providing grant funding to your nonprofit.
Our grants dashboard also helps you quickly see the number of grants your nonprofit has been awarded and your total grant funding received. With everything well-tracked, you’ll be able to build and manage a grants team that can add tremendous value to your nonprofit’s work. Want to see more? We'd love to show you!