We all know that a well-timed, well-written grant can make or break a nonprofit’s success. They're essential to effective strategic planning for nonprofits. Not to mention the importance of ensuring 100% accuracy in the information you are providing, you also must create a compelling narrative that proves why your organization deserves the grant. In this article, I’ll address how board management software can help you prepare to write a grant, share some guidance on writing a successful grant and provide some tips I’ve learned from the grant writing I've done over the years.
PART I: Why use board management software for grant writing?
Consider the last grant that you received. Can you recall how much time went into the preparation of it? Or how much of your time was spent sorting through files from the last grant you wrote to find all the information you needed? How about how much of your work schedule (or family time) was affected while doing all of that?
By leveraging board management software like the NXTBoard platform, you only have to search for all the information you need once. No more tracking your grant in Excel or making a graph with that data then trying to play with the formatting, etc. A best-in-class board management portal can do all of this for you as well as help you keep track of all board decisions and reports as well as monitor goals and organizational progress. But most importantly, it can help hold everyone accountable.
A board portal helps guarantee more accountability to the grantor by allowing board members and the executive director, an on-demand snapshot of your organization’s achievements and goals and the ability to make progress.
Take the time initially to set up your grant monitoring and save hours of work and personal time later.
PART II: Time to write the grant… now what?
Now that you’ve gathered the details and information you need to write your grants, where do you start? If you do not have a boilerplate grant template, check out our friends GRANTSPACE. Use one of these grant samples and make it your own. Combine it with stories and data that will make your case as to why you deserve the grant you are trying to secure. Then, using board management software to gather all the data you need once, in the same place. From board rosters to financial data and board/organization goals, as well as director giving percentage, and membership impact, etc. By doing this, you have the ability to keep these files secure and referenceable for future grants, and you can update them as needed.
Inevitably there will be an accountability section of your grant. Unlike before, when the grantee asks how you will monitor the effectiveness of their grant, you can now use a board management portal to set goals and objectives to measure the effectiveness of the project, as well as track operational expenses and unrestricted funds that you get from your grant. All of this monitoring activity can happen in a board management portal that offers strategic planning features and can live for years so that your next grant will be easier to write. Even better, when a new board member joins your organization, they will have all of this historical data at their fingertips and can hit the ground running.
If you use board management software, once you receive your grant, you’ll be fortunate to have a platform to help you monitor the success of your organization/project because of the funds received from the grant. From the monitoring phase of grant receipt to the final report generated to the grantee, you will have the ability to keep these reports and files organized.
Additionally, once the grant writing process is complete, you can add comments to help others looking at the grant next year to see, at a glance, the amount you received, how much time the overall application took, and more importantly the likeliness that you will receive funding repeatedly. And with best-in-class board management software, you can generate reports to show success and challenges to give everyone visibility of what's happening at all times.
PART III: Tips for nonprofit grant writing
- Tip #1: Help defray the cost of board management software by including a section of it in your grant. When thinking about the operating expenses section of your grant budget, include a portion of the portal so that you can help track, monitor and report out on grants. Your grantor will appreciate better accountability on their funds.
- Tip #2: Give yourself time to have the grant checked over by many pairs of eyes. The language that you use might be clear to you, as the author, but might contain shorthand or abbreviations that funders might not be familiar with. Assign yourself a task a week before to get the grant produced and sent to individuals you trust outside the organization.
- Tip #3: Combine all the files into one place for easy reference later. You might remember where you get the data/files from within your own storage system but think long-term. Think about what happens if you’re not there when grant reports and deliverables are produced. Plan for the future.
- Tip #4: Force yourself to track the grant’s success as you go. Do not wait until the day before the report is due to start pulling together items for success. Spend 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there during the lifespan of the grant so that you’re not rushing to complete at deadline. As a leader in the organization, and especially if you do not have a separate grant writer, you will be pulled in many directions. Remember that closing your office door to get work done does not save interruptions.
- Tip #5: Task yourself. Don’t forget to do follow-up items during the grant cycle. Usually the funder will provide check-in times… create those tasks and events for yourself. And as soon as you get the grant to make sure you work through this process.
- BONUS TIP: With all the logistics surrounding the grant cycle, don’t forget to do one of the most important things… thank the grantor! Know your grantor and what they would like. Would they like to see a press release? Would they like a ‘meet the board’ event? Or would a good old-fashioned handwritten card be enough?