Why Do I Need a Plan?
Having a plan, and the tools to execute it, is so important in the nonprofit world. Let's be honest here…those of us who have been working in this field a while know that there's never enough time in the day to get everything done. And although this lack of time makes it easy to fall prey to disorganization (and many do), it's also exactly why you shouldn't. After all, you definitely won't have time to sort through piles of paperwork or computer files to find something you need, right? Right.
But don't worry. I firmly believe that any problem can be solved with Google and a spreadsheet. (You'll hear me say that a lot…because it's TRUE) Download the Master Grants Planner Template here.
In an earlier post I already talked about the power of organization and hopefully you've taken the initiative to get your files, computer system, and calendar whipped into shape. That's a fantastic start, but this post is all about building on that progress. Let's take things to the next level. If you want to be a true GrantMaster, you need a serious grants plan.
If you're wondering why we even need a next level, let me help. Having a plan for all these things you've organized and systematized will reap you the following benefits:
- You'll never miss a deadline again
- You will appear very competent and “on top of things” to both your boss and those funders you've been trying to build a relationship with
- You'll save time in your day and week which can now be devoted to other tasks (even if it that “task” is really just logging more hours on Netflix while you eat popcorn with your cat)
- You will be way less stressed
- And the ultimate reason: you will end up being much more competitive for grants, you will find and apply for more of them, and you will win more grant awards
So Let's Get Down to Business
We know what we want to accomplish, but we still have some pretty important details to flesh out. First up, I have some questions for you to ponder:
- How grant-ready is your organization right now?
- Do you know where to find grants?
- Do you have important dates and reminders in your calendar?
- How are you going to keep tack of everything?
Question #1 is a big deal. You need to answer it before you start formulating a plan because if your organization is not very grant-ready then the best plan in the world will not yield the results you want. Invest time, energy, and money into building your foundation first (you'll thank me later). If you aren't quite sure how to assess your org's grant-readiness this tool is a good place to start. And if you KNOW you aren't grant-ready then I would urge you to work on that first and seriously consider hiring a professional who can help guide and coach you through the process (ahem….I can help with this…)
But if you ARE reasonably grant-ready it's time to move on….
It's time to Streamline
The goal here is to put a plan in place that increases your grant funding, gives you back precious time in your day, increases productivity, and makes you look like a rockstar. No problem. Here are the steps to building your plan:
Step 1: Identify your grant sources. List out the sources you go to in order to locate grants. List URL, login info, and anything else you need to know about these sources (like membership info if it's a paid database).
Step 2: Set a goal. This should be a literal dollar amount for each program you want to fund and/or for operating costs.
Step 3: Block out time to research and write. Think through how much time you need to set aside to seek out funding sources and then write apps for each of them vis a vis your actual funding needs. Now schedule those time blocks into your calendar. Do your best to stick to them and only reschedule if you have to.
Step 4: Make writing these grant applications easier. Some information will be the same from one grant to the next, such as mission statement, organizational history, description of your program's goals, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel for each one. Don't waste time re-writing these for each grant and don't waste time hunting through past grant files to find that one paragraph you wrote once that was really well-written.
Spend some time on the front-end (or as you're working on an application) to pull out well-written sections that can likely be re-used and paste them into a master document for easy access later (more on this master document in Step 5). You can always make minor tweaks to the verbiage for each individual grant as needed, but overall this will save you time.
Step 5: Your Master Grants Planner
This is a spreadsheet that will be a living document. It will change and grow as your grants strategy changes and grows. It will guide what you do and streamline your process, saving you time and hopefully decreasing your stress level since you'll feel like you have a better handle no things.
In this document you'll lay out grant funding goals, store relevant funder research, store commonly used grant verbiage and data, outline your grants strategy for the year, and track awards and reports. It's a one-stop shop for all your grant planning needs. You're certainly welcome to develop this document yourself , but since you're here you don't have to. I'm including a template of my personal Master Grants Planner for you because I love you and want you to succeed.
This is a key part of how I personally strategize and create a grants plan. But to get the most out of it, I have a few recommendations:
- Plug in all due dates, reporting dates, meeting dates, and site visits into your calendar right away. They should be recorded in both places.
- Create a new spreadsheet each year. This will keep things less cluttered and you will be able to look back at the data and plans from previous years for comparisons and to track to progress and trends.
- Customize the planner for your org.
- Make sure you've harnessed the power of organization to make this as efficient as possible and definitely make sure your organization is ready for a grants plan before you dive in.
That's it! I hope you've found this post and the free grants planner helpful. Feel free to share this post on social media or email it to fellow nonprofit warriors and don't forget to follow us on social media:
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