3 Steps to Build an Ambitious 2018 Grant Plan
BY LILY RAABE
New year, new fundraising opportunities! The start of a new calendar (or fiscal) year is a great time to refresh and reset your granting priorities for the next 12 months.
The first quarter is full of possibilities for cash this fiscal year: new RFP’s will be popping up, you have time to schedule new grant applications into slow months, and you’ll need to make sure you’re current on reporting for the next round of applications from your current portfolio.
Here are 3 steps our team uses when building out grant plans for a client:
1. Get organized!
A grant typically involves the detailed work of multiple people. Organization is key to keeping your team on the same page and your Board reports accurate. We suggest building an annual calendar that includes the following elements:
Current Year Calendar–Your tracker for deadlines/notes throughout the year! Be sure to add a nice array of new prospects to your current portfolio.
Prospect List(s)–Keep an ongoing record of all potential grantors, both government and private
Application Status Report–Track what is upcoming, what is submitted, what is approved(!), and what has been declined.
Projections Manager–Keep a tracker of all planned and awarded grants. For those that are planned, include a “High” and “Low” award amount. Tally up your “High” and “Low”. Your actual grant money for the year will be somewhere in the middle and can be set based on factors including: age/size of organization, staff time devoted to grant writing, and your ability to collect great data!
2. New year, new prospects!
New prospects are the pumping heart of any good grant strategy. While some foundations fund the same organizations for many years, others make gifts on a one-time basis, or require “rest” years where you may find yourself ineligible to apply for funding.
New grant prospects keep your pipeline bustling every year! Backwards planning and maintaining an organized grant writing schedule will empower you to be ambitious going after new money. Here are a few tips:
Invest in a grant search tool! We use Grantwatch. Just $18 gets you unlimited access to the site for a week, and they have a great selection of opportunities.
Rolling LOI’s are your friend. There are definitely granting busy seasons: the first and last quarters of the year will be especially hectic. New prospects that accept “Rolling LOI’s” or “Rolling Deadline Letters of Intent” are your friend because you can schedule them in the slow months that crop up as you fill in your calendar. Just be sure to check how long their award process is so that you can project their funding into the appropriate fiscal year.
Prospect more money than you want to raise. Let’s face it, at the end of the day a lot of incredible people are applying for the same pool of money. You might be a perfect fit for a foundation and still not be funded. Prospect at least 50% more than you intend to raise for the year. Not only will you have a backup plan if you are denied funding from a shoe-in foundation, but you may also find that you have time to get in 1-2 more LOI’s than originally planned.
3. Don’t forget about software.
While excel tracking works for awhile, eventually (and probably sooner than later) you should consider using a donor software to track donations, grants, and other fundraising efforts as your organization grows. Take the time at the beginning of the year to make sure you are up to date in your software–it will give you a boost of confidence moving forward.
(If you don’t have software yet, one of our favorites for a smaller organization is Little Green Light. This simplified software is easier to navigate without requiring as much training as Salesforce. For larger organizations, you might want to consider looking at Salesforce options as the system is nearly 100% customizable.)
A well-organized grants portfolio offers an organization incredible benefit and opportunity for growth. Be ambitious, plan in advance, and communicate with your full team early when they can contribute to making a compelling application. Good luck on your 2018 granting adventures!