Fall is in the air! As most of us near the end of our fiscal year, we might feel inclined to kick back, grab that medium hazelnut coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (I’m not picky), and stare into space about all the days we have off in the next few months. Will we finally take that ski trip or opt for a staycation? The options are endless.
But, as you know, reality always rears its ugly face. Because while you were daydreaming about Aspen, up popped an email from the XX Foundation reminding you of that final grant report that’s due in two weeks. Not only did you forget about this deadline, but you failed to ask your program staff to start gathering the data you need to evaluate this grant’s impact on the population you serve.
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Once you’re done sobbing in a fetal position, look at this as a lesson learned on the importance of grants management. Sure it’s great to be uber-savvy about cultivating foundation prospects, writing compelling proposals, and thanking your donors. Yet, if you fail to report back to your supporters in a timely fashion, you risk cutting future funding off at the kneecaps.
So what are some sure-fire ways to ensure that the grant reporting process is as satisfying as the day you received the grant award letter? Check out my top three tips below:
- Track Deadlines. Ok, so this first tip isn’t that mind-blowing. But it has to be said because the solution to never missing a grant reporting deadline is, well, to write it down. Love online reminders? Consider using the ‘tasks’ function in Microsoft Outlook. Think paper and pen work best? Place sticky notes across your desk. The best way to keep track of your grant report deadlines is really up to you. The main thing is to pick a tool that helps you to remember these important dates so you’re not stuck panicking at the 11th hour.
- Monitor Milestones. Chronicling your program accomplishments is incredibly important. That is, this process provides tangible proof that your nonprofit is effectively meeting its mission. Not only is this good fodder in which to high five your colleagues, but it is often required in proving to your foundation supporters that their money was put to good use. Membership organizations like the Nonprofit Technology Network offer incredible (and sometimes free) resources on how to create a “data-driven” culture in your office.
- Make It a Company Affair. I once attended a workshop on individual donors where the presenter asked who was responsible for raising money in an office. Responses ranged from the development staff to the board to that of the executive director. The answer? Everyone. From the person who answers the phone to the one who processes payroll, all staff must have a spirit of accountability in ensuring that potential and existing supporters experience the best interaction possible with the nonprofit. The same is true when it comes to reporting on a grant. Development must work with program staff to make sure the appropriate data is collected in advance of a reporting deadline. This includes frequent check-ins between the two departments as the day-to-day workload can often take precedence over data collection.
Now it’s your turn. How does your nonprofit manage the grant reporting process?