Grant Planning

Reflecting on the past for future success

‘Tis the season for grant planning, and just like Ebenezer Scrooge, we are being visited by the ghosts of grant pursuits past and present in order to see our future.

One element of a nonprofit’s comprehensive fund development plan, the grant strategy must be reviewed annually. These reviews are important for two reasons. First, they help to identify successes from the past 12 months that should be added to the new year’s plan of work.

Second, grant plan reviews ensure an organization’s current programs and priorities remain within the guidelines of their planned grants for the coming year. A year-end review may result in changes to the grant plan to include new funding opportunities.

“The year-end review is an opportunity to reflect on the past for future success,” explains Ruth Patrick, one of Sharity’s grant writing experts.

SMART Grant Planning

Successful grant strategies begin with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed (SMART) grant plans. Following are the key components which should be built into every grant plan:

  • List of funding needs for the next 12-24 months, including specific budget information and possible sources of funding matched to need(s);
  • List of realistic local/regional/national grant making organizations/sources that align with the organization’s mission with details on application process, deadlines, grant application documentation needs and funding priorities;
  • Information on data collection needs and reporting requirements for each of the grant sources being considered;
  • Identification of staff/volunteer team members who are programmatic/project experts who could assist with general or specific grant applications; and
  • List of new or updated documents that would be needed for each of the individual grant applications.

During each annual grant plan review, agency staff, executive leadership, and board of directors must discuss and examine these components to ensure the plan remains consistent in meeting organizational needs and that grant funds awarded can be incorporated into agency operations.

When revisions are necessary, nonprofits consider these three important aspects of their plans:

  1. Analyze operational plans for the coming year specifically including a review of programs/services, staff roles and responsibilities and financial/budget changes to identify gaps and needs that could be included in future grant requests.
  2. Review of grant data including program outputs and outcomes to determine if any changes are needed to the data collection process.
  3. Research information from grant making organizations to determine if there are new and/or changing priorities and deadlines, and incorporate this updated information into an organization’s grant plan.

Learn By Doing
Ultimately, one of the best ways to master this review process is to actually go through it, and a small group learning experience is an ideal way to accomplish this.

“There are many benefits to participating in a structured, small group learning experience rather than the Do It Yourself (DIY) learning approach,” she adds. “The small group learning experience includes important basic and advanced concepts and strategies and how the information can be applied to work specific situations. There is also an opportunity to discuss and share individual questions and have conversations about best practices.”

Even more valuable, Patrick points out, are the working and mentoring relationships that can develop as a result of these small group learning experiences.

She encourages nonprofit leadership to invest in educational and developmental workshops for their staff as a way for them to achieve master class status in grant review, planning, and writing: “An investment into staff development will maximize organization impact and efficient and effective utilization of staff resources.”

Patrick says programs like Sharity’s Grant Writing Academy [LINK] are the perfect opportunity to learn-by-doing in a guided, controlled environment: “The best written plan cannot be achieved unless a staff and organization have the knowledge and skills to develop and implement the plan, and this includes knowledge on the technical aspects of grant writing, reporting and planning.”