Creating a Proposal Out of Pandemonium - Grant Proposal Preparation

Sometimes I feel like I am juggling a massive number of balls that are destined to come tumbling down with just the slightest misstep of losing track of a deadline or forgetting to download the right template.


What I have learned (sometimes the hard way) is that having a plan for a particularly difficult or lengthy proposal makes the difference between submitting it with confidence two days early, or submitting in an air of chaos at 11:45 pm the night it is due.
This is different than the outline. My outline makes sure I hit the key requirements of the grant and tells my story compellingly. But my grant work plan is where I manage what items I need, who I need them from, and the date I need them by. It is the backbone of my grant development process and helps me track all the accompanying financial documents, program/activity plans, leadership and staff biographies, annual reports, and vials of blood that the grantor might be requesting.
In a spreadsheet, I use the following headings:
  • Due Date
  • Task/Activity
  • Assigned To
  • Completed By
  • Notes
I also like to list what day of the week the due date is, so if there are red flags of a deadline being on a weekend, you can anticipate those challenges. Project management software will do this for you, however, my grants so far have been in the middle phase of being too big to just handle with notes on a post it, but not big enough to need software to manage deadlines.
The Due Date column is the date I want items due to me or it is the due date for me to have a draft ready for review. Either way, something is due to someone, at that time. This is created in a meeting or through email with all the related parties – program staff, finance, or leadership. There are some people I will send a reminder because I know with their busy schedule of implementing these wonderful programs I'm writing grants to support, they may forget about a budget or activity list.
Be detailed in your activity or task. Leave no opportunities for misunderstanding of what the grantor is looking for, or which program you are writing the grant for. This can potentially be a major source of frustration for you and outside departments if they feel the task assigned was unclear. I also always track the Completed By date. This is primarily to manage if a grant is not coming together on timely basis, and where the bottleneck is in the process. While I hate to use it to assign blame, it can be helpful in ensuring future proposals are successful if you understand that specific departments may need more time.
Some tips I've learned to help create order is to have certain documents in place. Ask your finance office to send you the year-to-date financial documents every month when they send them out to their leadership staff for review. Get copies of the audit, IRS Form 990, current year's budget, the board of director list, and other documents you need to upload regularly. I keep these in an aptly named folder “Grant Stuff.” This leaves you with less of a scramble for those uploads or attachments at the end of a proposal and helps set you up to be a successful grant proposal developer.
What tricks do you use to organize your workload?
April Koske has over 10 years of experience working for nonprofits in Omaha, Nebraska and is currently a grant writing consultant with Vic Gutman & Associates.



By: Lara J Allen
On: 08/14/2018 16:35:17
I have found to be an amazing organizing tool to keep all of the various players working on their tasks toward a common goal. And it's free!

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