These days, we’re thinking a lot about the future — especially what things will look like as more people are vaccinated. We’re also talking with friends and clients about how to prepare their nonprofits for the months ahead.
Every year, it seems like as soon as kids are back to school, it’s back to the grind for grant writers and nonprofit fundraisers. The early fall months of September and October are filled with back-to-back grant deadlines.
Grant season isn’t the time to get your house in order, it’s time to finalize your proposals and hit the submit button. Now, during spring and early summer, is the time to set best practices and get systems in place. Here are some tips for what your staff and your board should be doing in the next few months to be in the best position for grant writing season.
Create a strategic plan
When you have a plan for one, two, or ten years down the line, you are able to determine which grants fit into and bolster your plan and which ones are out of your scope and just add work and stress to your team. Having a strategic plan also ensures that you are basing your programs on your goals and community needs, not just creating programs to follow the money. When you set your goals first, you can ensure that you are only spending time on the funding streams that make sense and advance your goals.
Chart out your year
Look at your existing programs and fundraising events to see when your busy seasons are, and then look at what these grant programs would need and when their milestones or deadlines would occur. You want to make sure that you aren’t pursuing another grant with deadlines at the same time as your existing grant deadlines or otherwise stressful times unless it really strengthens your organization.
Look beyond your budget
It’s important to have a good idea of your budget and even conservative estimates on what grants you will win. I know many organizations that only include grants that are recurring and other sure things in their budget. But it’s not just about making sure you have enough money coming in to cover expenses for the year — the really important thing to look at is your cash flow and when you expect money to come in, and how that differs from when you need to pay expenses like payroll.
Even though so many grant applications come in the fall, in my experience, money coming in the door for nonprofits is pretty light in the first quarter of the year. Make sure you have the funding to carry you during your tight financial times, and that your busy work season when you have more expenses doesn’t line up with the tight times.
This is even more important if you are applying for government or other grants that are reimbursement-style grants, which require you to front the money and then wait to get reimbursed.
The early fall season is busy enough —, you don’t need to add creating budgets and dreaming up new programs to your fall to-do list. Take the time now to prepare, so that come fall you can focus on writing the best proposals possible.