Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

Keeping Up With the Grants

When do you start working on your final grant report? The day you get your award letter!    (Image: Centpacrr at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons)

While not as reality-tv worthy as Kardashians, grants and other foundation funding are vitally important for many nonprofits. If your organization is thinking about or has already applied for (and hopefully received) grant funding, one of the obligations will be completing a report about how the money was used and the impact of the project. When you provide your funder with successful reports in a timely manner, you increase your odds for further funding.

Here are six tips for easier grant reporting:

1. Create a file (both digital & hardcopy) where you can immediately put papers & information related to the grant. Include a full copy of the final application (you’ll want to reference the original goals) and a copy of your signed award letter. Create a folder on your computer for digital copies of information you need to report to the funder. This makes it easier to access from anywhere, collaborate, and gives you the ability to cut & paste information rather than re-typing it. A physical folder is a good place to corral odds and ends such as check stubs. Having a convenient “dumping ground” will mean you can save information in a matter of a seconds rather than spending ages digging for it a year or so later when you’re trying to pull your final report together.

2. Add dates to your calendar now. The award letter might include time sensitive information. Take some time to add these dates to your calendar so they don’t sneak up on you. Do yourself a favor and set internal deadlines earlier so you have a buffer. Be on the lookout for quarterly or annual reporting dates in addition to the final report. Be sure to let other key folks know about these dates.

3. Plan your report contents and build your data collection tools and documentation plans from the outset. The award letter may contain information about the final report but if it doesn’t contact the funder and see if there are any report guidelines or a copy of the report form. Depending on the length of the project, requirements may change, but you’ll still be ahead of the game if you know exactly what information the funder expects and collect it from the start.

4. When in doubt, collect it. Better to have too much data or information than to not have it later.

5. Collect as you go. As you progress throughout your year and run across information that will be of interest to the funder, put a copy in the grant folder. You’ll be using this information in a variety of places anyway from your annual reports to public relations information and its easy for something to get overlooked later if its not right in front of you when you’re writing your report.

6. Take pictures and make it personal. Snap pictures of events, programs, clients, and the activities of your organization. Label and date them so you know what they are. Save copies in your grant folder so you have them at your fingertips at report time. Same thing with client testimonials. Take a few minutes to write down comments, success stories, or scan notes & letters and save them for the future. Never underestimate the power of qualitative and especially visual data!

Consistently delivering reports and information to your funders in a timely manner will go a long way to building a solid reputation. The same information can also be used in other ways to communicate the story of your oganization’s impact on the community.

Got any tips for preparing reports that you’ve found helpful? Share them in the comments below!

Image via Wikimedia Commons: Centpacrr at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.


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