The Power of a Grants Calendar

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Too often we encounter nonprofits chasing after any and every grant opportunity they run across. This can be a disaster on so many levels. It burns out personnel tasked with designing projects, lining up partners, and meeting deadlines. At best, it can result in overwhelming an organization’s administrative capacity if too many grants flow in at once. It commonly results in a nasty case of mission creep. And at worst, the constant chase yields zilch because individual opportunities aren’t given the time, attention, and planning required for a grant to be successful. One powerful tool to overcome this hurdle is the creation of a comprehensive grants calendar. Let’s explore the benefits of a grants calendar, step-by-step instructions on how to build one, and tips to maximize its effectiveness.

The Importance of a Grants Calendar

A grants calendar is a centralized repository of upcoming grant opportunities, deadlines, and relevant details. By maintaining this calendar, organizations can stay organized, proactive, and informed about potential funding sources. A grants calendar provides improved visibility, allowing organizations to easily identify the most relevant and promising grant opportunities. It also enhances planning by enabling organizations to strategize their grant application approaches well in advance, leading to better time management and increased chances of success. Additionally, a shared grants calendar can facilitate collaboration and coordination among different departments or even across multiple organizations, fostering a collaborative approach to securing funding. Regularly updating and reviewing the grants calendar helps organizations stay abreast of the latest funding opportunities and track the status of their applications.

Building Your Grants Calendar

Creating a comprehensive grants calendar begins with a grant prospectus identifying a wide range of funding sources, including foundations, government agencies, and other potential funding bodies that align with your organization's mission and priorities. Gather relevant information for each funding opportunity, such as the grant name, purpose, eligibility criteria, application deadlines, award amounts, and any specific requirements or restrictions. An important tip is to note the expected number of awards. This will provide some insight into the competitiveness of the program and can be invaluable in prioritizing grant pursuits.

Organize the calendar in a structured format, whether it's a spreadsheet, a dedicated software application (we prefer the project management tool, Asana), or a cloud-based collaboration tool, ensuring that the calendar is easily accessible and regularly updated by all relevant team members. Incorporate automated reminders or alerts to notify your team of upcoming deadlines, application preparation milestones, and other critical dates. Continuously review and update your grants calendar to ensure that the information is current and accurate, and monitor funding sources for any changes or new opportunities.

Want to see the future? Know the history.

As our weekly Grant Round Up regularly reveals, grants aren’t published with plenty of lead time before the deadline. But it doesn’t necessarily require a crystal ball to figure out when to expect an RFP to drop. Our grant calendar is chock full of reminders to look for competitions to open and we take this information into account when projecting our workload and capacity.

Although it helps, you don’t need years of history with a funder to figure out when they typically open their competitions. A savvy user can explore archived grant opportunities and get a pretty good idea of different funders’ grant cycles.

Maximizing the Impact of Your Grants Calendar

To fully harness the power of your grants calendar, it's essential to align the grants you pursue with your organization's mission, priorities, and strategic objectives. This will increase the chances of securing meaningful funding. Be realistic. A federal grant application package can easily take 100-120 hours to compile and that doesn’t include the project planning and partner collaboration meetings that go into a well-designed, competitive proposal. Balancing your workload across the calendar is crucial to grant success (and grant writers’ overall well-being).

Encouraging your team to seek professional development opportunities, such as webinars or training sessions on grant writing, research, and management, can continuously enhance their skills and knowledge. By embracing the power of a comprehensive grants calendar, organizations can unlock a world of funding opportunities, secure the resources needed to achieve their goals, and ultimately make a more significant impact in their communities.

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