New Year: 4 Things to Do Now to Never Miss a Grant Opportunity
Wait: Phenomenal grant opportunity just landed in your inbox. It’s a perfect fit your organization. Unrestricted funding. Thousands of dollars. Tailor-made for you. Deadline: 24 hours from now.
You’ve got to get it together. Fast.
What can you do NOW to set yourself up to succeed when this happens this year? (Because, you know it will. It always does. Every year, it happens at least once). Here are 4-key things you can do to help yourself prepare today for the grant opportunities you’ll find another day:
1. Create a Grants Master File: I get it all together now. I have what I call a “Grants Master File” on my computer. If you don’t have a Grant Master File, create one now to help you.
I gather everything that a grant funder is likely to request and put it in my Grant Master File. That way, when a funding opportunity comes my way, I can get it all together quickly, even if I learn of the opportunity at the last possible second.
Here’s what goes into my Grants Master File:
- 501(c)(3) letter
- Most recent audit
- Current year’s budget
- mission statement
- vision statement
- Most recent annual report
- updated organizational chart
- updated resumes for Executive Director and other key leadership
- Client demographics from prior year (numbers served, incomes of those served, gender and race of those served)
2. Scan all hard-copy documents now. Because nearly all applications are electronic these days, if there are things that I only have hard copies of, I scan them NOW and save them to my electronic Master Grants File so that they’re good to go when the time comes. And if I do need to print them to mail them, I find it takes far less time to hit the print button from my desk and put the pages in the envelope than it does for me to have to find the article in my to-be-filed pile (because I only file, I’ll admit, when I run out of other things to do and you can imagine how often that happens), stand at the copier, scan, transfer scanned image to computer, clean image up (it’s probably crooked, maybe even upside down,…). So scan now. Most of the time, a quick email to your auditor can get you a PDF of your 990 and audit painlessly if you didn’t already receive an electronic copy.
3. Check the date on your IRS 501(c)(3) letter: While a letter from the IRS declaring that your organization is tax-exempt never expires, some grant funders want to see a recent letter—a letter issued by the IRS within the last 2-3 years stating the year you were granted exemption and that there has been no change in your exemption status. You can call the IRS and request a new letter at 1-877-829-5500.
4. Make an Agreement with your Executive Director: Obtain a digital signature and permission from your Executive Director to submit grants in such scenarios. If you don’t already have a digital copy of your Executive Director’s signature and an agreement with him/her, this is a great time to talk to him or her about the issue. One Executive Director I worked with and I used to have an agreement that I always had permission to apply for anything that was on our wish list or in our budget without permission and that if I couldn’t find her or successfully contact her, I had her permission to use her signature stamp or digital signature. When I worked as an Executive Director, I had a similar agreement with a Board President I worked with (“apply, Rebecca, apply! Of course, you can sign my name!”) Can you and your Executive Director talk about and agree to rules and guidelines so that when unexpected opportunities arise and she is camping in the Grand Canyon with her 5th grader’s field trip and you can’t reach her by cell phone, that you won’t miss the chance to apply?
Even with these things in place, you’ll still have to scramble when that last-minute grant opportunity pops-up on your screen, but these things will make everything go a whole lot easier and faster and you’ll stand a better chance of success if you do them now.
As an added bonus, you’ll know exactly where all these things are on your computer. I can’t tell you how many times it’s been nice to know exactly where our 501(c)(3) letter or audit is. No hunting around. For someone who hates filing, that’s total peace of mind.