I’ve been a freelance grant writer for a long time. One common trait among the organizations I’ve worked for is their need for a grant calendar. They seem to react in a panic when a grant opportunity arises. It usually happens when they are in the final week before their gala or when everyone is on vacation.

A grant calendar is an easy way to (gasp) plan ahead for upcoming opportunities and stop the panic. I was searching for a simple grant calendar that can be used by an organization and found this blog by Kerri Drumm. It has a link to a sample grant calendar. I think with some modifications, it could be used by a freelance grant writer who has to keep up with grant opportunities for several clients.

Do you use a grant calendar in your organization? What do you use and how is it working

I’ve got my nice new planner, all clean with no appointments in it yet. (There are appointments on sticky notes but nothing is written on those beautiful, clean pages yet.)

I prefer a paper planner that I can doodle in, take notes in, and slap sticky notes on, as well as an online calendar or app. I use a Google Calendar and set alerts. That way, I have something to actually ding me if I forget to look at the paper calendar, but I have the paper calendar to entertain myself and keep notes.

Have you got your planning done for 2017 yet? What’s that you say? ALL of 2017 already planned?

Yes, if you are a grant writer, you should be planning your year out right now. If you wait, you’ll risk missing important deadlines. We all know how the emergencies and urgent tasks often overtake the really important ones.

Here are 3 things you can do right now to get started on your grant planning for 2017:

  1. Think about the fun stuff.
  2. Review 2016.
  3. Make a plan to do better in 2017.

1. Think about the fun stuff.
I was writing a grant for an organization I volunteer for. I needed a way to tell their success stories, but no one on staff had kept any kind of file or records of successes. So, I went to their Facebook page and there it was.

All kinds of feel-good stories, photos, everything I needed. I didn’t have to wait for someone to find the photos and stories for me, and since it was all out there on Facebook, I felt pretty safe in using it in my reports and proposals. You should look over the Facebook posts your organization made in 2016 and pull out stories, facts, and photos you can use.

2. Review 2016.
Look back over your files and records to make notes on all the grants you applied for and all the ones you missed in 2017. Make a list of those you plan to apply for again in 2017, and note any outstanding reports you need to finish. Track down everything you can on those grants and organize your files. (I always have to fight the urge to throw things in piles and sort later, but that gets me in trouble if I don’t follow through with the sorting part.)

3. Make a plan to do better in 2017.
Decide right now that you are going to be more organized and keep better records in 2017. Being more organized means starting right now to decide what grants you are going to apply for and make a plan of attack. Don’t wait until you suddenly have that head/desk moment when you realize the deadline is next week and you haven’t even started on the proposal.

There, now you have 3 things you can start on right now to make 2017 your best grant year ever.

BONUS THING TO DO NOW!   Join the Challenge!
I’ve got it all organized for you. Just join my FREE 14-day Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER Challenge. I’m organizing a few of the processes and practices I have learned and used over the years to help you Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER.

The Challenge will consist of 14 emails with helpful hints and challenges to help you get organized for 2017. Yes, all of 2017.

You’ll get some suggestions for how to find your best projects, get your colleagues on board with you, track your efforts, and be ready to start each day knowing what you need to do to bring in the money.

If you want to join the fun, here’s the link: Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER! It’s FREE, but the deadline to join is January 9. The Challenge begins on January 10. Hurry over today and sign up.

If you’re Facebook friends with me, you know I love animals and volunteer for a local animal rescue organization. I write several grant proposals for them every year.

Here’s where the lessons start, folks:
A good grant opportunity came up for our organization. The Director was out of town, but gave us permission to put the grant together. (That alone is a scary thought.)

Luckily we had a project on the back burner just waiting for an opportunity. We scrambled to get all the information needed, including those pesky financials as well as a source for our letter of support.

Of course, the letter of support was the hardest part of getting the proposal together, but at least we had the first contact made. I stopped by and introduced myself to the contact and offered to send him a “pre-written example” of a letter of support. He did his part and emailed the letter back quickly.

The clock was ticking and the deadline was near. We got it all together, checked one more time with the Director by email, and excitedly hit the submit button. Whew! We made it.

A few days later the finance director contacted me to say that she had heard from the granting organization. WOW, I thought.

But, here’s where things go terribly wrong:
The granting organization was checking our credentials and found we had an unfinished grant with them from several years ago! They generously gave us about a week to get that cleared up so we could be in the running with the new proposal.

Since our organization is fairly young, staff and record keeping procedures had changed over time. No one currently at the organization even knew there were outstanding grant reports.

Needless to say, the report didn’t get done in time, we didn’t get in the running for the new grant, and if my guess is right, we don’t look too credible with the granting agency.

Now, to the lessons learned from this experience:

  • Do your reports on time! Put them on your calendar and make sure you’re collecting the data needed for the report.
  • Have some fully fleshed out ideas on the back burner so if an opportunity pops up, you can be ready to pull a great proposal together.
  • Write a “sample” letter of support that you can provide to each local contact that is willing to support your project. Make it specific because they will probably copy and paste it on their letterhead and sign it. (I have a horror story about that, but we’ll save it for another day.)

I know it’s the holiday season, but since the year is closing out, please take time to look back over your year of grants and make sure everything is finalized and complete so you can start your New Year off right.


Speaking of starting the New Year off right, why not join my challenge to Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year Ever?

This email challenge is a great way for new grant writers to start planning for an organized and successful grant year. Seasoned grant writers can use it to put some structure behind their planning process.

If you want to Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year Ever, come and join the celebration. (It’s a 5-day challenge with a weekend in the middle for catch-up if needed.)

You can sign up now, but the challenge won’t start until January 10.

Oh, and did I mention its FREE?
But sign up right now as the doors on this opportunity close on January 9th.

Here’s what you should do now:
Click here to join the challenge.

That’s it. You’ll get the details in an email after you sign up!


Jo McMahan, The Grant Coach, has been in the business of writing grants and raising funds for over 25 years. Her experience includes writing grants for schools, hospitals, human needs organizations, and animal rescue groups. Her passion is teaching others how to write grants for their own organizations and helping new grant writers begin their grant writing careers.



3 Steps to Getting Grant Ready

Think you’re ready to write a grant because you’ve found a great source and know the grant writing format? Well, wait just a minute (or a couple of days, if possible.) If you aren’t grant ready, writing grants will be much more difficult. And, if you were to actually get a grant, managing the grant might not be the gift from Heaven you think it will be.

So right now, set aside a couple of days to get grant ready. The best way to be grant ready is to gather all your information together in one place, so you can put your finger on it when you need it.

Here’s how to start getting grant ready:

Step 1:

Start walking around the office and emailing your co-workers with a list of information items you need. You will need to bug your coworkers over and over again until you get the information, because, let’s face it, its not their problem

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Organization Mission statements
  • Current year organizational budget
  • Most recent income statement/statement of activity/balance sheet
  • List of board of directors with affiliations
  • IRS letter designating your organization as a 501 (c) (3)
  • Brochures, articles, newsletters, stories, pictures about your organization
  • Detailed description of your organization, what it does, who it serves, history, accomplishments
  • Wish list of needs with related costs
  • Descriptions and details of programs and projects for which you need funding

Step 2:

As soon as you get a bit of information, make a note where it came from. Next year, when you are looking for updated or current information, your job will be a lot easier.

Step 3:

After you have gathered as much information as you can, make a special file for it in your filing cabinet. Give it a name you can remember. Scan each item if possible so you have it in electronic format and file it on your computer where you can find it easily.

When you have all the information gathered in one place, you’re one step closer to writing your first (or next) grant. You’ll have the information you need at your fingertips and can concentrate on writing, not on hunting for information.