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Practically Speaking: Developing a Grants "Handy" File

Jan 15

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Tuesday, January 15, 2013  RssIcon

By Susannah Mayhall

 

While each grant proposal will have its own set of specific guidelines and required supporting documents, grant writers can save a lot of time (and probably spare some headaches) by maintaining a "Frequently Used" file of the most commonly-requested supporting documents and materials. Depending on the type of programs to which your organization typically applies for funding, your list may vary from the one below.  However, determining which documents to file and keeping the files up to date can smooth out the proposal development process for several different grants and, if you find yourself pinched for time, can mean the difference between a high-quality, successful submission and an unsatisfactory or incomplete proposal.

 

The following documents are either frequently requested by funders or will help you to flesh out proposals for a variety of grants. Make sure that you check these documents periodically so that the most up-to-date versions are on file, ensuring that they will be as helpful as possible when it comes time to write a grant.

 

Current Resumes of Key Personnel

Tracking down the resumes of people who are probably busy and may not be directly involved in the proposal development process can easily turn into a nightmare. Although the list of "key personnel" will vary depending on the project at hand, it's a good idea to collect, at a minimum, the resumes of directors or executives who manage the operational aspects of the organization (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Executive Director, Program Director, etc.) and those of key management staff who frequently oversee large projects.

 

You may also want to collect the resumes of your organization's board members. While you may not necessarily need to provide resumes for members of the board, these documents will come in handy when you are asked to list contact information, titles, resumes, and/or roles of board members.

 

Depending on your organization's structure, the resumes of other key personnel may also be useful to file for easy access. In a similar vein, an up-to-date organizational chart listing personnel names and titles could prove useful for a variety of proposals, if only to serve as a template for developing a project-specific organizational structure or determining who to contact for information.

 

Financial Information

For foundation proposals, it is highly likely you will be asked to provide some number of organizational budgets and/or financial statements—perhaps only for the current and previous fiscal years, but possibly for more. If available, keep the last three fiscal years' financial statements in your file, as well as your organization's current budget, and make sure to acquire new copies when they are released.

 

Tax-Exempt Status

For nonprofit organizations applying to foundations, proof of tax-exempt status is frequently required. File a copy of your IRS determination letter, most recent Form 990, and/or other documents demonstrating proof of nonprofit status.

 

Organizational Background and Activity

If your organization publishes an annual report, file the most recent copy. This document will be helpful not only if it is requested by the funder, but also for general background information and discussion of what your organization is currently doing in the community.

 

Any information concerning the organization's history (founding year, progress, development, etc.) is also good to file so that it is easily accessible. Don't rely on your memory alone or you are liable to make inaccurate statements or omit information that could strengthen your proposal.

 

Partners and Affiliates

If your organization has worked with partners or affiliates in the past, or is developing new relationships, keep a file for each partner and include contacts, meeting agendas, timelines, memoranda of understanding, letters of commitment, or any other documents demonstrating the partnership and detailing the work that was performed jointly between your organizations.

 

Past Grant Proposals

While it is not recommended to submit carbon-copy grant applications, past narratives and documents can be extremely useful when drafting a new grant proposal. Never throw out any documents related to a past grant submission—this information will be vital for analyzing past projects, reporting on a project's success, writing new proposals, and many other uses.

 

After each submission, make sure to organize all of the documents used to prepare the proposal and keep a full copy of exactly what was submitted to the funder. Should you have to demonstrate your proposal's compliance with the grant guidelines, having accurate documentation is paramount. In addition, thorough grant records will make successive proposal writing processes easier.

 

Proposal Submission Registration and Login Information

As proposal submission becomes an increasingly electronic process, make sure that your electronic registration information is up-to-date and secure. While it is imperative that login information be kept secure and private, it should be safely recorded so that it can be accessed by appropriate personnel if necessary. If your organization has or is planning to submit Federal grant proposals, double-check your System for Award Management (SAM) and Grants.gov registration and login information and keep current and reliable contact information for your E-Business Point of Contact and Authorized Organization Representatives. Running into registration or login problems too close to the deadline can jeopardize your ability to submit a proposal on time. In addition, you will want to make sure that appropriate authorization steps are taken should the E-Biz POC or any AORs leave the organization.

 

This list is by no means exhaustive. However, it's a good start to organizing your grant information and will hopefully make your life a little easier as you prepare future proposals and administer current awards. Revisit your "Handy Files" often to ensure that they are current and keep in mind that they should be thoroughly organized so that new personnel, replacements, project managers, and other key personnel will be able to use them.

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