Updated: Aug 31
New Year’s Eve 2022 was a fun one in my house. For the first time in several years, my wife and I were able to find a babysitter and enjoy the day with our friends. We hosted a small party at our house, stayed up much later than parents of small children normally do, and enjoyed celebrating the year that was.
After the guests left, the dust settled, and the pounding headache (that was entirely my fault) subsided, it was time to think about the year to come and all we hope to accomplish.
As a goal-oriented person, I enjoy thinking of what I want to accomplish and setting goals for myself. In my role as a consultant, I now get the joy of sharing goal-setting with my clients. As the calendar turns to January, it’s a great time to step back, take stock, and set goals for the year ahead.
Grant programs are an especially useful area for the exercise. In the frenetic pace of fundraising work, it’s easy to lose sight of the little things that can take a grant program to the next level. We write the applications, submit the reports, and forget about the extra steps that take us from maintaining revenue to growing revenue.
If you’re ready to grow your grant program in 2023, these New Year’s Resolutions will be a good starting point:
In 2023, I’ll steward grantors like I would individual donors
It’s easy for us to get complacent with grant funders. The process can feel formulaic, and it’s easy to forget there are human beings on the other side of the process. We write the same application, submit an updated budget, and get the same gift we received the year before. The stability of the funding relationship is great, but the lack of growth is frustrating.
This year, reach out to your funders. Ask for a coffee or a Zoom meeting. Share exciting developments from your organization. Even if that funder has turned down a funding requ est, bring your work to life with a personal connection.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you connect personally with a funder.
Over time, these connections turn into robust relationships, which will result in more funding for your organization. It takes time and persistence, but this stewardship is worth the effort.
In 2023, I’ll remember to thank grantors
This builds on the last resolution and seems obvious to most fundraisers, but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget. When you don’t have a personal relationship with a funder, it becomes easier to forget the importance of a personal thank you.
After you receive a grant, send a thank you, but then follow up with an action step. If possible, invite the Program Officer to do a site visit and sit down for a meeting with the Executive Director or CEO. Saying thank you in a genuine, heartfelt way will build a funding relationship into something that has staying power.
In 2023, I’ll update my standard grant language
It’s easy to copy and paste grant language from the previous year, submit a grant, and then realize it included numbers from two (or more) years ago.
The start of a new year is a great time to look over standard language and find any areas that need some updates. It could just be changing output numbers or it could involve describing new programs. Whatever the change, now is the time to revamp your boilerplate language.
In 2023, I’ll build and follow a grant calendar
Stop me if you’ve lived through this fundraising nightmare before:
“Oh no, I totally forgot that this grant is due next week!”
Our lives in fundraising are packed with more small tasks than we can begin to count. If we don’t have systems in place, it’s easy to lose important dates like this in the shuffle.
The first thing I do for all of my clients is prepare a grant calendar for the year, and that becomes a touchpoint so we can stay on top of deadlines and reporting goals. Sometimes grants (especially those with rolling deadlines) can be moving targets, but it’s vital that it all be saved in a central location so the process can move efficiently.
Grant fundraising is hard - you don’t have to do it alone!
These things all sound easy on paper, but with so much on our plates, it’s hard to effectively manage a strong grant program.