Create a Grant Calendar to Boost Your Nonprofit's Chances

Get organized with this step-by-step guide

Grant writer standing in front of her grant calendar for the year.
••• Walter Lockwood/Photolibrary/Getty Images

If your job is to get funding for a nonprofit program, you know how intense the competition is. Creating a grant writing calendar for your organization will keep you focused, on time, and in charge of all the details that can make or break an application for funding.

Once in place, your grant calendar can be a great tool year after year. View it as a road map for future grant fundraising success. True, it takes time and maybe a little compulsive behavior. However, the upfront work will save you countless hours and resources over the year.

Choose a Template for Your Calendar

The format you choose depends on your organization's needs, team, and individual work style. For many organizations, a spreadsheet divided into months works well. Others prefer the greater detail that project management software provides.

Regardless of the format, every grant calendar should give you a snapshot of the month, showing deadlines, actions needed, and the status of the application. Sample grant calendar templates can get you started.

Your schedule should also include a task section. You can list tasks directly on the calendar or under a separate tab. If you are working on grants with other people, use collaborative software such as Google Docs to avoid duplication and ensure that everyone stays up to date. 

Review Your Past Grants

Look over your grants from last year. Decide which ones you will apply for again. Consider:

  • The amount of funding you received
  • How much time the application took
  • The likelihood of receiving funding again 

Make sure to review your grant guidelines yearly as funding priorities change.

Research and Vet New Grants

Begin by finding all grants for which you are eligible.

Thoroughly vet each new grant that you think might work for your program. Consider the funder's priorities, the types and value of the grants it awards, and the amount of work each application will take. 

Consider Your Charity's Official Calendar

Do you have a big fundraiser that takes a lot of your time? Is one of your staff planning an extended vacation? Keep up with your charity's staff and time commitments on a month-by-month basis so that you can keep these constraints in mind when creating your grants planning calendar.​

Fill in the Hard Deadlines

Once you have decided which grants to apply for, fill up your spreadsheet with the grants that have hard time limits. They provide a skeleton over which you can organize the rest of the submissions.

Fill in the Rolling Deadlines

Once you have a picture of the upcoming year and have filled in the hard deadlines, it’s time to fit in the rolling deadlines. If you are applying for corporate giving programs, place them earlier in the year as these sources may run out of money. If you know when a foundation or other funder reviews grant applications, plan to send in your application well before that time.

Fill in the Task Section

Think about each of the tasks needed to complete a proposal. Is your data up to date? Do you need to get internal approval? 

Think about each of the tasks. Then, work backward and enter a deadline for each action. After you have completed the task timelines, you may need to shuffle some of your rolling deadlines.

The task section is a good place for notes on the application process, like information from conversations you’ve had with the funders or lessons learned in previous applications. You can refer to these notes the following year when you apply again.

Be Realistic

It's better to apply for 10 solid, relevant grants than to submit 20 wishful-thinking applications.

Be realistic about the amount of work each submission will take and the amount of time you have. Omit grants that seem unlikely or are beyond the scope of your services.

Keep Improving

A grant calendar is not a static document. If you hear about new funding opportunities, add them. If your program or funding priorities change, alter the schedule. At a minimum, your grants calendar should be reviewed yearly.

Make sure to build time into each year to review your calendar, reflect on your successes, and plan your strategy for the next year. Making a grant calendar takes time upfront, but once you've done the initial work, you are well on your way to a successful grant strategy. 

Kerri Drumm helps nonprofits with facilitation, training, organizational development, and grant writing.