Steps To a Grant Calendar That Will Make Your Life Easier

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

If you are a grant writer, your life is probably crazy with deadlines and spreadsheets. But there is one way to make it much easier.

Design a grant writing calendar that will keep you focused, on time, and in charge of all the details.

Year after year, a grant calendar can be a great tool that will help you only to go after funding that is best suited to your programs and help you stay on good terms with funders.  Develop a grant proposal calendar today, and build a map for future grant fundraising success.  

Creating a comprehensive grants schedule does take time and maybe a little compulsiveness. However, a little work upfront will save you countless hours and resources over the year. You might even get to relax a bit.

Here are some simple steps to get you started on your grant calendar.

Choose a template for your grant proposal calendar

The format you choose depends on your organizational needs, team, and individual work-style. For many organizations, a spreadsheet, divided monthly, works quite 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, deadlines, actions needed to complete the proposal, and the status of the application.  You can find a sample grant calendar template here.

Your schedule should also include a task section. You can list tasks directly on the calendar, or on 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 
  • And the likelihood of receiving funding again 

Make sure to review all grant guidelines yearly, as funding priorities do change.

Begin by finding all grants for which you are eligible. Don’t waste time applying for grants that you will never receive. 

Thoroughly vet each new grant that you think might work for your program. Consider the funders’ priorities, the types and value of grants given, 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? Think about your charity's staff and time commitments on a month-by-month basis. 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. Since these do not change, 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 funders review grant applications, you can plan to send in your applications well before that time.

Fill in 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 with deadlines for each action. After you have completed the task timelines, you may need to shuffle some of your rolling deadlines.

The task section is also a great place to take notes on the application process, including conversations you’ve had with the funders, and lessons learned. You can then refer to these notes the following year when you apply again.

Be realistic

It is better to apply for ten solid, relevant grants than to submit twenty so-so applications. 

Be realistic about the amount of work each submission will take and the amount of time you have. Leave off grants that seem unlikely, or that 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.