If you’ve ever had a nightmare about missing a grant deadline, you’re in good company.
If you apply for one or two grants a year, the process is manageable. Stocky notes and personal reminders will do the trick. But once you start pursuing 5, 10, or even 20-plus grants per year, you need a system.
This is why you absolutely have to use a grant-tracking tool. It automates the grant process, houses all of your important information in one place, and - most importantly - tracks and reminds you of deadlines.
Sounds perfect, right? Well, keep reading - this article is going to:
Explain what grant proposal tracking is
Unpack why grant tracking is important
Teach you how to start grant tracking
Share some useful tips about how to successfully manage your grants
After reading this article, we promise you’ll sleep soundly; no missed-deadline nightmares in your future!
What Does It Mean to Track Grants?
Grant tracking refers to the organized process of monitoring, recording, and managing various aspects of grants awarded to the organization.
Without the right tools to keep your grant writing efforts on track, the process of finding and applying for funding can become overwhelming very quickly.
A grant application pipeline keeps detailed records of the following areas:
Detailed records of grant application deadlines,
Reporting requirements, and financial expenditures related to the grant
There are many methods that you can use to track your grants, ranging from a spreadsheet to grants management software.
Whatever tool you use, grant tracking will streamline your grant efforts and allow you to increase your efficiency as a fundraiser.
Keep reading to learn why it’s super important to implement a solid grant tracking process.
Why Is It So Important to Track Your Grants?
An effective grant tracking process helps make sure your team doesn’t miss any critical steps in the grant process and can help optimize your workflows.
Let’s dive into some of the top reasons why you want to make sure you’re tracking your grants.
Meeting Application Deadlines
An effective grant tracking process will ensure that you never miss a deadline for funding.
You can also track deadlines for grant reports, which will help you stay in good standing with your current funders as well!
Speaking of current funders, it’s critically important to make sure that you stay in compliance with your existing grants.
Different funders have different requirements that are tied to their grant funding. This might be in relation to project/program outcomes, financial reporting, or even recognition/acknowledgement of the grant.
Failing to adhere to the requirements of each specific funder will jeopardize your ability to secure future funds. But tracking dozens of funding requirements from dozens of funders makes this process complicated!
A grant tracking process helps you to track and forecast your expected income.
By keeping track of what grants are coming down the pipeline, and how much you will be requesting from each, you can get a sense of the total amount of potential income that might be coming your way.
Grant tracking also fosters collaboration among your grant team by capturing your work, timelines and processes in a centralized location where everyone on your team can easily access it.
A good grant tracking process will also allow you to see who is working on specific tasks so that you can ensure nothing is slipping through the cracks.
Avoid Frustration and Burnout
A well-organized grant tracking process will help you avoid both frustration and burnout. It will streamline how you pursue grants, allowing you to maximize your time and energy.
So, now you know how a grant application tracking process can help you. You might be wondering, “How do I get started?” Keep reading, and we will walk you through how to create a grant tracker in just a few short steps!
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How To Create A Grant Tracker In 5 Steps [Spreadsheet Template Included]
Grant tracking pipelines are straightforward and simple: they show you each of the grants you are applying for, grouped by the stage they are in, and provide an overview of your grant writing strategy.
In this section, we’re going to list out a few simple steps to help you get started on creating your own tracker.
Step 1: Set Up Your Nonprofit within Instrumentl
The first step to creating a grant tracker is to sign up for your free trial of Instrumentl.
Simply navigate to the Instrumentl website and click “Try 14 Days Free” and fill out the sign up form. No credit card required!
Voila! You’ve got 14 days to try Instrumentl for free. Now, let’s create a new project so you can start tracking your grants.
Create Your First Project
To get started, select the ‘+ Project’ button at the top left of your screen.
Specify Your Location
On the first page, you’ll enter some basic information about your nonprofit, including where you are located. You can select an entire state, or dial down to specific counties within a state. If your organization operates globally, you can select that option as well.
You can also enter in your organization’s fiscal year, so that Instrumentl can align grant deadlines with your yearly schedule.
Step 2: Upload Your Grants To Instrumentl
On the next page, you will enter your Project Name and Project Type.
Set Up Your Tracking Workspace
The name can be anything that will help distinguish your project; in the example below, the project is “Dropout Prevention,” a project to support childhood education.
For the purposes of grant tracking only, you will select the “Tracking”option under “Project Type.”
Invite Your Team Members
After entering your project information and selecting your project type as “Tracking”, you’ll see this page next.
We told you that grant tracking fosters collaboration among your development team - and we weren’t lying! Using Instrumentl, you can add your teammates to your project and review your grant matches and tracking information together.
Here, you can enter in the information of people on your team so that you can work collaboratively to launch your grant tracking efforts.
Download and Fill In the Grant Tracking Spreadsheet
Once you’ve entered your teammates into the previous screen, it’s time to start entering your existing grants into Instrumentl.
With Instrumentl you can save you hours of manual data entry by uploading your existing grant spreadsheet.
To do this, you simply enter your existing grant data into this template, and click “Upload Your Spreadsheet” on the below screen.
This process can take some time depending on how many grants are in your current grant database. So, be patient! It can take up to a week for your grants to finish uploading.
Alternatively, Manually Add Your Most Important Grants
Also keep in mind that you can add grants manually if you prefer to do it that way, or if you don’t have very many grants to enter. Instrumentl makes it a breeze!
First, you’ll enter in the funder’s name or EIN number in the field where it says “Type Funder Name or EIN”.
As you do this, Instrumentl will populate funders and funding opportunities that match the keywords you’ve typed in.
You simply click on the correct one - in this case, the New York Life Foundation - and then the next step is to choose the specific funding opportunity related to that funder that you are interested in.
Once you select the correct opportunity, you will be asked to add a status as well as any relevant notes.
Click “Save” when you’re done.
Step 3: View Your Grant Tracker
Once you add your grants to the tracker, you will see them all listed out right on your screen.
It lays out all the relevant information about all of your saved grants, right in front of you. At the top you can get a highlevel view of how you’re tracking toward your fundraising goals.
As you apply to grants, the “STATUS” window will update accordingly. Likewise, you can set goals for how much you want to raise. Click “EDIT” to do so.
Review Your Grants In Your Tracker
Below, you’ll see all your grant opportunities adn their details broken down into an easy to read table.
The table includes the grant’s name and funder, the grant deadline, the status of the project, and the amount of the grant award.
Outline Your To-Dos For Each Grant
To keep on top of your to-do list for each opportunity, add a task that needs to be completed. Simply navigate to the grant and click “+ Add Task.”
After clicking, a modal will pop up with details for your task. Fill in the following information:
Description of the task (for example: report due)
The task type (LOI, Full Proposal, Report, Cultivation, or General)
The deadline of when the task is due
The assignee (aka, who is assigning the task)
The collaborator (who needs to complete the task)
Likewise, you can add notes as reminders for each grant. Simply type them into the “Notes” column.
Update Your Grants As You Submit Applications
To change the status of a grant, simply click on the little carrot next to the current status, and a new menu of status options will appear. Select the correct status from the list.
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Step 4: Find More Grants to Track By Enabling Matches
Once you enter all your grants into your tracker or they’re uploaded, you’re ready to begin discovering even more good-fit funding opportunities!
Scroll to the bottom of your Tracker and click the “Enable Matches” button to get started on finding more grants to apply for!
Once you click that button, you’ll be taken to the “Edit Your Project” page.
Under “Project Type”, click the “Matches & Tracking” option to enable new grant recommendations.
Select The Kinds Of Grants You Want To Be Matched With
Then, you’ll navigate through the “Matches Setup” page. The first pieces of information that you’ll need to provide are your applicant type, and whether or not you’d like to see opportunities specifically for faith-based organizations.
Select Your Field Of Work
Following that, you’ll enter in the geographic areas that your project will serve, as well as the field of work that your project falls within.
Pro tip: When you’re entering in your fields of work, you can either type into the field or browse all of the existing categories. We recommend choosing anywhere from 2-5 categories to get the most accurate list of results.
Specify The Funders Your Looking For
Instrumentl will also ask what size grants you’re looking for (in USD). You can leave these fields blank if you have no minimum or maximum amounts.
You’ll also need to select what you’re using the funds for. You can check all of the options that apply to your specific project.
Lastly, you’ll need to choose what kinds of funders you’d like see opportunities from. Again, you can select all that apply to you. See the above screenshot for an example of what this will look like.
Once you plug in all of this information, Instrumentl will search its comprehensive database to generate a list of good-fit funding opportunities for your project or program.
Step 5: Save Grants to Your Grant Tracker
Now, it’s time for the fun part - reviewing the grants you’ve been matched with!
When you first start reviewing your matches, you’ll notice that Instrumentl resembles an email inbox. The matches are on the left, and when you click on one, the details will show on the right.
The left side shows all your matches:
“Funding Opportunity Matches” are individual active grants.
“Funder Matches” are funders who match your search criteria.
Scan For Relevant Grants
The “FUNDING OPPORTUNITY” tab provides you with a more detailed overview of the funding opportunity, including eligibility requirements.
This tab also lets you navigate right to the funder website, share the grant opportunity via email, or even download the overview as a PDF.
This setup allows you to quickly review potential grants to see if they’re relevant.
Save Good-Fit Opportunities
If a grant looks like it’s worth looking into more, you can save the grant opportunity in your project tracker by clicking the “Save” button.
Tips for Managing A Lot Of Grants year-Round
Grant management, or the processes and methods behind fulfilling the requirements of a grant, can be easier through the use of a successful grant pipeline.
Here are some grant management tips to keep in mind:
Maintain ongoing internal monitoring to ensure compliance
Optimize the funds allocated to each grant with budget-to-actual reporting
Consider unique ledger codes for each grant, including coding sub-layers to track requirement nuances
Create segments to allocate grant dollars across multiple fiscal years, reflecting the way money is spent
Report on funding according to your unique general ledger structure, avoiding risky manual processes outside your accounting system
Audits are guaranteed for government grant accounting, especially large grants. Get your data in a row before you need it to avoid unnecessary stress. Ensure that every grant dollar expenditure is traceable in the event of an audit
Certify 100% compliance with the terms of the grant and accuracy in reporting in order to safeguard your funds
Wrapping Things Up: How to Better Manage Grants with a Grant Tracker
Creating your grant application pipeline begins with an honest assessment of your organization’s needs and capabilities to determine the kinds of grants you should pursue.
Many nonprofits will begin by managing funding via spreadsheets, but eventually, you’ll need to invest in an Grant Management platform like Instrumentl.
Instrumentl lets you find, manage, and track your grant opportunities in a single, easy-to-use platform. It is—by far— the best tool to use to bring your grant prospecting, tracking, and management all in one place. It also allows you to seamlessly collaborate with other members of your development team, increasing your fundraising efficiency across all parts of the grant cycle.