Whether finding grants, meeting deadlines, maintaining compliance, reporting to leaders and funders—you have to be on top of your gram while managing grants.
But the way teams manage grants today is antiquated. It’s scattered, slow, and frankly, inefficient.
This article will give you a step-by-step process of how to use Instrumentl to manage your grants effectively. Whether pre-award or post-award, you’ll learn exactly how to stay on top of the entire grant management process.
What is Grant Management?
Grant management is the process of overseeing and administering grant funds, including application, compliance, reporting, and ensuring the successful implementation of grant-funded projects.
Grant management begins with pre-award activities like searching for and pursuing grant funding:
Finding suitable grant prospects
Writing the grant proposal
Submitting the application
Tracking potential and submitted grants
Winning grant funding is only a small part of the full grant cycle. Following the award, your organization demostrate your impact in the post-award stage.
Most obviously, this is by directing the funding you received toward the relevant projects or programs outlined in your winning proposal. But it also includes a host of activities related to building the relationship with the funder. This includes:
complying with the funder’s requirements,
generating internal reports up the chain and external reports to funders,
Monitoring implementation, and
Submitting renewal proposals for more funding.
From the grant writing and application submission to the final reports, grant management encompasses all of the aspects of receiving and tracking grant funds.
So, how do you start with managing grant funds?
Let’s dive in.
How To Track And Manage Your Grants
Okay, so you're excited to roll up your sleeves and start learning how to track grants. Here’s how to do it.
The best way to manage all of your grants is to use Instrumentl.
Getting started with Instrumentl will make managing your grants a whole lot easier.
Step 1: Set Up Your Nonprofit within Instrumentl
After you’re in Instrumentl, you will need to start creating a new project. You’ll have three steps to complete:
Share details on where you’re located.
Create a project name.
Set up your grant search.
You will start by entering your organization’s information.
First, select the geography in which your nonprofit operates – within the United States, outside of the United States, or both. This will help match you with grants that are relevant to your area.
Once done, click “Save and Continue.”
Next, in the “Overview” tab, create a project name. If you make multiple projects, creating a project name related to your program or client will make it easy to identify them.
In this example, we’ll create a “Project Name,” called, “Promoting Arts and Culture.”
Select, “Matches & Tracking” so that Instrumentl will match you with relevant grants that fit your criteria. Tracking only projects is best used if you already have grants and you just want to track them within Instrumentl.
Once done, click “Save and Continue.”
Fill In Details On Your Nonprofit
In the last step, before you can see your grants, you’ll need to set up your matches. In our example below, we chose a Public College/University and also Museum/Library/Zoo.
Next, you will choose if you would like to see grants for faith-based organizations or programs and the area – inside the United States, outside the United States, or both – along with where your project serves:
We’re not a faith-based organization, so we’ll select “No” when it asks us if we’d like to “specifically for faith-based” grants. Then we selected the United States for the location.
Our field of work for this example is “Art and Culture.” We also selected that we want to see grants for professional art and culture organizations:
Pro tip: To be matched with all relevant grants, select 2-3 fields of work. That way, you’re not narrowing down the pool of relevant grants too much. You’re leaving yourself open to related grants that may be worth pursuing, even if they’re not an exact match.
Next, set a minimum or maximum type of grant you’d like to be matched with. This will filter out grants that are either too small, making them not worth pursuing, or too large, making them too competitive.
In our example, we set the minimum to $1000 and no maximum.
In our example, we’ll choose “General Operating Expense” for our ideal types of funding we are pursuing.
Note: when asked, “What will you use the funds for?” many nonprofits that need the funds for operations will click “General Operating Expense.” That is because, unless you are looking for specialized grants, this will make sure you’re matched with grants that are unrestricted, providing more flexibility in how you use the funds.
Click “save and exit” because you’re done with this section!
Invite Your Team Members
Grant management isn’t done in isolation. Invite your team members who will help manage your grants within Instrumentl.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
Instrumentl’s grant matches resemble an email inbox. The matches are on the left, and when you click on one, the details will show on the right.
Based on our search criteria, Instrumentl found 75 grants for us – 52 foundation grants, 12 corporate grants, and 2 government grants.
The left side shows all your matches:
“Funding Opportunity Matches” are individual active grants.
“Funder Matches” are funders who match your search criteria.
The right side of the screen expands the details of the grants you clicked on the left. Under, “FUNDING OPPORTUNITY,” you will see the details of the grant, such as the amount, the funder’s website, their application period, and data from their 990 reports.
Review Grant Matches And Prioritize Relevant Opportunities
As you find grants that you’re interested in exploring more, review the funder’s 990 reports to dig deeper. Click on “FUNDER 990 REPORT” to view visualized data from their 990 reports.
This will show you where past grantees are located, if they are similar to your nonprofit, and what types of grants they have been awarded.
Grant writing is a time-consuming process. Reviewing this information in Instrumentl will help you narrow down your list or prospects to only those that you’re most competitive for.
As you review the grant matches, you can save the ones you are interested in exploring further.
We changed the status of our saved grant opportunity, “Researching,” since we are still reviewing other grants, but want to save this to look into later.
After you scan your list of grant opportunities and save several, here’s how to go deeper and view key insights on funders.
First you will want to go to the tracker where you saved your grants. “Tracker” at the top of your screen.
Once in the Tracker, click on the grant opportunity you would like to review.
Clicking the opportunity will open a snapshot of the details of the grant opportunity. You will see that it lists the past grantees in Oklahoma and a median giving between $2,000 and $88,200. That’s quite a range!
Below, you will see important eligibility and ineligibility requirements for this grant funding.
If you would like more information, click on the “990 report” button on the right-hand side.
Here you will see an overview of the average grant amount, median grant amount, and contact information for this funder. Be sure to review the key people listed to see if you have any mutual connections.
Next you will see the key financial stats on their giving trends over the years. Reviewing these sections will outline their giving average and median, the number of grants, their assets, and much more.
Having these insights on funders is critical as you begin to start writing grant proposals. It will help you decide:
How much to ask for in a grant
What programs or projects will be most competitive for funding
How you should position the narrative of your application
And more. Instrumentl’s funder insights will give you an edge.
Prioritize Which Grants To Apply To In Your Tracker
All of your saved grants are organized in your grant “Tracker,” making it easy to manage all the grants you want to pursue.
As you continue to review grants, you can save them to your tracker. Set the status of them after it is saved to "Researching," and then update it as you move them through the grant management process, for example, to "Application In Progress" or "Application Submitted."
Doing so will make it easy to keep track of many grants as you continue to move toward submitting your grant proposals.
Step 3: Store and Manage All Your Grants In One Place
Below, you can see we have now saved multiple grants in our tracker.
As you save grants to your tracker, your grant team can manage all the grants they want to pursue. Instrumentl makes nonprofit grant management that easy!
Review Upcoming Grant Deadlines On Your Calendar
Keep track of your grant deadlines, such as LOI submissions or application deadlines in the “Calendar” tab.
Instrumentl’s Calendar view can store your team’s to-dos and deadlines, making it an easy way to vsualize what everyone has to accomplish.
Clicking in on a specific Calendar event will open up a modal on the grant opportunity or task.
From here, you can see a snapshot of the grant again, an overview of the amount you plan to request, any tasks for your team, and key documents.
Step 4: Divide Up Grant Work Among Your Team
The tracking section is a great area to divide up the nonprofit grant management work amongst your team.
For example, you can click into individual grant opportunities from the tracker and assign tasks to team members.
You can also store documents related to individual grants in your “Documents” section.
Step 5: Manage Your Awards As They Come
The “Awards” tab within the tracker helps you manage payments as they come in once you win your grant awards.
That way, you can easily manage your pre-award and post-award grant work in one place.
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Step 6: Report on Your Work To Stakeholders
Finally, you can use the “Tracker” section to generate reports within Instrumentl.
You can create reports that detail your nonprofit’s opportunities, awards, tasks, and contacts all in one place.
Grant Management Checklist for Pre-Award and Post-Award
Grant management can be overwhelming, but breaking down the tasks for each stage of your grant award process can help make managing your grant less daunting. There are two stages we will focus on below:
Managing grants pre-award and then having a post-award management checklist are both important to managing grants. We will cover both of the above stages and provide tips for ongoing grant management.
Managing Grants Pre-Award
The goal of the pre-award stage is to position your nonprofit for successful grant awards before you even apply for them. Here are some things to consider:
Clear funding goals: You should be able to clearly articulate your vision and mission, as well as your goals for your nonprofit. That way, you know what you plan to accomplish so you can make sure the grant funding aligns with your goals.
Search for funders: Getting a list of possible donors allows you to start your funding research immediately. You can use research tools like Instrumentl to curate prospects and save the best matches because these tools take into account your nonprofit’s mission and programs. Instrumentl considers your nonprofit’s mission and programs, along with what type of grants your organization can actually pursue.
Develop proposals: You should do your research so your proposals address the grant you are applying for. This means addressing all of the grantor’s questions, following the instructions and outlines for the application requirements, and checking – and rechecking – your budget for accuracy and completeness.
Managing Grants Post-Award
Great news – you were awarded a grant! After celebrating this important milestone, you can shift to working on what to do post-award with this post-award management checklist:
Align with requirements: Some grants have specific contract requirements and others are less formal. No matter what, you will want to familiarize yourself with the immediate documentation requirements of your new grant award. Once you identify the requirements within your grant agreement, you can prepare a plan to manage and meet those accountability metrics.
Budget management: Immediately after receiving your award, you will want to set up an accounting system to appropriately allocate funds and expenditures, per your grant agreement.
There are two main tasks you will do during your grant period: reporting and monitoring.
Reporting: Your grant agreement will outline specific reporting requirements, including pulling financial data, so you should create a schedule that allows time to create these reports. This is in addition to any IRS reporting requirements. Typically, you will need to prepare a financial overview, work accomplished, outcomes, alterations to the original plan, and supporting artifacts.
Fiscal monitoring: This should be a principal focus, especially with grants that reimburse expenditures rather than pay upfront. Not tracking your spending could also result in overspending with no grant award to cover the entirety of your
11 Grant Management Best Practices to Adopt
Now that you know how to manage and track your grants using Instrumental, here are some best practices to guide you through managing grants from beginning to end:
1. Prioritize your funding needs: You first need to identify exactly what funding goals you have for your organization. This could be a specific project launch, sustaining existing program efforts, or even capacity building for operations. Knowing and prioritizing your funding needs will help you filter through all of the grants you find in Instrumentl to determine which one is in line with your organization’s mission and vision.
2. Curate a list of possible donors: Consider the following places you may already have potential connections so that you don’t end up applying for grants you do not qualify for:
Suggestions from board members or stakeholders
3. Use a database to research: Using a fundraising tool like Instrumentl streamlines the research stage of the grant cycle by sifting out opportunities you cannot actually work on and only showing you active grants. As the steps illustrate above, Instrumentl shows you grant opportunities that specifically match your nonprofit’s profile.
4. Organize your grants: Since many nonprofit organizations have multiple grant awards at once, you can use our tracking feature to keep each grant organized throughout their respective grant cycles. That way, you can identify where you are in the grant cycles and keep track of the requirements for each. We have templates that you can also use to organize your financial statements, staff, and planning.
5. Create a grant tracking calendar: We suggest you use a shared calendar to track your grant application submission deadlines, reporting requirements, and grant activities. That way, your entire staff will know what is upcoming and when grant reports are required to be completed.
6. Assign tasks: You should clearly define the roles of each individual in relation to the grant activities and reporting requirements. That way, there is no confusion over who needs to do which piece of the work, and the grant management is more streamlined and efficient.
7. Track your spending: Almost all grant awards outline the requirements to track your grant expenditures. For example, some grants will operate on a reimbursement basis while others will allocate proactively for you to spend with cash on hand. You will need to have a consistent and clear protocol to track your spending so you can prove where and how these funds are ultimately spent.
8. Keep artifacts and celebrate success: You should keep artifacts to show your efforts and activities. For example, news clippings, pictures, agendas, and other notable and shareable items can be kept in a folder to show your grantmakers and stakeholders that they are part of something exciting and impactful.
9. Streamline grant tracking and reporting: Almost all grant awards will have some kind of reporting requirement. Using grant management software like Instrumentl allows you to better track your grants throughout their entire lifecycle. When you save a grant to your Tracker, you can set up different tasks for yourself and your teammates to ensure your organization’s standard operating procedures are followed to the point of submission.
10. Schedule reports: If your grant agreements don’t have a schedule of required reporting (most do), it is recommended that you create your own and plan to share reports with your grantmaker. Put these on your shared calendar and be sure to give yourself time to build the reports prior to their deadlines.
11. Share with stakeholders: One of the most critical elements of reporting that is not often included in your grant agreement is communication and transparency with your stakeholders. It is a good idea to schedule regular times to check in with your stakeholders on your efforts relating to your funding streams.
Wrapping Up: How to Manage Grants Effectively
Developing a grant management process to implement in your nonprofit is a sound way to feel confident you are meeting the requirements of your grant agreements. This is even more true when you are juggling more than one grant at once.
We have covered how to manage grants by providing a quick reference on what to consider pre-grant award, post-grant award, and throughout your grant cycle. We also offered some best practices for prospecting, tracking, and reporting through the grant management cycle.