How to Write a Grant Report: Templates, Tips and More
Acquiring a grant involves weeks of patiently waiting on the edge of your seat while a determination is being made. Finally...your grant application is approved, and the funds are on the way!
But wait – there’s more?
Yes! You’ll now need to write a grant report.
A successful grant report will not only satisfy the requirements of the funder but will provide the opportunity to capture the meaningful work of your organization.
This article will teach you how to follow-up your grant acquisition with a winning grant report that will cultivate a lasting relationship with your grant funder.
What is a Grant Report?
A grant report is a summary report reflecting the goals and outcomes of the original grant request. It details how the funds you received were utilized by your organization and the impact that it created on the community. It also contains information on challenges or changes which may have occurred during the grant period.
Writing a grant report is a crucial step in the grant process. Not only does the grant report assure the funder that you are utilizing the grant for the intended purpose, but the grant report also gives you an opportunity to highlight your organization, its impact, and the role that the grantmaking foundation or funder played in your work.
A successful grant report is the first step in cultivating a lasting relationship and ongoing financial partnership. A clear and quality grant report can often pave the way for future or increased funding, while a lackluster grant report can create a barrier in subsequent asks.
Now that you are clear on exactly what a grant report is and its purpose, the next skill to acquire is how to write one. Keep reading below to learn how to construct a stellar grant report in five simple steps.
How to Write a Grant Report: 5 Steps to Follow
Writing a grant report doesn’t have to be a painful process. Nonprofit leaders can easily learn a method that will both help the report at hand become easier to create and also streamline future grant reporting requirements.
Here are five key steps to follow when creating a meaningful grant report:
Step 1: Address the funder and say thank you.
Seems simple, right? But you’d be surprised how often the small things that go so far are so easily forgotten.
When writing your narrative report, refer to your award letter and address the person listed as the main contact. This person might be a staff member or a member of a foundation Board. If no specific person is listed, thank the grantmaking organization or its Board as a whole.
Throughout the report, remember that your audience is composed of people who may or may not be quite as familiar with your organization as you are. They will be reading the report, often sharing with a team of colleagues about the outcomes, and potentially even discussing future support.
Keeping this in mind, at both the beginning and end of your narrative report, be sure to reiterate your appreciation of the grant funds you’ve received, as well as the giver’s investment in your cause and commitment to the community. Also make sure to express your hopes for a continued relationship.
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Step 2: Check requirements.
This is another simple step that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
Typically, an award letter outlines specific grant reporting requirements and a timeline for them. For instance, a one-time general operation grant may only have a final report requirement, but a multi-year or project-based grant will often have a mid-term progress report requirement as well. These are key differences to pinpoint.
Below is an example of an award letter which clarifies this particular grant’s reporting requirements.
Since you will have to gather the financial and impact information, which will be discussed below, mark these important requirement dates on the calendar and give yourself enough time to prepare. Nothing is worse than hustling on a Friday at 4pm to submit a grant report you had six months to complete.
Also, make sure you are sending the report through the proper platform. Often well-established grantmaking organizations and government grants will provide an online portal and their own templates in which to file grant reports.
Step 3: Describe the goals and their outcomes.
For this step, refer to your original application and request. Summarize the goals that you had outlined in them along with why you were asking for funding for these goals. Then, reflect on the progress or outcome of these goals.
For a mid-year or mid-project grant progress report, explain the status of the project and its proposed timeline. It could be helpful to consider the following questions:
- What outcomes have been accomplished so far?
- What still needs to be accomplished?
- Have there been any changes to the original proposal?
- If so, what changes?
For a final report, again, refer to your original request and, if applicable, any mid-term reports you have created. Then, describe the outcomes the awarded funds have contributed to. This is also the place to call out any discrepancies in the original proposal and the results. Refer to the following questions if you’re unsure of how to do this:
- Did the organization need to change course and utilize funds for a different community need than originally proposed?
- Did a practical issue come up that required the project to take a different angle?
Understanding how to properly address such discrepancies is especially crucial given the whirlwind that has been the past year and a half. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated changes, we have seen many organizations change their service delivery, put existing projects on hold, or develop entirely new initiatives to address new pressing needs.
Remember that funders live in the same world as their grantees, and, in most cases, have background knowledge about nonprofits and their often-fluid needs. As a result, most are understanding if a change occurs throughout the course of the grant period.
But just be prepared to provide a thoughtful explanation about the change that still embodies the mission of your organization, the intended purpose of the grant, and the alignment to the requirements of the grant.
Step 4: Create an impact report.
Grantmaking agencies and foundations are not just disbursing funds — they are investing in the mission of both their role as a philanthropic agent and your organization as an agent to carry out its intended purpose. This is the reason that grantmakers are often selective in their awards. The grantee is a steward of not only funds but the provider’s own mission, values, and branding.
It’s important to capture the impact of the grant funds both qualitatively and quantitatively. If your organization used funding to start a new program, do you have data to share about the impact of this program?
For example, how many clients were served, pounds of food delivered, animals housed, meals provided, etc.? Did the money granted allow you to hire more staff who served more patrons? And further, how did your organization’s project or program or its general operations make a difference in the community as a whole?
Grantors also appreciate evidence that demonstrates a more widespread return on investment (ROI) within a broader community and its systems. Through your work, did you collaborate with municipalities, community groups or other nonprofits to accomplish a collective goal or address a need?
Since the true impact of an organization or its programs is not usually conveyed by numbers and stats alone, provide qualitative data in your impact report as well. Share testimonials from clients, success stories, and action shots of your organization out there making a difference.
If applicable and required permissions are in place, share videos or links to first-hand accounts of your clients and the awarded grant dollars creating impact.
Pictured below is a wonderful example from Catholic Charities of Denver. This simple impact report presents the organization’s accomplishments, its data, and a client testimonial all in an engaging one-page document.
Step 5: Account for expenses and budget.
In keeping with the general due diligence of a successful nonprofit, you should be able to accurately demonstrate how all awarded funds were utilized.
A final grant report should contain a concise description that reflects the actual costs of the project for which the funds were allocated. This could include staffing, material needs, technology needs, rent, utilities, and any other expenses.
A mid-term report should include the same elements but also the projected remaining costs.
Grant reports for funds utilized in general operations should include an explanation of the overall budget of the organization and at minimum, what percentage of the grant funds were part of maintaining the organization’s overall operations.
An important insight to keep in mind:
One of the biggest deterrents to receiving future funding is inaccurate or unclear reporting of expenses and how awarded funds were utilized. A layperson should easily be able to read this section of the grant report and say, “Ok great. I see where the money was used and for what purpose.”
Templates for Grant Reports
As mentioned above, many funders will use their own specific grant reporting template. But if you’re responsible for writing your own grant report from scratch or just want to use a general template as a guide, here are a few resources:
- A grant narrative report should succinctly summarize the project and the use of funds. It will give the grantee an opportunity to describe any challenges. And it will welcome feedback for the grantor. The Nelson County Community Fund provides a good example of a grant template from a nonprofit grantmaking foundation here. Take a look at an example of a municipal grant reporting template here. Both are simple and straightforward, yet cover all the bases.
- A grant progress report will entail giving a status update on grant funds that are still being utilized. The City of Richmond provides example templates for a grant progress report and its subsequent final report here.
- Many other templates are available for free download. Peruse a collection of other examples for example at SampleTemplates here which may give you a good starting point for your organization’s grant reporting.
Other Tips For Preparing Your Grant Report
Create a timeline for completion.
Astute funders will be able to tell who had to hustle to complete a report and who set aside the necessary time to do it well. Often multiple team members may need to provide information for the narrative report and the expense portion.
Create a timeline that allows everyone to send you their pieces of the required information. Give clear assignments many weeks beforehand. Set the goal for completion of the report at least two weeks before the due date. This will give you enough time to plan for the unexpected and sidestep any delays caused by vacations, illnesses, and the normal unexpected ebbs and flows of a nonprofit organization.
Is there anything unclear in the grant reporting requirements or the template provided by the funder? For example, do they want a report on a particular project’s total progress to date or just a report on the specific part of the project which they funded? In the final report for a multi-year grant, are they requesting financials from the project start date or just from the last grant progress report? It’s better to be clear on the expectations of the report than to send something that is incomplete or does not fulfill the requirements.
Proofread and review.
As with any important document, make sure the report passes through a spelling and grammar check. The final product should be professional, and free of typos or grammar mistakes. The days of struggling with grammar and spelling are over. Use free apps like Hemingway Editor or Grammarly to ensure a polished final product.
Writing Grant Reports - Wrap Up: Let Your Successes Shine!
A grant report, though an important formality in the process, is not just about fulfilling requirements. This is a forum to celebrate your accomplishments and let your funders know how important their grant money is to carry out your organization’s mission.
A final key point:
Successful nonprofits should not struggle too much writing a grant report once they have the template for doing so and all the necessary information. If your team is having a lot of difficulty assembling what is needed for the reporting requirements, it may speak to larger organizational issues with leadership, employees, operations, financial stewardship, or the mission itself.
Grant reports accurately reflect management of core nonprofit elements, and quality reporting goes a long way in maintaining the partnerships necessary to solidify grant funding as part of a sustainable and diversified revenue stream.
If you found this post helpful, check out our other grant writing guides such as our guide to get noticed by invite only funders, and 9 actionable strategies to never miss a grant deadline. Though the grant report may be the tail end of one funding opportunity, it’s never too early to start thinking about your next grant timeline!