By Mary Pat O’Gorman, MS, Consultant for Grant Writing & Fundraising

Warm weather, spring sunshine and the return of songbirds gives us all a little extra energy to take on tasks that we may have put off though the winter, i.e., Spring Cleaning!

As nonprofit professionals, we could approach spring cleaning from any number of angles and this month we would like to talk about a few things you can do to clean up your grant writing process, to save time and make your grant proposals more accurate, compelling and attractive. When a grant opportunity arises, do you find yourself spending hours looking for essential documents, up-to-date data and supplemental material?

Whether you write your own grant applications or use a contract grant writer, the easiest place to start is your storage system, setting up an organized filing system with all the items you need for grant applications. As a grant writer, when I think about what would make my job more efficient, my wish list would include a folder with the following:

1. Current strategic plan
2. Most Recent Annual Report
3. Two years of financial audits or 990s
4. IRS 501(c)(3) Determination Letter
5. Current organization budget
6. Current List of Board of Directors, with affiliations
7. Recent press/media coverage
8. Articles and current research that helps articulate the challenge addressed by your organization
9. Recent Letters of Support or testimonials
10. Recent photos of your program in action

I work with an organization that keeps a spreadsheet with vital data points that can be used in grant proposals, such as the number and demographic breakdown of staff, board members and program participants; recent accomplishments for the organization overall and a breakdown for each program. They update the spreadsheet at least annually, and continuously where needed. This is an incredible time-saver as I start a new application. The above are just suggestions, but this folder could contain something different for each organization. Take some time this spring to think about what is most essential to communicate about your organization and where you could find it. If you don’t have formal letters of support or testimonials, maybe you have comments from one of your social media pages that could make your program come to life for a reader.

It is about organization and communication. You likely have everything you need to write a fantastic grant application to generate support for your organization. Over the next few weeks, take some time to find the items listed above, save them to one folder and keep them updated throughout the year. There are a lot of demands on your time in the nonprofit world and the ability to respond to opportunities quickly, with high quality data and compelling images, may be the difference that gets you the grant.