How to Project-Manage Your Grant by Tracking Progress and Setting Internal Deadlines

The process of applying for grants often feels like navigating through a maze of tight deadlines, complex requirements, and expectations – all with the risk that one missing document or piece of information can lead to a grant proposal being rejected outright.

Gathering the various information you need to bring together a winning grant application often requires liaising with subject matter experts who have other competing priorities – so how do you balance everything to ensure smooth progress towards your looming deadline?

One of the key strategies that can significantly enhance your chances of success is diligent progress tracking and setting internal deadlines. In this blog, we’ll delve into why these practices are crucial, especially in the context of grant applications, and how they can contribute to a more streamlined and effective application process.

Tracking Your Progress: A Roadmap to Success

Imagine embarking on a journey without a map or compass. It would be challenging to navigate the terrain, gauge your progress, and course-correct if needed. Similarly, in the realm of grant applications, tracking your progress is akin to creating a roadmap that guides you through each step of the process.

Start by breaking down the application process into manageable tasks and set clear deadlines for each task. Parse the grant guidelines to identify everything that you’ll need to bring together to get your application over the line. Use project management tools or simple spreadsheets to monitor your progress. By having a visual representation of where you are in the application process, you can identify bottlenecks, allocate resources effectively, and stay on track to meet the submission deadline.

Tracking progress also allows you to showcase your organisation’s commitment and professionalism to everyone involved in bringing the grant together, removes scope for confusion, and ensures that stakeholders are aware of their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.

Assertiveness in Team Collaboration

It would be very rare for a grant writer to be responsible for coming up with all the content required – but it is your responsibility to manage and coordinate the process, gathering together the right information from the right people. There may be instances where team members are not fulfilling their assigned roles or meeting deadlines, which can lead to the risk of submitting a non-compliant grant.

Of course, if you’re the final port of call, bringing all these pieces of information together is your responsibility, and you will generally be held accountable if you don’t submit a compliant bid by the deadline. This often means being assertive – and that can be hard, but it’s part of your job.

For example, if someone needs to be submitting a large amount of information to you by Date X, and some time has gone by and you haven’t received anything, ask for the information to be submitted on a rolling basis so you can make sure the job is getting done. Poke, prod and remind as many times as you need to – with NFP employees often being stressed and overworked, it’s all too easy for internal deadlines to be forgotten and assigned tasks to be deprioritised. If progress isn’t being made, escalating the issue to the appropriate manager isn’t just a good idea, it’s the right way to handle non-compliance risk – if managers don’t know, they can’t ensure oversight.

Internal Deadlines: A Strategic Advantage

The adage “the early bird catches the worm” holds particularly true in the realm of grant applications. Setting an internal deadline to finalise the grant application well before its actual deadline offers several strategic advantages that can significantly improve your chances of success.

Firstly, internal deadlines give you a buffer to handle unforeseen issues or challenges that may arise. Whether it’s technical difficulties with the application portal or last-minute changes to your grant application, having extra time allows you to address contingencies without the stress of scrambling at the last minute – or worse, not having everything ready in time..

Another benefit of an early internal deadline is the opportunity to review and refine your application thoroughly. Use the extra time to double-check all documentation, ensure compliance with grant requirements, and rectify any errors or inconsistencies. A well-prepared and error-free application not only enhances your credibility but also increases the likelihood of your proposal being favourably reviewed.

Tips for Effective Progress Tracking and Working to an Early Internal Deadline

To effectively track your progress and work towards an early internal deadline, consider implementing the following tips:

    1. Create a Detailed Timeline: Break down the application process into stages and assign deadlines for each stage. Include tasks such as gathering documentation, drafting the proposal, several stages of proposal review, and finalising.

  1. ▪ Utilise Project Management Tools: The amount of time-sensitive tasks (both large and small) and the number of stakeholders involved in preparing a grant application doesn’t lend itself to the all-too-common use of email. Preparing and submitting a grant application is a project and should be treated like one – it’s too easy for emails to get lost, and for people to lose track of what’s been done or is still pending, what they have to do and what progress other parties have made.

  3. Fortunately, NFPs have access to significant discounts on fantastic software tools and apps used for project and task management, which are gamechanging to help you track tasks, set reminders, and collaborate with team members efficiently.

  5. Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular (ideally, daily) check-ins with your team (in this context, anyone who is key to bringing the grant application together). Review progress, address challenges, and ensure alignment with the grant objectives.

  7. Allocate Resources Wisely: Allocate sufficient time, manpower, and resources to each stage of the application process to avoid last-minute rushes or compromises in quality.

  9. Early Drafts and Reviews: Aim to complete initial drafts of your proposal well in advance to allow ample time for thorough reviews, feedback incorporation, and revisions.

  11. Mock Submissions: Set an internal deadline for a mock submission well before the actual deadline to identify any issues and ensure a smooth submission process.

Tracking your progress and preparing a mock submission to an early internal deadline are indispensable strategies for maximising success in grant applications. By creating a structured roadmap, proactively managing timelines, and having a ready-to-go submission prepared before the deadline, NFPs can enhance their chances of securing funding, showcase their professionalism, and ultimately make a greater impact in their communities. Embrace these practices as integral parts of your grant application strategy and watch as they pave the way for success and sustainable growth.

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