How Nonprofits Increase Their Foundation Funding Through Best Practices and Technology

Nonprofits can increase their foundation funding by automating their manual grant management process through grant management smart tools that leverage industry best practices. There is no better time than now to demonstrate operational competence.

What Are Grant Management Smart Tools?

Grant management smart tools help foundations and nonprofits manage the grant process. Some tools are designed to help nonprofits automate industry best practices including prospecting, organizing, submissions, collaborating, reporting, and more. 

On the other side of the equation are tools designed to help foundations organize, prioritize, and process the grant applications they receive from nonprofits, as well as simplify oversight of the grants they make. 

The best smart tools are designed to do both, thereby improving effectiveness, connectedness, and user experience for both foundations and nonprofits. 

According to Fluxx, a cloud platform that powers giving and impact in philanthropy, these are the basics a nonprofit needs to effectively manage their grant management process:  

Organizing Prospect Research

All grant-seeking operations rely on thorough prospect research. A nonprofit’s development team needs a system in place to organize notes on potential funders, as well as the kinds of programs prospective funders have supported in the past. This research should help you make an honest assessment about whether the nonprofit is a good fit for funding — and when it might be a good time to enter the funder’s grant cycle.

Use these details to inform a grant-writing calendar and work with development staff to share details about site visits and prospecting calls. The tips offered by program officers at major funders could — and should — affect the strategies used to write the proposal. Program officers will notice and appreciate development teams that incorporate funder feedback during the application process, too.

Best Practice: Own the details of your grant-writing pipeline. Sync calendars, set reminders, and stay on target.

Managing Proposal Details

Most nonprofits use a combination of spreadsheets, calendars, and filing systems to manage information about grant programs. Whatever strategy a nonprofit uses, the most important aspect of proposal management is creating a highly visible, regularly updated calendar of deadlines and tasks informed by your research and contact with the funder. 

Make it clear to the team which writing and research tasks are of the highest priority, and which can be pushed back to accommodate unexpected opportunities from prospective funders or individual donors.

Nonprofits also need digital and physical space to track the following:

·      Funder grant cycles

·      Previous history with the funder

·      Program budget and funding requests

·      Submission requirements

·      Reporting deadlines

·      Personal contacts at major funders, such as relevant program officers

·      Current eligibility for funding

·      Notes from program officers

·      Past award letters

·      Internal deadlines for thank yous and other follow-ups

Best Practice: Create and track grants throughout their entire lifecycle. Attach documents, create notes, and track payments.

Setting Up Your Grants Pipeline

With a system in place, it’s time to start planning a grants pipeline. Work backward from deadlines, allowing at least 1-2 months for writing and gathering input. Depending on the size of a nonprofit’s staff — and the additional responsibilities of the grant writer — it’s possible to speed up this process.

Assign individual responsibility for tasks, including writing, editing, and submitting the proposal, leaving plenty of time for discussing the proposal with the nonprofit’s program staff. The development director may also assign tasks for board members who have existing relationships with funders, or organize additional cultivation tasks like phone calls, site visits, or event invitations.

Since funders often operate on similar quarterly cycles, it’s important to hold regular meetings to talk about progressing through the grants pipeline, too. How are the grant writers and researchers holding up as they juggle overlapping deadlines?

Best practice: Create tasks and reminders for your team for each grant, at every stage in your pipeline.

Keeping Your House in Order

Once a nonprofit has submitted a fair share of grant proposals, they will notice funders tend to request the same forms of nonprofit documentation. Still, it’s better to have all these files within easy reach — including the nonprofit’s financial statements, 501(c)3 forms, program data and brochures, a list of board members, evaluation data, and other common record requests. Nonprofits don’t want to have to search for an updated PDF of these files when they’re ready to hit submit!

Keeping records of old proposals is also a great way for nonprofits to revisit past funding goals and relationships with past or prospective funders. How have programmatic goals changed from one year to the next? Were comments from funders addressed during the reapplication process? Make time to discuss these changes so the current grant writer can easily tailor old information for new proposals or new funders. This cuts down on labor and makes your team more efficient and flexible.

Finally, periodically check in on progress or success rate, taking note of how many proposals were successful. Which elements of the proposal, or your funder outreach, can be attributed to the successes? Taking the time to reflect, while never easy during a busy fundraising calendar year, will vastly improve the submissions process from one cycle to the next.

Organize, organize, organize and get your house in order. Don’t go it alone. Consider the tools that will make you successful and use what works for your team. It can make the difference between a banner year and going back to the drawing board.

Best Practice: Using the Answer Bank, store information commonly requested by funders, accessible by the entire team.

A favorite for nonprofits is Grantseeker… a free, cloud-based software that automates the grant management process.

According to Habitat for Humanity, “Grantseeker has given us a centralized hub for all our grant activities and dozens of other tools to maximize our space and productivity. We especially love the payment tracking and strategic initiatives!”

About Fluxx

Fluxx is a network that powers giving in the world by connecting givers and changemakers to build capacity, increase visibility and improve collaboration. We bring efficiency and data-driven insights to help measure and maximize social impact while eliminating the tedious complexities of the grantmaking process.

Nearly 250 world-class foundations, including the Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation, and tens of thousands of nonprofits use Fluxx to intelligently automate workflows, ensure compliance, improve operations and drive impact.

For thought leadership on nonprofit best practices, measurement, and how to achieve operational excellence, please visit The Capin Center for Nonprofit Excellence, where nonprofits, funders, and recognized experts work together for the greatest impact. We make nonprofits better. We can help yours.

Disclaimer: Much of the content in this article was sourced directly from Fluxx. For more information, please visit The Center makes no representation about its accuracy. Independent research is recommended.


Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Center. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different nonprofits, overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.