Get the Next Grant: Writing Great Grant Reports

Megan Ritter, Vice President of Communications

Writing Great Grant Reports

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re about to reapply to a foundation for a grant, and you go to talk with your program staff about how this past year’s project went – only to find out that the project never even got off the ground.

This happens in many nonprofits – and it can leave fundraisers scrambling at the last minute.

Regular grant reports—not to mention improved internal communications—are the answer to this problem.

A grant report is a critical step in building foundation relationships and paving the way for continued – and hopefully increased! – funding.

But it has the additional benefit of helping to keep projects on track. It creates an opportunity to check in with program staff and remind everyone of the grant requirements. Plus it fosters a culture that supports better measurement and reporting.

So what are some best practices?

1. Schedule two reports a year; One at the halfway mark of the grant period, and one at the end. What if a foundation only asks for a single, year-end report? Send an interim report at the six-month mark anyway. Over-communicate!

2. Verify the reporting procedures. Some foundations provide formal guidelines, or even their own form to fill out. If not, take the following steps.

3. Start with your original proposal. Look back at what you promised originally. Use the project plan and deliverables in your proposal as an outline.

4. Answer some key questions.

  • What work did you accomplish compared to what you planned?
  • What results did you achieve compared to what you promised?
  • What did you spend on the project compared to what you projected?
  • Have you encountered any obstacles that affected the project timeline, delivery or expected outcomes?

5. Include both outputs and outcomes.

  • Outputs are the features, activities, services, methods, or approaches you used to implement the strategies and plans outlined in your proposal. For example, the number of attendees at a conference, or website traffic numbers are outputs.
  • Outcomes are the benefits, results, impact, or accomplishments that measure the impact of your work. In other words, how do you know that your strategies and plans were effective and created change? For example, survey results that show increased knowledge among your target audience, or policy change that results from your work are outcomes.

Finally, what if the foundation asks for a financial report?

  1. Use the categories outlined in your original proposal budget as a template.
  2. List actual expenditures.
  3. Include income sources as well.
  4. Explain any variances.

In the constant rush of prospecting for new donors, preparing proposals, and completing projects, it can be easy to put off grant reporting. However, it’s critical to working well with foundation donors – and to setting yourself up for the next grant. If you would like assistance preparing grant reports or developing deliverables and measurement strategies, please contact us

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