Recently I was asked, what tech tools are available to support grant professionals? Below are tech tools that could be helpful for all stages of delivering successful grant proposals — time management, organization, writing, budget and collaboration.
Grant Writing Tools for Time Management
Grant professionals often juggle planning, research, program design, writing, grant management, facilitating professional development, fundraising and other tasks. When a grant deadline is pending, how do you use technology to effectively manage your time? If you are skilled at procrastination, or are easily distracted, consider using the Pomodoro Technique which breaks writing up into 25-minute sessions:
- Set a kitchen, microwave or mobile phone timer at 25 minutes
- Take a break for three to five minutes
Grant Writing Tools for Organization
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Instead of wishing for projects to get done, start organizing. Some people use EverNote or Notion to organize and record notes and ideas. Other organizing tools include Smartsheet, Jira and the Scrum framework. Grant professional Diane Leonard breaks down the Scrum framework for prioritizing grant projects on the Grant Association Professionals (GPA) website. Other possibilities include tracking systems such as GrantHub to keep everything needed in one place.
Grant Writing Tools
Before writing the grant proposal, a project plan is needed. To help form a visual plan of the project, try ‘mind mapping.’ Some tech tools to help with mind mapping are MindNode, MindMeister, Mind42 and Scapple. If you don’t have a team mock review process or a family member/friend to edit proposal drafts, consider using tech tools such as Grammarly or Hemingway Editor. I love and use the readability feature in MS Word, which provides data such as the percentage of passive voice use. David Lindeman talks about this tool along with other professional copy editor tools on GPA’s website.
Grant Writing Tools for Budget Proposals
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went” (Dave Ramsey).
I am a firm believer in the power of creating a grant project budget first before any proposal writing begins. It is so much easier to write the narrative of your project knowing the budget first and matching the story to the numbers. The budget and project narrative must match; reviewers often place the budget alongside the narrative proposal to ensure consistency. Going back through the narrative after the proposal is in a first draft stage makes it more difficult to ensure reviewers understand the full purpose of the grant project and don’t walk away with unanswered questions or confusion.
Keep needed grant budget documents in an electronic shared file so that they are readily available when meeting grant deadlines (i.e. Form 990s, 501c3 letter, organizational budget, audited financial statements, job descriptions, financial policies/procedures). Find out the best way to collaborate with the finance office, business office, human resources and/or accountant when preparing a grant budget, whether through email, phone, Google Drive, DropBox or another method. You will need that collaboration to write a competitive grant proposal.
Other helpful tools include:
- MS Excel (or comparable)
- Printing calculator
- Budget templates (often provided by the funder)
Grant Tools for Collaboration
Mark Sanborn said, “In teamwork, silence isn’t golden – it’s deadly.”
Make sure you have the tools that work for all involved to make grant teamwork successful. DropBox and Google Drive are useful for sharing multiple documents/large files with others and for sharing the writing/editing tasks. I use both, but prefer Google Drive, especially for a shared workspace. Having the DropBox app on your mobile phone is a great, quick way to scan documents and share with others on a grant team.
When submitting a federal grant through Grants.gov, consider using Workspace for team grant project tasks. Set up regular grant update meetings during the application drafting period. Useful tools for arranging a time which meets all stakeholder schedules and enabling remote meetings include Doodle, Calendly, UberConference and Zoom.
About the Author
Dr. Judy Riffle owns Santa Cruz Grants & Consulting, LLC, and has raised over 18 million dollars for various schools, school districts, and nonprofits. Funded and managed grants include school formula grants such as Title I, Title IV, IDEA Basic, and Title III LEP. Funded competitive grants include: McKinney-Vento Supplemental Education for Homeless Children & Youth, State Tutoring, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, school improvement, CA Community Colleges Basic Skills and Student Outcomes Transformation, New York Learning Technology, Arizona Pilot Program on School Emergency Readiness, USDA Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program, USDA Distance Learning & Telemedicine Program, Baptist Community Ministries, Safeway Foundation, Tucson Electric Power, Cox Charities, Del E. Webb Foundation, and Arizona Disabled Veteran Foundation. Dr. Riffle is a former teacher, education specialist, new teacher mentor, and administrator with degrees in special education, Deaf education, and educational leadership. Besides being a member of the Grant Professionals Association, she also serves as Vice-President for the Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce.
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