Have you ever looked at your in-box and unearthed a grant application that was due last week? To avoid such disappointments, sit down each year and make a list of the applications you wish to seek in the next 12 to 18 months. Planning in advance doesn’t take long, and the dividends are huge.

From your list of “most wanted” grants and their deadlines, you can create a month-by-month submittal plan. Include the name of funders, a short summary of the content of the request (i.e., for playground equipment), an estimate of the amount you will seek and an estimate of the hours it will take to develop the proposal.

Allocating enough time to prepare applications is just as essential as anticipating what other projects will compete for staff attention. Often staffs can comfortably submit only one or two major proposals per month. To plan for this reality, first check the “must do’s” and their due dates. Then note the multiple-due-date applications or those with open deadlines. Scheduling ahead allows you to adjust the workload to accommodate peak times at your organization. For example, late June may be the date of your largest annual event and the due date of your application to a government grant program. To avoid a pile-up of projects, plan to undertake grant drafting in late April and aim to finish the proposal by June first.

Keep your grant submittal plan handy, and review it regularly so that you can anticipate applications and their due dates. I keep mine in my manila “Tickle” file that I flip through each Monday morning. The grant submittal plan, which will take you only two or three hours to develop, is an excellent tool to help you meet your fund-raising goals. Your investment will be paid back with far fewer disappointments and better grant income.

Adapted from an article that first appeared in Advancing Philanthropy, November-December 2003

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