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Grant Management for Nonprofits: Your Guide From Research to Reward (2024)

12 min read
May 17, 2024
Sheleia Phillips, MPH, CHES headshot
Sheleia Phillips, MPH, CHES
Founder & CEO, SMP Nonprofit Consulting
a man in a suit writing on a post-it note on a board covered in post-it notes of all different colors that outline his nonprofit's grant management plan.

In the nonprofit world, navigating the grant management process can sometimes feel like making an arduous cross-country trek—the kind where one wrong turn could spell disaster.

I wish I could tell you that after reading this article you’ll feel differently, that grant management will now seem like a walk in the park. But it won’t. It’ll still feel like a real slog.

And yet, along the way, you’ll also discover some pretty profound opportunities.

With over a decade of experience in this field, I’ve come to appreciate the multifaceted nature of grant management—a process that is as much about nurturing connections and building a supportive community as it is about stewarding grant funding. 

So today, I want to share my personal map that walks you through the grant management journey. In this comprehensive overview, we will review the critical stages of grant management, explore grant management software as a key tool, and delve into some key best practices. 

Phase 1: Researching Prospective Grants 

Contrary to popular belief, the first step of the grant management journey isn’t applying for a grant: It’s finding a grant to apply to. 

That means lots (and lots) of meticulous research to identify potential funding opportunities—specifically, opportunities that align with your project’s goals, your organizational values, and your operational needs. 

This initial grant management phase isn’t just about pinpointing specific grants; it’s about finding the right funding partners, those organizations that fit seamlessly with your own nonprofit’s mission and projects. 

As someone who has guided organizations through this work more times than I can count, I want to share a few tips and tricks to simplify the process for you:

  1. Identify Your Funding Needs: First, clearly define your organization’s goals and financial needs to determine the type of grants you want to pursue. As you do this, consider how each grant can amplify your work. This will help you see beyond the monetary aspects of grant funding and envision how these resources can position you to be a catalyst of true change. 

  1. Research Thoroughly: Explore various grant databases, government websites, and foundation directories to discover potential funding sources that match your nonprofit’s focus priorities. This step is key to finding opportunities that resonate with your nonprofit’s core needs.

  1. Build Relationships: Organizations can thrive and forge pathways toward sustainability and growth by carefully cultivating funder relationships. To build these relationships, emphasize authenticity and mutual reciprocity. You can establish these types of relationships with funders through activities like funder briefings, networking events, “lunch and learn sessions,” and other personalized outreach activities.

  1. Track Deadlines: Create a calendar to track grant deadlines and submission requirements to ensure you don’t miss out on any funding opportunities. You can also use this as a tool to track touchpoints with your funding partners. 

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of finding the best grants to support your organization’s impactful work. 

Researching prospective grants can be a huge undertaking, which is why you’ll see even greater success if your nonprofit’s tech stack includes grant management software (or a nonprofit CRM with robust grant management features like Neon CRM). 

With grant management software, you can make the most of your opportunities by tracking available grant sources and criteria while easily spinning up calendars to stay on top of deadlines. 

Phase 2: Developing and Submitting Your Grant Proposal

In order for organizations to build grant funding into a reliable source of revenue, they must operate with a firm, well-prepared foundation. 

Grant readiness, which, at its most basic level, is a measure of a nonprofit’s capacity to secure and manage grant funds, is what lays that foundation. 

Conducting a grant readiness “check” may involve activities like establishing strong financial management systems, identifying organizational needs, and securing and updating critical documents–from financial statements, logic models, and project plans. 

In addition to collecting these essential documents, here are a few readiness questions that you can ponder before you apply for your next grant:

  • Has my organization set strategic priorities for our programs and fundraising efforts this year?

  • Do we have proof or evidence of community need?⁠

  • Do we have realistic, clearly articulated, and “fundable” solutions to meet those needs?⁠

  • Is our approach relevant and impactful to the current climate?

  • Have we taken the time to cultivate relationships with prospective funders?⁠

  • Do we have at least 2-3 years of documented financial history?⁠

  • Do we have the capacity to manage, evaluate, and report the impact of awarded funds back to our funding partners?⁠

There are so many opportunities for your organization to get grants, but you have to be prepared. ⁠Once all these pieces are put together, you will not only be more “ready” to submit a quality proposal but also have the makings of a smooth grant management process. 

Phase 3: Implementing Your Grant 

Receiving a grant award notification is a moment of celebration and a testament to your organization’s impact. Congrats! 

However, it’s also the beginning of a critical phase—implementation—where effective grant management processes become paramount. 

Regardless of what type of grant you receive, this stage is about action—starting the work of bringing your proposal to life and managing funds with transparency and accountability. 


Transparency in grant management involves regular reporting to your funding partners and stakeholders. These reports should detail how grant funds are being spent, progress made towards project goals, and any lessons learned from the project. 

This level of transparency demonstrates a tangible link between the funds invested and the outcomes achieved, allowing funders to see the direct impact of their investment on the community, thus increasing trust. 


Accountability extends beyond financial transparency—it encompasses the ethical use of funds as outlined in the awarded grant proposal. 

It involves activities like regular audits and internal checks and balances to verify that funds are managed according to the highest level of compliance. 

In fact, most funders have guidelines and regulations for reporting grant expenditures to enhance accountability. 

Partnerships Are Built on Trust

By prioritizing transparency and accountability in grant management, your organization can build a strong foundation of trust and integrity, which is key for a strong partnership with funders that can yield long-term support. 

This is an area where having grant management software that’s built into your primary donor management system—like the grant management capabilities in Neon CRM—can be an invaluable tool. 

You can track budgets, report on outcomes, and manage compliance with the grant’s objectives without having to worry about data being lost in between one system and the next! 

Phase 4: Monitoring and Reporting

Transitioning from the award to the post-award phase shows that your organization has successfully navigated your grant management journey, but you haven’t reached the end quite yet!  

The final phase of the grant management process is about demonstrating the impact of your work and ensuring proper stewardship of the funds received.  

This stage is not merely a formality; it’s also a crucial opportunity to underscore the impact of your work. 

It’s a time to reflect on the journey, evaluate the outcomes, and share any successes and learnings with your stakeholders. In doing so, you not only fulfill your funding obligations but also strengthen relationships with funders and community stakeholders.

To effectively demonstrate the impact of our work, consider the following measures:

  • Quantitative and Qualitative Metrics: Incorporate both statistical evidence (e.g., number of beneficiaries served, percentage increase in literacy rates) and qualitative outcomes (e.g., testimonials, case studies) to provide a comprehensive picture of your project’s community impact and success.

  • Beneficiary Impact: Numbers that reflect direct benefits to your target population (e.g., individuals trained, households receiving aid).

  • Community Engagement: Indicators of community involvement and participation, such as volunteer hours contributed or local partnerships formed.

  • Sustainability Measures: Evidence of long-term benefits and capacity-building efforts that ensure the project’s impact continues beyond the funding period.

  • Efficiency Metrics: Data demonstrating prudent use of resources, such as cost per beneficiary or percentage of funds directly allocated to program activities.

In essence, the final phase of the grant management process is your moment to shine—articulating the tangible and intangible benefits your work has brought to the community. 

As mentioned above, these types of detailed monitoring and reporting are vital, not only for compliance but also for building trust and credibility with your funders.

In addition to powerful reporting capabilities, Neon CRM has added automated workflow triggers and custom grant fields that let you expand what you can report on while cutting down on the time you spend on reporting in the first place. It’s a win-win!  

Is It Time for a New CRM?
Is It Time for a New CRM?

The Role of Grant Management Software: A Key Tool for Success

Managing grants and managing donors have one very important thing in common: If you’re trying to do either one of them without specialized software, you’re going to be running into headache after headache. Excel can only do so much!

Software designed to handle the nitty-gritty details of the grant management process can be a game-changer for any organization that relies heavily on grant funding.  

With Neon CRM, you get more than just a piece of software: You get a fully realized platform that combines grants and donors with events, volunteers, fundraising, memberships, and more.

Neon CRM can handle all of your most important grant management tasks, such as tracking opportunities and deadlines, handling disbursements, and reporting on your organization’s success—all while reducing your overall administrative burden.

If you want to learn more about Neon CRM’s grant capabilities, I encourage you to check out one of their regularly scheduled group demos! They’re held every week, they’re only 30 minutes long, and they give you a solid overview of everything the system can do.

Just click the button below to find a group demo session that fits your schedule!

7 Grant Management Best Practices for Your Nonprofit

Now that we’ve walked through our map of the grant management journey, let’s talk about some best practices that will significantly enhance your nonprofit’s grant management process.

By adhering to these best practices, you will build stronger relationships with funders, increase successful project outcomes, and, ultimately, make a more lasting impact on the communities you serve. 

1. Develop a Grant (or Project) Management Plan

Before the grant is even awarded, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. 

This plan should outline the process for managing the grant, from the initial receipt of funds to the final report submission. It should include roles and responsibilities, timelines, and financial management procedures. 

This ensures everyone involved understands their tasks and the timelines they must adhere to. 

2. Ensure Compliance with Grant Requirements

Each grant comes with its own set of unique rules and requirements, and awarded grant proposals often become contractual agreements. 

Any time you submit a grant proposal, you certify that all information provided is true to the best of your knowledge and that you can meet the grantor’s requirements. 

It’s essential to understand this and ensure your organization is compliant. Non-compliance could jeopardize current funding—and future opportunities, as well.

3. Implement a Financial Management System

Effective grant management requires meticulous tracking of expenditures and ensuring they align with the budget submitted in your grant proposal. 

Utilize a financial management system—like Quickbooks—that allows for real-time tracking and reporting. If your financial software can integrate directly with your nonprofit’s CRM, all that better! 

You can read more about Neon CRM’s partnership with Intuit as a QuickBooks Solution Provider in the article below!

4. Regularly Review Grant Progress

Schedule regular check-ins with your team to review the progress of the grant-funded project. 

This involves evaluating if the project is meeting its objectives, staying on schedule, and remaining within budget. 

These regular reviews allow for timely adjustments if the project is veering off course.

5. Foster Open Communication With Funders

Building a strong relationship with your funding partners is key. 

Whether you share your successes or your challenges, engaging in open and honest communication can lead to continued support and potentially more funding in the future.

6. Invest In Training and Development

Grant management can be complex, and the funding landscape is always changing. 

Consider investing in training for your team to keep them up-to-date on the latest trends, software, and best practices. 

This not only improves team efficiency but it also enhances your organization’s ability to manage grants effectively.

7. Conduct Post-Grant Evaluations

After the grant period ends, evaluate to assess what was successful and what lessons were learned. 

This could include financial review, project outcomes, or team performance. It could even include all three!

Any lessons learned should be documented and used to inform future grant applications and management strategies.

Successful Grant Management Requires Vision

As we have moved through the various stages of the grant management process, from the initial grind of research to the reward of implementation, it’s become clear just how much this journey requires a clear vision to find the path forward. 

By understanding each stage of this process, embracing best practices, investing in robust grant management software, and fostering transparent relationships with funders, nonprofits can ensure that they meet and exceed their project goals and funding requirements. 

I hope this guide serves as a valuable resource for you, lighting the way as you navigate the complexities of grant management in your quest to achieve lasting change. 

Sheleia Phillips, MPH, CHES, is the driving force behind SMP Nonprofit Consulting, where she serves as Founder and CEO. For almost a decade, Sheleia has been dedicated to helping nonprofits achieve their goals by securing millions of dollars in grant funding. Sheleia is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) board. Beyond grant writing, Sheleia’s expertise has made her a popular speaker and educator. She is a Goldman Sachs Black in Business Scholar, and firmly believes that nonprofits play an essential role in creating positive change.

Want to receive more free grant coaching and advice from Sheleia? Sign up for free training here

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