A grant calendar can be a great method of identifying and organizing funding opportunities. Developing a grant proposal calendar takes time but it will keep you motivated and on schedule. It will also help you to stay focused on your program initiatives and goals. The format you choose depends upon your organizational needs, team composition and your individual work-style or preferences. For most people, a basic spreadsheet works well.

For more information or to request a consultation, please contact us online at gao@seton.org. We can answer any specific questions you may have, as well as offer general guidance throughout the grant and project development process.

To get started, consider the strategic goals of your department and how they relate to the overall Ascension Seton goals. Search funding agencies, industry partners, professional and medical societies and private foundations that share common goals or that fund the type of research you are interested in doing.

Look over your grants from last year. Consider the amount of funding you received, how much is needed to reach the strategic goals for the upcoming year, how much time you’ll have to commit to grant writing this year and the likelihood of receiving funding again. Make sure to review all grant guidelines yearly, as funding priorities and deadlines change.

You can get started on your grant planning calendar today by following these steps:

1. Research and Evaluate New Funding Opportunities

Begin by finding all grants for which you are eligible. Don’t waste time applying for grants that you will never receive. Thoroughly vet each new grant that you think might work for your program. Consider the funders’ priorities, the types and value of grants given and the amount of work each application will take. Review the feedback you received from unfunded proposals and consider speaking with the program director or grant manager to determine current priority areas.

2. Be Organized & Strategic

Consider your department’s calendar. Do you have a big annual event that takes a lot of your time? Is anyone on your team planning an extended vacation? Think about your staff and time commitments on a quarterly basis. Consider how much information needs to be compiled and the time associated with preparing, researching, planning and completing the application. Keep these timeframes and constraints in mind when creating your grant funding strategy.

3. Determine Hard Deadlines

Once you have decided which grants to apply for, fill in your spreadsheet with the grants that have hard time limits such as the NIH which has three annual submission cycles. Since these do not change, they provide a framework around which you can organize the rest of the submissions. Once you have a picture of the upcoming year and have filled in the hard deadlines, you can fit in the rolling deadlines. If you are applying for corporate giving programs, place them earlier in the year as these sources may run out of money. If you know when a foundation or other funders review grant applications, you can plan to send in your applications well before that time.

4. Create a Proposal Task List

Think about each of the tasks needed to complete a proposal. Is your data up to date? Do you need to get internal approval? Then, work backward with deadlines for each action. After you have completed the task timelines, you may need to shuffle some of your rolling deadlines. The task section is also a great place to take notes on the application process, including conversations you’ve had with the funders, or program directors and lessons learned from past submissions. You can then refer to these notes the following year when you apply again.

5. Be Realistic and Continue to Refine

It is better to apply for five solid, relevant grants than to submit 20 unremarkable applications. Be realistic about the amount of work each submission will take and the amount of time you have. Eliminate grants that seem unlikely, or that are beyond the scope of your strategic goals or resources. A grant calendar is not meant to be a static document. As you hear about new funding opportunities, add them to your calendar.  If your program goals or funding priorities change, alter your schedule.

Is There Anything Else?

Yes! Make sure to schedule time to review your calendar at least annually, reflect on your successes and plan your strategy for the next year. Making a grant calendar takes time up front, but once you’ve done the initial work, you are well on your way to a successful grant strategy. Check in regularly to be sure you are on track (monthly planning & implementation).

Re-strategize as necessary. Consider what worked and what did not. Determine if the funding received was worth the time and effort or if next year’s goals should be adjusted.

GAO Tips and Topics are based on experience and industry best practices and are provided to educate and empower researchers. They are intended to supplement professional training and educational experience and are generally geared towards NIH-funded research proposals. They are not intended to sidestep the information provided by the NIH in an FOA or the SF424 (R&R). Specific guidelines should always be followed.