Most nonprofits marked the end of their fiscal year on June 30. But finally finishing your organization’s financial statements doesn’t signal a break in critical forms and (perhaps) onerous protocols. No, as with most other projects, the end of one simply heralds the start of another. Funders will typically give a grant winner one month after their fiscal year ends to turn in their grant report. That means your July 30 deadline is coming up quickly.

Do It—Even if You Don’t Have to

Even if your foundation is one of the few that does not require a grant report, it’s best practice to submit one anyway. Burdensome as they may be, grant reports are tremendously valuable to your nonprofit. They enhance your relationships with funders by emphasizing the effectiveness and dependability of your nonprofit. Showcasing how well your nonprofit used its grant—and even thinking critically about your program’s shortcomings—increases the chance that the same foundation will accept future grant requests from you.

If your nonprofit is writing an unsolicited grant report with little or no guidelines, include a few key elements. A transparent financial statement, an analysis of your impact and a plan for the future are the three main components of a complete grant report. Keep reading for more on each.

Make It Official

Submit your nonprofit’s official financial statements for the year(s) the grant was used. The name on your nonprofit’s report should be the same as on your IRS Form 990. The statement should include all costs associated with the approved project, such as staff salaries. Include with your statement any income and expenditures compared to the approved budget for that program. Briefly explain significant changes to your nonprofit’s financial position. Not to worry, but exacting funders may request an audit of your records to double-check the accuracy of your report.

Self-Analyzing

Foundations expect grant reports to be honest, not self-congratulatory. In your grant report, be forthcoming about what worked and what didn’t in the past year.

Don’t hide shortcomings or successes, either. Instead: Respond thoughtfully to questions about unexpected challenges, as well as any unforeseen negative outcomes.

When possible, speak to your program’s overall impact with numbers. Doing so will highlight your nonprofit’s success in a measurable, easily recognizable way.

Thinking Ahead

The best way to secure future funding for a successful program you’d like to continue is to develop a sustainability plan—which ties together your nonprofit’s future goals and strategies for its program. Significantly, it also anticipates inside or outside forces that may impact it. The better your plan, the greater your chances of another (and maybe a bigger) grant. Be specific.

Though every funder is different, expect these guidelines or similar ones on every required grant report.

What do you think is the hardest part of creating a grant report? Tell us about it in the comments!