Below is a screenshot of the project narrative which was submitted following the fourth year of a multi-year project. The full sample can be viewed here. We have provided this as a sample of the type of information that may be included in a grant report.
In the following section, we will break down the parts of a report further.
Why Is a Grant Report Important?
Understanding the importance of a grant report is crucial, not only for compliance with funders' requirements but also for the overall growth and sustainability of your organization.
With this perspective in mind, let's delve deeper into why grant reports hold such unique significance.
Building Trust With Stakeholders
A well-crafted grant report goes beyond mere compliance with the funder's conditions; it plays a crucial role in building trust with stakeholders.
Here’s how grant reporting can help establish this trust with different audiences:
Board Members, for instance, consistently read the grant reports to gauge the effectiveness of the projects and the extent of the grant's impact.
These reports also serve as potent tools to inspire and engage potential community partners. They provide a transparent view of your work, thereby fostering partnerships based on shared values and objectives.
Lastly, your donors, both existing and prospective, might also review these reports. A well-structured and detailed grant report can reassure your current donors about the responsible use of their contributions and may encourage potential donors by demonstrating your organization's capacity to deliver results.
By showcasing the positive outcomes of your project through a grant report, you can also attract other potential funders who may be interested in supporting your cause.
A comprehensive and accurate grant report fosters confidence in your nonprofit’s ability to manage funds and achieve project objectives, thus fortifying relationships with existing stakeholders and attracting new ones.
Grant reports serve as a mechanism for accountability. Funders provide resources with the expectation that they will be utilized effectively and responsibly to drive change.
By clearly presenting the outcomes of the grant-funded work, a grant report demonstrates your organization's commitment to responsible stewardship of the funds. This transparency communicates and reinforces your nonprofit’s credibility in the sector.
For instance, if a project is experiencing challenges or not meeting its goals, a grant report can help identify the root causes and suggest strategies for improvement. By acknowledging obstacles and providing transparent explanations, you demonstrate your organization's commitment to using funds wisely and taking responsibility when things don't go as planned.
Facilitating Continuous Learning
Grant reports aren't merely for the funder's benefit; they can also be a valuable tool for your nonprofit organization's development.
While these reports can highlight successes, they also can help you identify areas where there is room for improvement.
With these insights, you can refine strategies, improve efficiency, and enhance effectiveness, thus fostering growth and continuous learning within your organization.
Securing Future Funding
Finally, an insightful, comprehensive, and fact-based grant report can serve as a powerful tool for securing future funding.
An effective grant report underscores your nonprofit's capacity to deliver on its mission, demonstrating that you are a reliable and effective partner for change.
For example, Central Texas Food Bank shared on its website how they were able to provide 140,000 meals to those in need because of a grant they received from Oracle. The success and impact of this funding can inspire future donations and continued support!
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You will find that each funder or grantmaker will have different grant reporting requirements.
Below, we provide information on the sections that are most commonly requested in grant reports. These sections can be used as a grant reporting template to help you understand the report writing process. Keep in mind that many grantmakers will provide specific templates or at least include instructions of their own.
The grant summary should provide an overview of the work that has been completed. The summary will help remind the funder about the overall project and should be inspired by your original grant application. Be sure to include basic funding and project information.
Mention any changes between your original application and the work that actually took place. For example, if you planned to reach 3,000 people but only were able to actually reach 2,000, you will need to explain the reason for this change.
Many funders request a proposed timeline or calendar as part of the grant proposal.
Your grant report should include all major milestones that were a part of the funded project.
Pro tip: If you are submitting a progress report before project completion, make sure to include milestones appropriate at the time of the report.
You can once again reference your original application (if it included milestones), but make sure to make edits as needed so your report is accurate.
One of the most important parts of the report will be the financial statement, as the funder will want to know how their dollars have been used to benefit your nonprofit and those you serve. The funder may provide specific formatting for you to follow so that they receive standardized data from all funded agencies.
It is important to align your reporting with your original grant budget. However, you want to show all project costs and expenditures which can include additional funding sources.
Some funders may also request financial information for your nonprofit overall to help ensure sound practices.
The project activities of a grant report will break down what took place during your project.
Make sure that you include all portions of your project and explain how they fit into the goals and strategic plan of the overall nonprofit.
Another important aspect that you should make sure to mention is partnerships. You will likely have included plans for partnering in your original application, so make sure you highlight those that took place.
While describing the project activities, be sure to feature ways your nonprofit leveraged additional resources such as volunteers.
Grantmakers appreciate the ability to stretch dollars by utilizing these types of resources. Volunteer time can also be included in your financial reporting, as each year, there is an hourly rate value put on volunteer help.
The Heckscher Foundation utilizes a logic model to track project activities and results. You can view the full sample here, and we have provided a sample screenshot below.
Results and Impact
Funders want to know how their support helped your nonprofit make a difference.
Results and impact will be a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.
While the funder will appreciate seeing numbers, they also want to see the bigger picture of the impact. You can reference information from your original application and compare it to demonstrate what you have achieved.
Pro tip: Include stories from program participants to help the grantmaker see who they are helping.
Although your grant report should show successes, it is also important to share information about what may not have worked.
Grantmakers understand that projects don’t always work out exactly as planned, and they will appreciate your honesty in sharing the truth.
They also know that one of the ways your nonprofit benefits from their funding is through the learning process. Being honest with the funder about the process will help them build a relationship with your organization.
Future Plans & Sustainability
One important aspect of every project is sustainability. Most grant applications request comments on this topic, so you should be able to reference this information for your report.
The funder wants to know that the work they are supporting will be able to continue in some form or fashion beyond their funding. You may have plans for other funding, new partnerships, adjustments to the project to cover costs, or other ideas.
By sharing your future plans for sustaining the work, you will show the grantmaker that you have a long-term vision. This section can also be a place to discuss additional partnerships and resources that you have or plan to seek. Grantmakers appreciate knowing that they are not your only funding source.
Make sure to include anything else that you feel may be important to the funder in your report.
News clippings or press coverage
Not every funder will have a formal section for this information, but you can add it as you see fit.
How to Write a Grant Report in 5 Steps
While it is helpful to create or utilize a grant reporting template to guide your grant reports, there are also a few steps you want to make sure and follow.
Understand Reporting Requirements: These requirements may be easily available on the grantmaker’s website, or they may have been provided to you when you were awarded funding.
Track Data Throughout Project: Track metrics from your project or program throughout, not at the end. plan your data collection based on your grant proposal as well as known reporting requirements.
Follow Report Guidelines: Funders may be strict about report formatting and word counts. Make sure that you properly follow reporting guidelines so that you provide all the requested information.
Be Honest: Funders will appreciate your honesty, and it will help your organization either form or maintain a relationship with the grantmaker.
Meet Deadlines: Deadlines will be provided as part of the reporting requirements. Instrumentl provides tracking tools that can help you easily manage these reporting deadlines.
Recognizing the Audience: Who Are You Reporting To?
As you start to draft your grant report, it is crucial to consider who your audience is.
Pro tip: Remember, your report isn't just for the funder who awarded you the grant. There are multiple stakeholders who will have an interest in the progress of your project.
Each of these audiences has specific expectations and interests, and understanding them can help you tailor your report for greater impact.
Primary Funders and Granting Organizations
Your primary audience is the funder or grantmaking organization that has invested in your project. They will be interested in the measurable outcomes and impact of their funding.
You should include data that shows progress against your stated goals, explain any deviations, and highlight success stories.
Funders appreciate transparency and honesty, so don't shy away from discussing challenges and lessons learned.
These can include yourboard members, staff, and volunteers who have an interest in the success of your project.
They are looking for confirmation that their efforts are making a difference.
They may also use the information to make strategic decisions, so include details about project implementation, problems encountered, and solutions implemented.
Beneficiary communities are those directly impacted by your project. They're interested in seeing tangible results and understanding how the project is improving their lives.
The general public and other external stakeholders (like potential donors, partners, or policy-makers) value transparency and accountability. They want to know how your organization uses resources to create change.
They differ from funders in that they may not be familiar with the details of your project, so be sure to provide context and background information as needed.
In your report, demonstrate the value your project brings to society, share inspiring stories of change, and highlight your organization’s responsibility and efficiency in utilizing funds.
Below is a screenshot from World Vision’s Grants page on their website. See how they provide transparency and clarity on how much funding they’ve received from grants and how it’s been allocated.
Types of Grant Reports
Let’s delve deeper into the different types of grant reports.
Progress Reports: Periodic updates that allow funders to track how the grant-funded project is evolving over time.
Final Reports: Final reports are comprehensive summaries delivered upon the completion of a project. Most often using Logic Models, they serve to provide a detailed account of the project, showcasing its accomplishments, any challenges encountered, and lessons learned.
Financial Reports: These reports typically include a detailed budget that aligns with the project's timeline and activities. They may also include an explanation of any variances between the proposed and actual budgets.
Impact and Evaluation Reports: Impact and evaluation reports focus on the outcomes of the project, assessing its effectiveness and measuring its impact. These reports typically go beyond mere numbers, delving into the qualitative aspects of the project's success.
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Common Pitfalls: Mistakes to Avoid in Grant Reporting
While grant reporting can provide an opportunity to showcase your project's progress and positive impact, it can also be a minefield of potential mistakes.
Understanding these common pitfalls, their implications, and how to avoid them can greatly enhance the reporting process and outcomes.
Here are the common pitfalls to avoid:
Overlooking Report Guidelines: This could include missing important sections, not following the requested format, or failing to address specific questions. Ignoring guidelines can lead to misunderstandings or even disqualification.
Providing Vague or Irrelevant Details: Funders want concise, relevant information that speaks directly to the project’s outcomes and impact. Avoid the temptation to include every minor detail and avoid jargon.
Procrastination and Missed Deadlines: Set internal deadlines ahead of the submission due date. This will give you time to review and adjust your report as necessary. With Instrumentl, you can manage your grant calendar efficiently and effectively, keeping track of all your upcoming reports and their due dates in one place. You will also receive alerts and reminders that help you plan and stay on track.
Ignoring Negative Outcomes or Challenges: Often, nonprofit organizations are reluctant to report negative outcomes or challenges. However, ignoring these creates a skewed impression of success and prevents learning. Honestly report challenges and the steps taken to address them. This transparency invites valuable input and support from your funders.
Sample Grant Reporting Template
Earlier, we outlined the typical sections or types of information that are likely to be part of your grant report. In this section, we have provided samples for various types of reports that can help you create the right grant reporting template for your nonprofit. We have also created our own sample reporting template for your use as well.
Grant Progress Report Template
This progress report is from the 319 grant program through the state of California. The grantee is completing a water quality project and you can view the entire progress report here.
We have also provided a screenshot of the first part of the report as a point of reference. The screenshot shows a list of items included for review, and upon viewing the link, you will be able to access all the additional information. Note that these 319 grants are provided through the Environmental Protection Agency and then by state governments, so they have relatively detailed reporting requirements.
Some grantmakers may request a grant performance report which will be similar to a progress report.
Quarterly Grant Report Template
One way that a funder may request updates throughout the grant period is through quarterly reports.
Here is a link to quarterly report information from the Human Resources and Services Administration for their Maternal and Child Health program. There are many aspects of this report that are specific to the program, but it provides good insight into the types of data and information that may be requested.
Quarterly reports are more likely to be required for larger grants or government grants, although it will depend on the funder.
Grant Financial Report Template
Here is a grant financial reporting template from the Archstone Foundation. You can read more about this report here. As with each of these samples and templates, it is important to keep in mind that every funder is likely to have their own financial reporting template or financial reporting guidelines.
Note that this report requests expenses for each quarter, but every funder will request different information. Some grantmakers only request your original budget and your final expenses. It is also important to keep in mind that the expense categories will differ between funders and may also be dependent on your grant application.
If your expenses have differed from your original budget, you will likely add some narrative with this report, or there may be another section that will provide an opportunity to explain.
Grant Final Report Template
We have provided a link to a final report template provided by the Santa Barbara Foundation for their Early Care and Education Grant Program. Their grant final report template breaks down the major requirements that we highlight, although they provide specific questions that cover the main topics.
Rather than having sections for grant summary, milestones, results, etc., the funder uses guiding questions to gather the same type of information. Many grantmakers will provide some type of grant final report template to help you complete your reports, or they may accept reports through an online system that has guiding questions built-in.
We have also created our own final grant report template which includes the sections that we touched on in this article overall.
We have created a simplistic spreadsheet for tracking project expenses, but keep in mind that there may be specific sections required based on your project or the requests of the funder. You may also have to provide documentation such as receipts for certain expenditures.
Note that for your results, you want to reference what you proposed in your original grant proposal. The grantmaker may also have provided insight on what types of results they are looking for.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Prepare Grant Reports
We have walked you through what grant reporting is as well as what information is typically requested within grant reports. Hopefully, you have found the background information, as well as our suggested steps, insightful. You can utilize the grants reporting templates to guide your report writing.
Grant reporting can seem daunting, but it is a necessary part of the grant writing process. Well-written reports will help you form and continue lasting relationships with funders to help your organization thrive and grow.