Attachments: The Usual Suspects

21 May

A narrative alone does not a grant proposal make. Funders want to know about your program, your outcomes, how you plan to evaluate program activities, but they need other information to make an informed decision. Below I’ll describe some common attachments and why funders might want them. The point being that it’s a good idea to keep multiple copies of these items handy so you don’t have to go digging for them every time you’re facing a deadline.

I like to scan them and store them on a flash drive so that I have access to them wherever I am. Plus, it’s nice to have electronic versions for when you are submitting an application online.

Agency Operating Budget and Program Budgets: Your total agency operating budget (revenue and expenses) and the budget (revenue and expenses) for the program you’re wanting to have funded should always be at your finger tips. These are organic documents and may be amended during the fiscal year, so check with your Chief Financial Officer to make sure you have the latest and greatest. While it’s helpful to have those handy, the funder may want them presented in a specific format. Just transfer the information into their form.

Budget Narrative for Program Budgets: Some funders like a more detailed explanation of program costs along with a line item budget. A budget narrative isn’t like the narrative in a grant proposal, it’s not a free-flowing paragraphed thing. It’s often a simple paragraph just showing the math of how you arrived at an expense. Again, sometimes funders want it presented in a specific way, so go with that. Hmmm, I may have to post an entry about budget narratives. There are so many ways to present them.

List of Your Board of Directors: A show of your muscle, foundations like to know who is behind you and what kind of expertise you have rallied. I actually keep a few different versions of a board list. I start with a basic roster that includes names, offices held, employer and job title, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. I have another that includes gender and ethnicity–you would be surprised by how many foundations request this–in addition to the basics. And yet another that lists terms of office. The point of the gender and ethnicity breakdown often has something to do with checking on diversity and/or how well your governing body reflects your client base.

Ye Olde 501c3 Letter from the IRS: Probably the single most consistently requested attachment. They just need to know you have charitable status.

IRS 990 Form: Although nonprofits don’t pay taxes, they must file a tax return showing their expenditures and revenues. This is a check and balance issue. The feds want to know who is financing you and that you are spending funds on activities directly related to your charitable mission. Foundations like 990s for the same reasons–oh, and if you add line 14 and line 15 together and divide by line 12, they can see what percentage of your expenses you have put toward program versus administration and fund raising.

Financial Audit: Also a biggie, an independent audit tells an important story. Funders can also see in your management letter issued by the auditor if the firm discovered any anomalies in your accounting system and what your response/solution was. You always submit a 990 and audit that cover the same time period. Some funders like to see up to three years of audits and 990s, so don’t toss last year’s–or the year before. Just scan them and hang on to them. I like to keep the last five years just to be safe.

Most Recent Year to Date (YTD) Financials: The 990 and audit only give the funder information about what happened in the last complete fiscal year. Your financials are simply your balance sheet and statement of expense and revenue from the beginning date of your current fiscal year to the most recent month that has ended and been closed out by your finance department. So if you have a July 1-June 30 fiscal year, your most recent YTD Financials would be for the period of July 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009. Or even just to March 31, 2009 if the books for the April haven’t been finalized.

Annual Report: If you don’t publish an annual report, a year-end newsletter may do. Something that gives an overview of your most recently completed fiscal year, the services you offered and how many people you served. Annual Reports often include a brief year-end snapshot of financials, as well as a board list, major accomplishments and a few client success stories.

CAVEAT: This is just a list of commonly requested attachments that you can stockpile to make your life easier. This is not a list of attachments that you should include with every proposal! You should only include attachments that are specifically requested by the funder. Never, ever include anything more, no matter how tempting it is!


2 Responses to “Attachments: The Usual Suspects”

  1. Jennifer (Corrigan) Politi June 22, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Loretta, this is so helpful! I want to download your BRAIN and put it on a flash drive! 🙂 Thanks for doing this blog. This is really helpful for me as a (fairly) newbie.

    • Loretta Holland June 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

      Thanks, Jennifer! So glad you are finding this useful and I am making some kind of sense!

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