One of the most important methods for boosting an organization’s impact is through grant writing. By partnering with grant programs and funders, nonprofits and government agencies can expand their reach, bolster resources, and simply do more. But grants frequently expect returns on their investments — often in the form of grant reports that explain exactly how their dollars were used.
Who needs to create grant reports?
Generally, the requirement for grant reporting is disclosed whenever a grant is awarded to an applicant, whether the grant is funded by federal and state governments or private charities.
The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) law requires that information about entities and organizations receiving federal funds be disclosed to the public via a central website. This information currently includes the entity’s name, amount of the grant, funding agency, and location – among other requirements – and is published by the grant-making agency on USASpending.gov.
If your organization has not received funding directly from the federal government, check with your grantor to see if they are a federal grant’s “prime awardee,” or an entity that received federal grant funds. “Sub-awardees,” who receive funds from prime awardees, must submit all required data to the “prime awardee,” who will then share the data through the FFATA Sub-award Reporting System (FSRS).
Even without government-mandated reporting standards, compiling quarterly or annual reports to explain your organization’s expenditures and impact is a solid practice for any grantees hoping to secure additional funds in the future. Having past experience and evidence on hand can make grant writing simpler and more impactful.
Types of grant reports
Grant reports can vary in format, depth, and scope, depending on what your grantor requires. However, most reports fall in two categories: financial grant reports and performance grant reports.
Federal Financial Reports (FFRs) are used to submit financial information about individual grant awards on an annual basis. These reports have varying due dates, depending on the frequency of the report:
Quarterly and semi-annual interim reports must be submitted no later than 30 days after the end of each reporting period
Annual reports must be submitted no later than 90 days after the end of each reporting period
Final reports must be submitted no later than 90 days after the project or grant period end date
These financial reports explain to grantors exactly how funds were used. The goal is to account for all expenditures equaling the total amount granted, but grantees can also request that 25% of the awarded funds be rolled over to the next reporting period. These reports focus strictly on the finances, rather than the actual activities of the organization.
Performance reports, formerly referred to as progress reports, document the day-to-day and overarching strategies and initiatives funded by grants. These reports include more qualitative data than financial reports, including descriptions of programs, events, financial assistance rendered, demographics of the population served, and more.
How can I know what information to include in my grant report?
Grant reporting requirements are often defined by federal regulations and forms. However, if your organization is reporting to a grantor outside the federal government, check the original grant application or award letter for reporting guidelines. Grant providers will often establish their requirements and expectations for grant recipients before disbursement.
When you’re drafting your report, consider grouping information by these categories:
A program’s success is often tied to funding, and funding is dependent upon solid relationships with charitable organizations and fundraisers. Before diving into the details of the organization’s financials and operations, be sure to address the people and organization that made it all possible. Thank your funders for their contributions and briefly summarize why this work is important, and how it benefits the community.
Explain what exactly the organization has been doing. Be as general or as granular with information as you want, but the more information, the better. If possible, include numbers and statistics about the resources and services provided. What initiatives did you spearhead? How many people did you serve? How many units or hours of services did you provide? What was your approach: how did you plan and execute on your strategy each day, week, or month? The more data you have available to you, the easier, clearer, and more impactful your operational report will be.
When applying to any grant program, you essentially make an unspoken promise: we will use these funds to achieve these specific objectives. These objectives are the outcomes you, your team, and your funders are hoping to achieve. These need to be defined and specific beyond simply “helping people.” Consider the overall goal of your organization and drill it down to the details. Be sure to make frequent assessments of your services and clients’ satisfaction, and then look at the data you’ve collected throughout the reporting period.
To translate your organization’s work into digestible numerical values, consider these metrics for defining the success of your organization:
Employment assistance: job seekers served, job seekers placed, hours of job training provided, number of employers engaged, individuals’ goals defined and achieved
Community action programs: financial resources allocated, individuals served with food, nutritional value of food served, community partnerships formed, low-income housing occupied
Healthcare: patients served, healthcare expenses saved, miles of transportation assistance provided, behavioral counseling provided, medication prescribed or distributed
Housing services: shelters in network, beds available, beds occupied, individuals housed, individuals fed, weatherization services offered, weatherization service expenses
The whole point of grant reporting is transparency — don’t let your funders find out about changes from anyone other than you and your team. If something deviates from the plan laid out in the original grant application, acknowledge it here. Maybe additional funding came in and expanded your offerings. Maybe a natural disaster required more financial support for the community than originally thought. Make sure funders know you are aware of changes to your proposed offerings and help them understand why the adjustments were necessary and beneficial.
Nonprofits and governmental human services programs are all about improvement, which means they are constantly facing — and overcoming — challenges. Every time a problem is encountered and transparently addressed, it’s an opportunity to fine-tune processes and improve outcomes in the future, even if those problems arise internally. Own up to mistakes and identify opportunities for improvement. Explaining these hurdles could even potentially change funders’ grantmaking process in the future to better address previously unexpected obstacles.
The reporting process doesn’t end with the present: reflect on how far your organization has come and set expectations for the future. If your report is robust, informative, and illustrates the organization’s value in the community, funders and stakeholders alike will only feel more supportive of its future endeavors. Just like outcomes, look at the organization’s impact over the course of the reporting period, and then drill down into specifics. How many more people do you hope to serve in the future, relative to this reporting period? Where did you identify a need for more or different services? How do you hope or expect the organization’s structure, activities, or partnerships to change moving forward? Dare to dream — it may just win you more collaborators, friends, and achievements in the next reporting period.
CaseWorthy can help you create templates and save time.
CaseWorthy’s customizable, scalable case management tools were built to manage complex networks of individuals, resources, and services to make your work easier from conception, to execution, to evaluation.
Using case management software with built-in Power BI reporting functionality can save time and frustration at the end of reporting periods, keeping your data organized, informative, and at the tip of your fingers at all times. From the moment you first interact with a client, service, or program, you can collect and store data that can be utilized in future reports. CaseWorthy’s template-building capabilities allow you to build applications and reports at the touch of a button, so you can navigate complex federal and state reporting regulations with ease.
Our client services team is made up of experts in every area of human services — from social work, to healthcare, to nonprofit management, to grants management — so we understand your needs. We also understand the value of doing more with less time, less staff, and less money, so your time and resources can go to those who need it most.
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