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Why January Will Make or Break Your Grant Funding Goals

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Happy New Year! New years is a time for celebration- from watching a ball drop, partying the night away with loved ones, or just celebrating in general. For some nonprofit leaders, it's also a time to start thinking about a new program year, new budget, and new goals and objectives.

Have you ever seen Baby New Year used to symbolize the beginning of the year? You know the little baby cartoon you sometimes see in pop culture. Baby New Year symbolizes the "birth" of the next year and the "passing" of the prior year; in other words, a "rebirth.” The myth most associated with Baby New Year is that he/she/they is a baby at the beginning of their year, but quickly ages until he/she/they are elderly. At this point, he hands over his duties to the next Baby New Year.

As soon as January hits, it's a rebirth, and the time is ticking each month for the new Baby New Year to be ushered in. Our current U.S. system is structured to use holidays to guide our activities and actions throughout the year:

  • New Years: new years resolutions aligned with new beginnings, thoughts, and ideas.

  • Valentines Day: It's cold and time to snuggle up with loved ones and spread love to all.

  • April 15th: Tax Time! (I'm kidding)

  • Memorial Day Weekend: It's time to have fun in the sun

  • Fourth of July: THE height of summer

  • Labor Day: Summer is over. Time to transition to the Fall season.

  • Thanksgiving: It's time to start slowing down for the year and spend time with family.

  • Christmas: Slow down, take a break (hopefully), close out the year, and prepare to ramp up again next year.

How does this apply to nonprofits? Every nonprofit has its own cyclical flow. There are rhythms and activities done annually sprinkled in with new projects and activities. The same applies to seeking grant funding. Each year, nonprofits should have consistent rhythms and activities in place to support grant seeking with built-in flexibility for when things “popup”. Now “popups” are not things you suddenly remember that you neglected to plan for. Popups are things like a funder changing a due date, requests for an additional report, and similar things beyond your control. Having a preset schedule will help your organization not be frazzled when these things happen because you already have a system in place.

What should these rhythms and activities supporting grant-seeking look like? The reality is, every nonprofit is different. Each has different fiscal years, year-end activities, annual events, year-end campaigns, etc.

The key takeaway here is for many nonprofits, especially those on a year-end fiscal year, the month of January will make or break your grant funding goals and set your organization up for the rest of the year.

As of January, your organization should already have the following things in place at a minimum:

  1. An annual operating and program budget voted and approved by your Board of Directors

  2. An annual strategic plan for your organization

  3. An annual fundraising plan with a goal amount for the year broken down by funding type

  4. An annual grant seeking plan with deadlines and next steps

  5. A relationship-building plan to build relationships with potential funders

If you don’t have these things in place by now, the time on Baby New Year’s clock is ticking away. :) Additionally, and most importantly, this is a team effort. Your entire organization and Board of Directors, not just the Executive Director or other nonprofit leader, should be nurturing these activities (I am resisting the urge to say “schedule”) in a rhythm, flow, and cycle fit for your organization.

For example, your organization’s rhythm could look something like these series of activities ushering you from year to year:

  • January: Have the Executive Director reach out to current and potential funders to share your Annual Strategic plan, communicate your goals for the year, and learn more about their goals for the year.

  • February: Have the Director of Development schedule meetings with current and potential funders to discuss further.

  • March: Have the Director of Programming meet with your program team each quarter to discuss the status of your programming to aid with reporting to your funders.

You get the drift. Start your new year right and engage your team with productive habits to lead to a “grant” prosperous year.



Shavonn Richardson, MBA, GPC is Founder and CEO of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™. She is a grant professional, an active speaker, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Grant Professionals Association.

Shavonn earned a BBA from Howard University and an MBA from Emory University. She earned the GPC (Grant Professional Certified) credential from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute in 2020.

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