“We finished the project – now what?!” (a.k.a. final reports)

Your nonprofit just completed a project (or your season or fiscal year), and you’re basking in well-deserved relief – “so glad that’s over, wasn’t it great?”

~ or wiping your brow – “whew, dodged a bullet on that one!”

~ or swearing you’ll never do it again and hoping no one will notice what happened – “wow, that project was a disaster…” ☹

What happens next?

The final report.

Many of us put off writing reports to funders. We want to get on with the work, or take that well-deserved vacation, breathe a sigh of relief, plan the next project. But it’s well worth the time to review your project right away, note all the things that went right or wrong, and record some stories about your results while it’s fresh in your memory. Here are a few tips:

  • Immediately after the project (or fiscal year) is over, take a few minutes to sit down in a quiet place and recall the “human interest” stories – the little boy who played the drum; all the veterans who stood up at your seniors’ event and brought tears to everyone’s eyes; the conversation over coffee after the show; the homeless teenager who now has a place to live and what that meant to them. Jot down your stories in enough detail that you will be able to remember them when you write the report.
  • Be scrupulously honest about what went wrong. Don’t try to pretend a disastrous project was successful. Record what went wrong with the project and why. What did you learn, and how will your organization change the project or re-design a new one?
  • Be scrupulously honest about what went right. Don’t be modest – trumpet your successes! Are you going to repeat the project? Do another similar one? Did you meet a community need?
  • As soon as you have the financials for your project, write the budget portion of the report. If you wait, it’s easy to forget exactly which figures go with which expenses, and why you decided to allocate money as you did. Your financial report must align and support the narrative report, just as the project budget in your original grant proposal aligned and supported the proposal narrative. Financial reports tell the story of your project in the same way as your narrative.

 Then submit the report by the date suggested (or earlier if you can), and go on your well-earned vacation!

Happy grant-seeking!


Minnesota Philanthropic Corporate Grantwriter

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