Get Organized: Tools That Make A Difference by Kellie Brungard, GPC

In 2023, everyone has an app or system that they live and breathe by – color-coded calendars, project management tools, or to-do lists read by Alexa each morning. Are you the person who struggles with sticking to a new system? Or you may get a jolt of motivation when a new application creates a shortcut in your day. Whatever the reason for your attention, here are four tools that have helped my projects stay on track. With the best of intentions, these tools will carry me through 2023!


If Excel spreadsheets are your go-to grant tracking method, this new application might be for you. Airtable is designed to look like a well-dressed version of your favorite spreadsheet, improved with features you might have only dreamed about. For starters, in its basic form, each workspace looks familiar with the ability to add and name fields (columns), select different formats such as date or currency, and sortable filters. As the owner, you can add teammates or clients to each workspace or base, depending on the level of access they should have. If you worry about your master spreadsheet being accidentally deleted, do not worry. You can set permissions for who and what can be edited. Airtable has a built-in Kanban board that allows you to outline a logic model or facilitate brainstorming easily.

There are a variety of templates and views allowing full customization based on the project’s needs. However, the platform recently released a nonprofit grant tracker template that helps you track application status, manage contacts and previous awards, and maintain a list of prospects. With the ability to sort records based on the due date, status, or project type, you can quickly prepare board reports.

Folder Systems

When I started at Assel Grant Services last year, many processes just made sense. One of these was the way we organized our dropbox files. Every client folder has the same set of general files within the master (e.g., attachments, client communications, 2022 grants). When we start a grant project, that folder includes the same sub-folders (e.g., working documents, final files, budget, RFP and templates). This system ensures that content is easy to locate when you are toggling between projects. There is always room for human error, so diligence in spending a few minutes cleaning up files after submission goes a long way.

The Pomodoro Technique

I can have all of the tools in the app store at my fingertips, but if my mind isn’t organized, I will not feel organized. Last year I struggled to quiet my brain and focus when it came time to work. I often have too many tabs and windows open, causing my mind to flit from task to task. A colleague told me about the Pomodoro Technique, and after some trial and error, I found this immensely helpful. The technique uses time blocking to keep you focused on a task. The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on a project and then take a five-minute break. You can use this as a basic formula and modify it as needed. If you are trying to write an extensive section, an hour focus block with 15-minute breaks might be more beneficial.

If you want to try this technique, start slow. Try to use it for an hour a day and build up each week. And recognize that some days focusing will be more challenging than others. I found that a Pomodoro playlist made all the difference. The changes in music during the breaks removed the need to start and stop a timer.

Establish Intention

There is always going to be the next-best tool available that will revolutionize your workflow. Seek to understand the obstacle you are trying to overcome before implementing something new. As grant professionals, we know it’s hard to measure success if you aren’t sure what success looks like. New systems take an immense effort to learn and automate. The more steps involved make it easier to push aside when deadlines stack up. Some fellow writers will agree that some of the best tools already exist – sticky notes, whiteboards, and color-coded pens.

Know When to Outsource

As a team of experienced grant professionals, Assel Grant Services (AGS) understands that sometimes, you need an extra team member to help pull a project together. If you are interested in grant services, training, federal review services, or our career opportunities, Julie Assel, CGMS, GPC, President/CEO, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you with a quote for grant services.

This BLOG is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills:

Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers

Skill 3.3: Identify strategies that grant developers use in building social capital to benefit their communities and society at large