Old School Blog Post



A few years ago, I participated in a #grantchat on Twitter focused on technology. (#grantchat is from 12-1 pm Eastern every Tuesday.) Questions centered around the different tools we use as grant professionals to make our lives easier and work more efficiently. I learned so much in 60 minutes, and one of my biggest takeaways was that I am totally old school. 


While everyone else was sharing apps, software, and gadgets they love, I was in a corner by myself whispering ”post-it notes, white boards, and Excel for the win!” Then a gal I had never met IRL (that’s “In Real Life” for you non-Twitter folks) professed an undying love for her Franklin Covey Calendar. We bonded over our no-tech/low-tech leanings, and this budding friendship led to a workshop at the 2015 Grant Professionals Association’s Annual Conference entitled: Granting It Old School.


I loved that the workshop included a packed house of my grant colleagues talking about things like hand-written thank you notes, phone calls, three-ring binders for documentation collection, checklists, and office supplies. If you want to get grant professionals talking for days, just bring up office supplies. From color-coded folders to fancy pens, from label makers to stickers, we get excited over them all. I am not kidding. At a recent Grant Professionals Association Board meeting one of our board members brought everyone two fun pens and you would have thought we won the lottery.


The reality is, we all need a mix of options for managing grants and our proposal writing process. Technology helps with tracking your time, deadlines, and multiple responsibilities. Tools help us work faster and smarter. But they do not belie tried and true methods that work for so many of us. Writing things down is cathartic and checking things off a to-do list even more so. I am a visual learner, and one of the biggest things I miss now that I work from home is a giant white board. I love having my deadlines and activities staring me in the face every day that I am sitting at a desk working. It keeps important and pending work at the forefront of my mind, which helps me focus. I am managing without my white board, but I sure do miss it.


Technology that helps you get the job done is always worth every penny, but that does not mean you have to spend a fortune on technology. Anytime I teach a grant workshop or talk to a new grant professional, someone always asks what types of software and tools they need to buy. My answer will forever be the same: nothing. If you work with a new or small organization with a limited budget, you do not have to spend a dime on grant management or other tools. As a grant professional in local government, I managed over 40 grant programs totaling millions of dollars with nothing more than my white board, Excel spreadsheets, my calendar, three-ring binders, and post-it notes. Check out Season 2, Episode 11 of the Fundraising HayDay podcast to hear more favorite old school productivity tools.


Old school tools will get the job done. But if you want to venture into the digital age, take your time and check out all your options. Talk to other grant professionals and see what software and apps they found worthy of their money. Amazing tools are out there, but none as fun as a fresh new pack of multi-colored sharpies. Just call me an oldie, but goodie.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 2 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.


  1. Lisa Marie Michener February 6, 2020at9:21 am

    Amen! I love my excel spreadsheet for tracking. And nothing says productivity like 3-ring binders!

    1. Amanda Day February 7, 2020at6:59 pm

      Lisa, anyone who feels my love for 3-ring binders is totally a friend of mine!


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