NOVEMBER 2, 2017
Nobody wants to dig through all their emails or sift through folders to find that 990 from last year. It’s really easy to create an Attachments folder within your Dropbox or shared drive so that when it comes time to pull together a proposal, you know where everything is.
A good starting point is making a folder for each type of attachment (budgets, board list, funders, etc). I’m a big proponent of fine tuning tools or systems to meet your individual needs, but be sure that whatever you choose is either clear enough that someone else could easily follow it or is possible to explain to others. It couldn’t hurt to create a basic user guide or other form of documentation for your coworkers to reference.
To build on that last point, make sure that your naming conventions are clear and consistent, so that they can be easily understood at a glance. I’ve found it’s helpful to include at least and month and year in the name of the file, especially with items that may need to be regularly updated. BONUS TIP: If your files are arranged alphabetically, adding 0- to the beginning of the name will always sort it to the top.
This is especially useful and important for those documents that get updated regularly, like funder lists. We’d recommend creating both a CURRENT and an ARCHIVED folder for each, saving as new version of each document in the “current” folder each time you update it, and moving the old one to the “archive” folder. By combining this step with the previous step about including date in your file names, you’ll never have to second guess whether you have the most up-to-date file.
As in all things, a list is a great way to keep track of all the moving parts, especially if you’re working on multiple proposals at the same time. In that case, putting your attachment lists side by side can help you cross off multiple items at once.
The trick to avoiding a late-game scramble to gather all your attachments is thinking ahead! As a good rule of thumb, you should be thinking about what attachments you will need and where to find them at the same time as you are thinking about drafting the proposal. Thinking ahead also applies to updating your documents – updating your funding list as you receive funding will save you from the scramble of making those updates (and hoping you didn’t miss any!) when it’s time to gather attachments for an upcoming deadline.