Grants manuals

A grants manual is a record of information about your grants program. The alternative to a manual is a couple of staff members holding all that information in their heads. A grants manual makes the information more accessible to internal and external stakeholders, saves those staff members time in responding to questions, and guards against the loss of information when they move on.

What goes in a grants manual?

A grants manual contains an overarching explanation of why and how your organisation provides grants. It provides staff with everything they need to know when responding to requests for information or grants. It can be a useful point of reference when your program is being debated.

The manual does not replace guidelines, and it is not set in stone. Update it regularly as your thinking and practices change.

How do we develop a grants manual?

  • Meet with colleagues to discuss your approach to grantmaking, and take notes.
  • Ask yourselves why you make grants at all.
  • Ask why you make grants the way that you do.
  • Think about your grants from the community perspective.
  • Don't worry about whether you're covering too much ground. The manual is not intended to be read cover-to-cover. People can refer to different sections when they need to. 
  • Delegate someone to draw up a first draft. 
  • Have all stakeholders review the draft, and have the writer update it.
  • Publish your manual in an easy-to-find location on your website.

What do we include in a grants manual?

Your grants manual will be unique, like your grants program itself, but it might cover:

  • the purpose of your program
  • relevant policies
  • relevant strategic objectives 
  • program aims
  • details of your risk-management approach
  • details of the application process
  • organisational processes
  • what the future might hold for the program.

The City of Yarra, Victoria, provided some of the advice contained in this help sheet. To view its grants manual, visit its Annual Grants web page.

SmartyGrants users can access the Grantmakers Toolkit which contains specific templates help you develop a custom-made Grants Manual and/or policies for your program.