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Grants Management: What to Do When Projects Go Awry

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Is your grant-funded program going to run out of money? Is there a deficiency with your program? Don’t hide from your problems. Whether it’s a programmatic or financial issue, there is often no need to worry. In most grants management cases, problems can be resolved. This publication provides you with assistance on how to get your project back on track.  

Most Problems are Fixable

Sometimes, no matter how organized we are or how prepared we may be, something goes wrong. Grant administration is no different. Problems may be material, immaterial, financial, or programmatic in nature. As with many things, the old adage holds true: The best offense is a good defense. In the world of grant administration, there is no substitute for planning and preparation. However, despite all the proactive efforts you might make to prevent problems from happening, there is always the potential for any number of issues to arise over the course of your project.

Whatever the problem, there are two key strategies for fixing it:

    1.Determine your agency’s resources.

If things with your project go awry, you need to identify what resources you have available internally:

  • What resources do you have at your disposal?
  • Is there staff available to assist you?
  • Are there additional funds that may be used?

As you evaluate your available financial and non-financial resources, you should also consider what resources your project partners might be able to contribute.  Ask yourself what is necessary and desirable as opposed to what is practical. Are there components of your project that could potentially be scratched? Make additions and cuts as necessary and allowable in your grant agreement.

     2. Ask for outside assistance.

If you can’t fix the problem with your program internally, reach out to the program officer and ask for assistance. They would rather hear from you at the beginning of the problem rather than after it has gone on for too long. Be honest and clear in what problems you have found with the project. Remember that funding agencies want you to succeed and they are available as a resource.

One California city shared its experience of getting a project back on track with eCivis.  This city managed a California waste management grant that was issued in cycles.  The city had outstanding costs from a previous funding cycle and was unsure whether it could apply money from a more recent cycle towards those costs. If it were only allowed to use money from the earlier cycle, not all of the costs would be covered. To address the situation, the city contacted the program officer and explained the situation. The program officer gladly assisted the city and was able to rectify the situation to ensure that all costs were covered. 

Of course, you should always make every effort to proactively prevent problems from happening in the first place.  However, if an issue does come up, it is best to tackle it head-on while it has the best chance of being fixed. Don’t wait for the funding agency to contact you regarding a problem with your project and definitely don’t wait until it’s too late. Be one step ahead and address the problem as soon as possible, so you can get your project back on track.