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Grants Management System Tips: Putting Your Program on Track

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This publication shows you how to manage your grant award with maximum efficiency and effectiveness and improve your chances for future funding by ensuring compliance with the program’s terms and conditions, establishing productive timelines, and fostering an open flow of communication among key personnel.

A Three-Part Strategy

You’ve received a grant award letter and are about to announce the good news to your support team. But just because the money is coming, doesn’t mean the heavy lifting is over. In fact, the real work has begun. It’s time to devise your strategy for accomplishing your objectives and ensuring that you meet all of the program’s requirements and expectations.

Grantors need to gauge the effectiveness of their programs. A grantor is only as effective as the agencies it funds. Some recipients accomplish their objectives and others do not. A grantor will think twice about regranting to an organization that has mismanaged its funds.

A poor grants management system can result in a failed program, returned funding, potential liability, intensive auditing, or a severed relationship with a potential financial ally. A good grants management system improves your chances of meeting your objectives, entices grantors to seriously consider your future requests, bolsters relationships with your grantors, and streamlines evaluation, reporting, and auditing processes.

In developing an effective grants management strategy, consider these three steps as a basis for your program design:

1. Ensure compliance with a grantor’s terms and stipulations by making sure you meet all of the conditions for funding as well as any legal requirements.

2. Devise a timeline that targets reporting deadlines and benchmarks for your program’s objectives.

3. Establish a roster of key personnel and a system by which you can communicate real-time evaluations and adjustments made to improve the program’s performance.

Ensure Compliance

Ensuring compliance with a grantor’s terms, conditions, and stipulations typically requires immediate action between notification of the award and the deadline for returning a completed grant agreement. Reading all of the fine print will help you avoid snags later in the process. Some of this research can be done during the application process, saving time in the post-award phase.

Make sure you meet all of the conditions for funding as well as any and all legal requirements. Funding from federal sources generally requires compliance with rules and regulations provided in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Check your award documentation for the specific terms that your agency needs to follow.

Also, consult legal resources with compliance questions where appropriate. The grant agreements should spell out when to provide reports on the progress of the funded program. Note this information for your timeline. Usually, there will be protocols to follow for reporting any significant changes in your program. These should be closely adhered to should your project have any significant changes in personnel, budget, or timeline.

Develop a Timeline

Develop a project timeline with a variety of factors in mind. First, make sure to add the deadlines for reporting or supplying information to the grant maker. Then, work backward, scheduling program events, benchmarks, and evaluations so you and your team can monitor whether the program’s objectives are being met in a timely manner.

Additionally, ensure that your project remains fiscally solvent during the funding cycle by placing significant income and expense events on your schedule. This is particularly important with reimbursement grants, where agencies pay for program activities up front and then invoice for reimbursement.

Communicate with Key Personnel

Key personnel for carrying out a project will likely come from a variety of departments, sections, or divisions within your organization. For example, if a city bridge that is a potential historic landmark is being retrofitted for safety, an analyst administering a grant award may have to reconcile budget information with data from the engineering, inspection, and project management teams while incorporating input from agencies such as a cultural heritage commission or community interest groups. It will be important to assemble all of the project’s key personnel for a meeting very soon after receiving grant award notification to convey the project timeline and establish duties and deadlines.

In many cases, effective communication can be established through actions as simple as scheduling regular meetings between key personnel or devising IT solutions that improve the flow of information. Determine what actions to take by identifying the level of interactivity needed and the resources available.

With proper management of your grant award you avoid scrambling as a report deadline looms to find out how the money was spent and whether your organization has complied with program requirements.

An effective grants management system begins with early assessment of your organization’s ability to comply with the terms of the grant agreement, setting out a comprehensive timeline and developing a system of communication that ensures your program objectives and reporting requirements are being met. Being organized and responsive to a grantor will strengthen the relationship and improve your chances for future funding. Part of an effective program is not just securing funding for a program’s initial stages but also developing stable funding into the future.

Building a Grants Office from Scratch

Not sure where to begin? Check out our white paper that can help you build your grants office from scratch, written by a grant manager who had to do it herself!

How to establish a grants office with buy-in from departments