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Grant Management Blog

Blog for state, local, and tribal government grant resources and articles.

Cost Allocation Plans vs. Indirect Cost Proposals

<p>In our last blog discussing indirect costs, we focused on the <a href=""""><strong><span>top FAQs</span></strong> </a>that come up for grants administrators and public servants in general. One thing that we didn’t cover, however, is distinguishing between your cost allocation plans vs. your indirect cost proposals.&nbsp;</p> <!--more--> <p>Let’s tackle them in this article. Use the breakdown below to help you get your finances in order for the new fiscal year as well as maximize grant funding by understanding the true cost of your organization’s services.</p> <p><strong>Cost Allocation Plan</strong></p> <p><em>What is It?</em></p> <p>A cost allocation plan is an accounting report that calculates the agency-wide indirect costs to departments and funds that receive services from other departments. This means accounting for administrative functions like HR or Information Technology staff, or other pieces of equipment that help you accomplish your missions.</p> <p>Acentral service cost allocation plans include all central service costs that can be claimed (either as billed or as an allocated cost) under federal awards.</p> <p><em>Who needs to submit?</em></p> <p>Each major local government entity receiving $100 million or more in direct federal funding is required to submit a cost allocation plan to its cognizant agency (i.e. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, or Department of Interior, etc.) for indirect costs on an annual basis.</p> <p>All other local governments claiming central service costs must develop a plan. However, you are not required to submit your plans for federal approval unless you are specifically requested to do so by your cognizant agency for indirect costs.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>What should be included in the plan?</em></p> <p>Your cost allocation plan must incorporate all of the following components:</p> <ul> <li>Organizational chart</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Copy of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (or a copy of the Executive Budget if budgeted costs are being proposed)</li> <li>Certification confirming your Finance Director or other like official has reviewed and approved your cost allocation plan (as required under <a href="""" rel=""noopener"">2 CFR 200 guidelines</a>)</li> <li>For all allocated central services, you must include:</li> </ul> <ol> <li>A brief description of the service</li> <li>Identification of the unit rendering the service and the operating agencies receiving the service</li> <li>Items of expense included in the cost of service</li> <li>Method used to distributed the cost of service to benefitting agencies</li> <li>Summary schedule showing the allocation of each service to the benefitting agencies</li> </ol> <p><strong>Indirect Cost Proposal</strong></p> <p><em>What is it?</em></p> <p>An indirect cost rate proposal is used to calculate a specific percentage rate that can be applied to a program or grant to determine the amount that can be recovered. Your indirect cost proposal is required to justify the establishment of an indirect cost rate. They are especially important to maximizing grant funds because indirect costs are normally charged to federal awards by the use of an indirect cost rate.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Who needs to submit?</em></p> <p>All departments or agencies of your governmental unit that want to claim indirect costs under federal awards must prepare an indirect cost rate proposal as well as related documentation to support those costs. Additionally, any governmental department or agency unit that receives $35 million or more in direct federal funding must submit its indirect cost rate proposal to its cognizant agency for indirect costs.&nbsp;</p> <p>Other governmental departments or agencies must develop an indirect cost proposal, maintain it, and maintain any related documentation for audit. However, you are not required to submit your proposals unless specifically requested to do so by your cognizant agency for indirect costs.</p> <p>Lastly, each Indian tribal government seeking reimbursement of indirect costs must submit your indirect cost proposal to the Department of Interior.</p> <p><em>What should be included in the proposal?</em></p> <p>Your indirect cost rate proposal must include all of the following components:</p> <ul> <li>Subsidiary worksheets and other relevant data</li> <li>Copy of financial data (financial statements, comprehensive annual financial report, executive budgets, accounting reports, etc.)</li> <li>Approximate amount of direct base costs incurred under federal awards. These should be broken out between salaries, wages, and other direct costs.</li> <li>Chart showing the organizational structure of your agency during the period for which the proposal applies. This should also include functional statements noting the duties and/or responsibilities of all units that comprise your agency.</li> <li>Certification confirming your Finance Director or other like member has reviewed and approved the indirect cost rate in the proposal (as required under 2 CFR 200 guidelines).</li> </ul> <p style=""padding-left: 40px;"">&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Want more info on indirect costs? Register for our free upcoming webinar </em><a href=""""><strong><em><span>here</span></em></strong></a><em> and make sure you’re not leaving any money on the table!</em></p> <p><em>Need help preparing a cost allocation plan and/or indirect cost rate proposal? Reach out to </em><a href=""mailto:[email protected]""><em><span>[email protected]</span></em></a><em> to get a free consultation with one of our indirect cost experts today!&nbsp;</em></p>

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Top 5 Grants You Should Know About for Black History Month

<p>To celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to round up some of the most important funding sources for Black entrepreneurs, businesses, historical sites, and communities. Here are five grant programs that can help:</p> <!--more--><h4><strong>African American Cultural Heritage Fund</strong></h4> <p>In November 2017, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched its <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">African American Cultural Heritage Action fund</a>, a $25 million campaign to support 150 historic places that have been overlooked in American history while representing African American activism and achievement.&nbsp;</p> <p>As of 2020, the Action Fund has given grants to at least <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">27 sites and organizations</a> across the country, including the Historic Vernon A.ME Church, Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, and the Maxville Interpretative Heritage Center, which tells the story of Black loggers from the south recruited to work in the Oregon logging town.</p> <h4><strong>USDA Community Connect Grants</strong></h4> <p>Through its <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Community Connect Grants Program</a>, the US Department of Agriculture provides grants that can be used to construct, acquire, or lease land or buildings used to deploy broadband services for residential and business communities in rural areas as well as critical community facilities.&nbsp;</p> <p>These funds can also be used to provide free broadband service to communities for up to two years. In addition to businesses and nonprofits, state and local governments as well as tribes are eligible for these grants.&nbsp;</p> <h4><strong>SBA 8(a) Business Development Program</strong></h4> <p>This program is specifically designed for small businesses owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities.” While the <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Small Business Administration 8(a)</a> program doesn’t specifically offer grants, it helps business owners compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, through the program, minority business owners access a Business Opportunity Specialist, a mentor-protégé program, as well as business training, counseling, and executive development.&nbsp;</p> <h4><strong>Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)</strong></h4> <p>Under the Department of Commerce, the <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Minority Business Development Agency</a> (MBDA) is a federal agency that provides grants to organizations operating their Minority Business Centers throughout the nation. Eligible entrepreneurs can receive business consulting, procurement matching, and financial assistance for their minority-owned businesses. The program also includes grants that target education for formerly incarcerated persons and enterprising women of color.</p> <p>For example, the <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Women’s Business Enterprise Council South</a>, a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, recently received a $1 million grant from the MBDA to operate a MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center. The grant will be used to provide training, access to capital assistance, as well as networking and procurement opportunities for minority women-owned business enterprises.&nbsp;</p> <h4><strong>Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS)</strong></h4> <p>The program, offered under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grants awards grants to <a href="""" style=""font-weight: bold;"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">historically black colleges and universities</a> to address community development needs in their localities.&nbsp;</p> <p>The HBCU Program helps HBCUs expand their role and effectiveness in helping their communities with neighborhood revitalization, housing, and economic development. This program is key to helping rebuild America’s neighborhoods. While the education of African American youth is the primary mission, HBCUs also play important roles in the nation, such as serving as economic anchors to their communities.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Need help finding grants to support your communities? Reach out to see how our certified grants management specialists and grants management software can help.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style=""text-align: center;""><em><span style=""color: #565f5f;""><a href=""/contact-us"" class=""cta-primary"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Contact Us</a></span></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

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Why You Need a Grants Nerd On Your Team

<p>If you don’t know her at this point, you’ve probably heard her on one of our many webinars breaking down the ins and outs of government grants.&nbsp;</p> <!--more--><p>Maria Howeth, eCivis’ Senior Customer Success Manager, has over 13 years of grant management experience in tribal government, is a proud member of the Choctaw nation, a Certified Grant Management Specialist, and a board member of the National Grants Management Association (NGMA). However, those who know Maria well know that she proudly identifies as a self-proclaimed “grants nerd.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In this latest hero highlight, Maria shares how she started learning about grants, the impact of tribal grants on surrounding communities, lessons learned navigating funding during times of crises, and the keys to grant management success. More importantly, she reminds us why every organization needs a grants nerd on their team.</p> <h4><strong>Lessons From ARRA</strong></h4> <p>Maria’s career began on the finance team at the Chickasaw nation. Her role was to help pay invoices that were grant related. The only type of grant she was familiar with at the time were Pell grants. It wasn’t until 2008 when she started working with the Office of Management and Budget for the Chickasaw nation that she attained the responsibilities of managing dozens of grants. Then, the American Recovery and Rescue Act (ARRA) was passed in 2009.&nbsp;</p> <p>“It was a trial by fire,” Maria said. “I lead the compliance effort for that funding. When I took over grants, I got to learn all about the federal agencies we worked with, including the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Indian Health Services for the Tribe.”</p> <p>During her time, she oversaw important grants that addressed substance abuse and mental health in the community, child welfare grants, and even worked on funding from the Violence Against Women Act.&nbsp;</p> <h4><strong>Driving Community Impact</strong></h4> <p>One thing that Maria stressed is that tribes don’t just use grant funding to support tribal citizens but all surrounding communities as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s a lot of collaboration between the tribe, federal agency and maybe the county or commissioners of the state,” Maria said. “There’s also a lot of community involvement where we don’t just help citizens or other tribal members in the same area but we work to build true community enhancement anytime we get federal funding.”</p> <p>This holistic community approach was central to the important grant programs she worked on during her time at the Chickasaw Nation, such as addressing substance abuse and helping families through the Violence Against Women Act. She described the tribal medicine wheel approach that holistically addresses every person and aspect of an issue.</p> <p>“It wasn’t just to address the safety of women but also to create homes for them, house the children, and even offer counseling and help to the offenders,” Maria said. “We used the same approach on substance abuse. You can’t focus on one issue and solve the problem but you have to take everybody into account and help the whole unit.”</p> <h4><strong>Navigating Challenges of Tribal Grants Management</strong></h4> <p>While tribal grants are unique in the sense that they can either be competitive grants or direct set asides from the government (where they don’t have to go through state or county), the administrative and compliance requirements are no less stringent. For Maria, she sees improving grants training and transparency as ongoing issues for tribes.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Transparency can be an issue since you can’t have everyone in the same building,” Maria said. “There’s a need for oversight and that transparency so everyone can have their eyes on the same information. We spent a lot of time back then emailing each other to see where we were with our grant goals.”</p> <p>As Maria sees it, many tribes also lack access to necessary training surrounding grants management itself. “With many grant associations, there’s not a big tribal presence,” Maria said. “So you may find fewer trainings specifically for tribes surrounding topics like 2 CFR 200 and the like.”</p> <p>Having a single source of truth in an electronic grant system was a game changer for Maria and the teams she worked with. “It’s so important to have an electronic way to document everything and have that central repository,” Maria said. “That’s where you can find those documents when audit time comes around. Before, it could take me a week to pull a report. But with a system like eCivis, I could have it done in 10 minutes or less.”</p> <h4><strong>The Key to Grant Management Success</strong></h4> <p>Maria’s favorite part of being at eCivis is, to no one’s surprise, building relationships within the community and finding anyone with whom she can nerd out on grants.&nbsp;</p> <p>“My favorite part of working at eCivis is getting to help more tribes and learn about different tribes and their ways,” Maria said.&nbsp;</p> <p>She also loves being there for clients and encourages anyone in grants to seek out training and knowledge and keep asking questions.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Look for training out there,” Maria concluded. “I want everybody to remember that you’re not an island, you can reach out, and there are communities around you that are always willing to help.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Ready to be the hero of your own story? Let us help you simplify your grants management so you can drive more impact in your community.&nbsp;</em></p> <p style=""text-align: center;""><em><span style=""color: #565f5f;""><a href=""/contact-us"" class=""cta-primary"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Contact Us</a></span></em></p>

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Project Methodology: A Grant Proposal’s Plan of Attack

<div class=""hs-migrated-cms-post""> <p style=""text-align: left; line-height: 1.75;""><em>This blog was updated on February 25, 2021</em></p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">Having a clear description of the methods that will be used to accomplish your project objectives will make a strong application even more competitive. Some funding agencies may require you to submit a documented form of their methodology. Developing a methodology is not only helpful to the funding agency, but also allows you to definitively address how you expect to use awarded funds to fulfill your project’s purpose. This publication details the purpose of the methodology as a part of the proposal narrative and what it should address.</p> <!--more--> <h4 style=""line-height: 1.75; text-align: left; font-weight: bold;"">Methods: The “How” of a Project</h4> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">As a part of the proposal narrative, the methodology is where you can clearly outline how you will use the requested funds to accomplish your project’s objectives. It is the component in the proposal narrative where you bridge the gap between the objectives and the eventual outcome. It is also where you demonstrate your project’s feasibility by detailing your experiences and resources that will be drawn upon to carry out the project.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">The bulk of your methodology discussion should contain detailed descriptions of what project activities will be conducted and how they will be carried out. As your “plan of attack,” your proposed methodology shows the funding agency that you have a logical and well-thought-out plan to carry out reasonable project activities that will lead to the desired outcome. The methods you describe should be presented in a coherent manner, naturally progressing from start to finish.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">For example, if your organization is looking for community development grants to provide increased emergency shelters for the homeless, the methodology should detail how you plan to acquire shelter facilities, offer services, and reach out to those in need of the facilities.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">In addition, the methodology should be justifiable or have some form of expert approval to support the viability of the project. This could be documented through studies related to feasibility, market analyses, site control, surveys, data collection, and other forms of justification. The methodology should also demonstrate the resources that you have available to achieve your project objectives, such as a description of personnel needed and how they will be selected. You can use this section of the narrative to detail any financial and/or in-kind resources and the clientele to be served. Clearly documenting any and all resources available to a project will validate your ability to carry out and accomplish a project.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">Another important issue to keep in mind is that all project needs must be reflected in the project budget. Using the example above, if the project requires collecting data on the incidence of homelessness in a community, the costs associated with surveying, compensating personnel, and other expenses should be detailed as part of the total project cost within a proposed budget.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;"">Having a logical project methodology within a proposal narrative is a vital part of a complete proposal narrative. Painting a vivid picture of how a project will be accomplished will not only demonstrate a carefully planned application, but will also provide the funding agency with evidence of your capacity to produce the desired results. In other words, submitting an application with a detailed yet clear project methodology will increase your chances of securing the funding needed to make your project possible.</p> <p style=""line-height: 1.75;""><em>Need help putting together a stronger grant proposal? Download eCivis' free grant proposal playbook and start winning more grants! </em></p> <p style=""text-align: center; line-height: 1.75;""><em><span style=""color: #565f5f;""><a href=""/resources/guides/grant-proposal-playbook"" class=""cta-primary"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Download Playbook Now</a></span></em></p> <p style=""text-align: center; line-height: 1.75;"">&nbsp;</p> </div>

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Why Excel Is No Longer Sustainable for Government Grants Management

<p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2021 drove home the need for grant modernization in a new and urgent way.</p> <!--more--> <p><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">As government grant administrators have learned, managing grants through spreadsheets, legacy systems, and paper-based processes was implausible with the pandemic forcing many to move their workforces online. And as future emergencies arise that stress the system, managing grants through Excel and paper-based processes is no longer sustainable, leading to more human error, single audit findings, and costs down the road.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">In our latest webinar, attendees heard from eCivis’ Certified Grant Management Specialist, Maria Howeth, about how to standardize approaches, leverage automation, and modernize their grant processes to be equipped for today’s crises and for long-term economic recovery.&nbsp; </span></p> <p><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">Click <a href=""/resources/webinars/why-excel-is-no-longer-sustainable-for-government-grants-management"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank""><span style=""font-weight: bold;"">here </span></a></span><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">to watch the full webinar on demand.</span></p> <h4><strong>Challenges with existing grants administration practices</strong></h4> <p><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">Year-over-year, the number of grant programs and dollar amounts increase while funding distributed also increases. At the same time, there’s been a significant decrease in the amount of resources to effectively and efficiently manage these funds.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">A recent </span><a href=""/blog/transforming-grants-management-lessons-from-the-covid-19-pandemic"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"" style=""font-weight: bold;"">Center for Digital Government (CDG) survey</a><span style=""color: #444e4c;""> found state and local governments experience a variety of operational challenges and resource constraints. The findings include:</span></p> <ul> <li style=""color: #444e4c;"" aria-level=""1""><span style=""color: #444e4c;"">35% of r</span>espondents said their organizations don’t have a standardized process for grants management</li> <li aria-level=""1"">19% cited reporting challenges&nbsp;</li> <li aria-level=""1"">Only 11% of respondents said it’s currently easy to access grant documents and applications within their organizations</li> <li aria-level=""1"">31% of respondents said they currently use Microsoft Excel as their primary grants management software tool</li> <li aria-level=""1"">Over 30% said these processes were either not very easy or not at all easy</li> </ul> <h4><strong>How Excel and paper-based processes exacerbate these challenges</strong></h4> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="""" width=""624"" height=""259"" loading=""lazy"" alt=""how Excel and paper-based processes make grant management challenges worse: limited visibility, paper overload, audit findings, grant management fatigue""></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4><strong>4 ways to standardize your grant management and alleviate those challenges&nbsp;</strong></h4> <br> <p><strong>1. Centralize the tracking and management of grants</strong></p> <ul> <li aria-level=""1""><span style=""color: #633a72;""><strong>Find relevant grant opportunities faster: </strong></span>Rather than spending hours on reading over a NOFA, use a customizable keyword search engine to fast-track the process. eCivis’ pre-award system even allows you to have the perfect opportunity delivered straight to your inbox.</li> <li aria-level=""1""><strong><span style=""color: #633a72;"">Improve your chances of getting grants</span>:</strong> Acquire more grant funding with the ability to track progress and report on all of your grant applications, projects, and expenditures in one place.</li> <li aria-level=""1""><span style=""color: #633a72;""><strong>Manage grants in one place</strong>:</span> Cloud-based grant management helps improve visibility for every member of the team, from any location, at any time. Access the information you need to track grant performance and for reporting purposes.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p><strong>2. Digitize reporting and documentation</strong></p> <p>By moving grant management online<span style=""font-weight: normal;"">,</span> it’s easier to track different funding streams, i.e. blended and/or braided funding while streamlining the search and/or intake of funding.&nbsp;</p> <p>More importantly, a grant management system can enable electronic documentation of every state of the grant life cycle–resulting in better tracking of spending and preparation with digital records when it’s time for the single audit.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3. Automate compliance with 2 CFR 200</strong></p> <p>Having electronic documentation is key to making sure your grant programs are aligned with Uniform Guidance 2 CFR 200.&nbsp;</p> <p>By going digital, it becomes easier to track grantee history (if you’re awarding grants), performance, and risk profiles in a central location. Additionally, you can track spending, payment, and impact of grants by aggregating performance data across departments and programs.</p> <p><strong>4. Alleviate administrative burden by having controls in place</strong></p> <p>When responsible for grant dollars and federal funding, internal controls are a must. The most important type of internal controls include:</p> <ul> <li aria-level=""1"">Alignment of grant priorities to organizational/agency/strategic goals</li> <li aria-level=""1"">Standard operating procedures regarding all aspects of grant management</li> <li aria-level=""1"">Training and technical assistance to the grant management team as well as to applicants and grantees/subrecipients on administration and execution of grant awards</li> <li aria-level=""1"">Regular meetings between financial and programmatic teams to ensure concurrence on policies and management of existing awards</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>If you need help alleviating your administrative burden and are interested in going digital for your grant management, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our Certified Grant Management Specialists like Maria are ready to help address any questions you have.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style=""text-align: center;""><em><span style=""color: #565f5f;""><a href=""/contact-us"" class=""cta-primary"" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">Contact Us</a></span></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>© 2021 eCivis. All Rights Reserved.</span></p>

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