Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Managing Grant Management

Grant Management should not be a headache, yet for many grant writers, it is. Others find the concept confusing, scary or worrying. So what exactly is grant management? And how can a grant writer learn to accept it?
Grant Management is exactly that - managing a grant award once it is received from the funder. It's easier said than done, though, because often it entails a lot of work: keeping track of where the funds are being used, for what purpose, reporting back to funders, and a whole lot more. But it doesn't have to be the headache most grant writers worry it will be. The trick to painless grant management is preparing a smooth transition from the grant seeking to the management departments. Here's how:

  1. Determine who is responsible for managing the grant award in question. Is it the finance/accounting staff or the program staff? Often it is both. The rule of thumb is that the accounting staff solely manages operating grants, while program and finance are jointly responsible for program/project grants.
  2. Ensure that appropriate grant management policies are in place within your organization. For example, the accounting staff should be aware of formal and acceptable ways of tracking grant revenue and allocating grant expenses. And all grant management records are to be maintained in a central location for at least 3 years after the award.  
  3. Create a file for the grant once it is awarded. Include a copy of the proposal, any correspondence with the funder, the award letter, and other relevant items. Some important things to highlight are reporting deadlines, purpose of grant, allowable expenditures, match requirements, and the like. Hand the file over with explanations to the party (or parties) identified above.
  4. Determine who is responsible for gift acknowledgement or stewardship. Often this is a different person than the one identified above as the grant manager. Sometimes it is the grant writer, although I don't recommend it. Keep this person on task as far as thanking, re-thanking and reporting to the funder as needed.
  5. Determine who is responsible for reporting. Many times this is a different person than both the grant manager and the steward. Often it is the grant writer.
  6. Establish a timetable and process for data reporting. Discuss with program staff ahead of time how they will gather the relevant information and what the best way to submit them to you is. Quarterly or monthly emails with updated data on client numbers, test scores, testimonials, etc. can be a good idea. Reporting should never occur annually because that's usually too late to amend objectives or take corrective action in case things are not going according to plan.
A good grant management team includes all persons as explained above, and a concentrated effort which includes good accounting practices, responsible stewardship, and timely reporting. Once these things are in place, managing the next grant award should be nothing but a breeze. Well, maybe a strong wind, but nothing to worry about unnecessarily!

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