Funding agencies typically use site visits as a mechanism for monitoring. Therefore, if your organization is performing as expected and in accordance with your grant award and approved application, you have little worry about. Ensure a smooth event for all by identifying the purpose of the site visit, notifying everyone involved, reviewing and organizing grant documentation, establishing an agenda, and assisting with logistics.
1. Identify the purpose of the visit
Agencies are rarely able to visit all its grantees, but your organization may be one of the lucky few. If you are aware that a visit is a requirement of project implementation, preparing for a visit should be relatively easy, since you would know upon your notice of award of all necessary requirements and would actually have begun preparing well in advance. However, you can also receive notice from a funding agency that it plans on conducting a site visit merely 10 to 60 days before the event. Avoid the stress of a surprised site visit by following up with a phone call to obtain additional clarification. If an issue has been identified, know that the site visit is intended to help you. After all, the agency wants you to be successful.
2. Notify everyone involved
Make sure you notify everyone involved with the programmatic and operational aspects of your grant-funded project. Although the agency may specify exactly with whom it wants to speak and visit, it is helpful to advise and notify other personnel, such as accounting or procurement, since other staff may be better suited to address unexpected questions that can arise or produce additional documentation that may be necessary. In addition, the funding agency may want to meet with the beneficiaries of the project. For instance, if you have implemented an at-risk youth program, the agency may want to speak with some of the youth and ask what they think of the program. To ensure that the youth are comfortable, you will want to prepare them in advance for this type of encounter.
3. Review and organize
Double-check all of your records, including reports, administrative records, contract files, fiscal records, participant files and other pertinent documents. Records may be in hard copy or electronic format, but make sure they are easily accessible by the agency and up-to-date. For example, the City of Jacksonville, Florida, keeps a binder for each grant, organized by year, with all up-to-date information. It operates as a “reference library” where staff can review the binders but not remove them from the office. In this way, everything necessary for a site visit is readily available at any time.
The agency representative may also want to review organizational policies and procedures related to financial management, personnel, procurement, property management, or travel. Since these policies often apply to the entire organization, this is the perfect opportunity to save some trees and post on the intranet for ease of access and ensure that the latest policy is available for review.
4. Establish an agenda
Review the letter received from the agency to identify key areas that will be reviewed and discussed, including expected goals of the meeting and key personnel that will be present and available. In addition, identify your expectations and respective questions, since this is an opportunity to address your own questions and concerns. The agenda can also serve as a checklist when making sure that everything is ready.
5. Assist with logistics
Logistics may not necessarily be your responsibility to arrange, but you may be asked to recommend a nearby hotel or for information on the easiest route to your offices. On transportation, agency representatives may come to your main office and then want to see sites in the field. Make sure you have a plan that outlines who will be accompanying your guests, who will be driving, and how to inform all project sites and personnel. Particularly for a capital improvement project, make sure that you prepare extra copies of any blueprints and advise the contractor of visitors since they have a certain responsibility regarding safety. Oftentimes, temporary occupancy may be required, allowing visitors on the job site. Advance notice will ensure a smooth visit on the requested day.
To grantees: What has been your experience with federal site visits? Do you have any tips to add? Leave us a comment!
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