So you landed that matching grant and your team can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Congratulate yourselves and prepare for the next round of work: grants management. Properly managing grant money is as crucial as winning it.
The following article—adapted from a piece from eCivis' online grants university—describes nine considerations for establishing post-award performance measures:
1. Know Your Reporting Requirements
From the outset, familiarize yourself with the reporting requirements and compliance measures expected by the funding agency—even before signing the grant agreement. Having these obligations in mind when you initiate your project will set you up for success through project close-out.
2. Establish a Baseline
To track your progress, you need to know where you began. Quality baseline data allows you to build a strong evidence-based case for the impact of your program and demonstrate why it merits continued support. Return to the research you conducted in your needs assessment and identify the areas where you can illustrate impact.
3. Ensure Fiscal Responsibility
Financial reporting requirements may require exhaustive documentation. Make sure all project managers and coordinators know the appropriate processes for bids, expense reporting, and other financial considerations. Have your finance department advise on any financial reporting idiosyncrasies required by the funding agency before the project begins.
4. Stick to Your Timelines
Equally important to staying within your budget is commitment to your work plan. Each implementation time period should have clearly defined targets, and all stakeholders should know what is expected of them. Making sure that all partners and stakeholders give frequent status updates will allow the project manager to record milestones as they occur.
4b. Click on the Button Below
Sticking to timelines and organizing staff around grant efforts requires a system that will prevent overlap or work, missed reporting deadlines, redundant entries, and even the dreaded, though not uncommon, issue of interagency competition for the same grant money. eCivis Grants Network: Tracking and Reporting is the solution to these issues:
5. Stress Outcomes Orientation
Describing the activities that you undertook and the deliverables produced is only the first aspect of assessment. By focusing on outcomes, or the public benefit your project provides, you will create a clearer picture of your project’s value. Unlike outputs, outcomes are notoriously difficult to quantify. It is more important that you rigorously collect evidence of your project’s successes than it is to describe your impact quantitatively.
6. Focus on Intermediate Outcomes
Grants and projects are necessarily finite, and there is no definitive guarantee that the anticipated long-term public benefits will result from even the best-implemented project. However, short-term successes do set the stage for future impact. Thus, in developing a yardstick for evaluation, concentrate on the effects that can be observed now.
7. Recognize Your Limitations
Excessive perfectionism will invariably constrain program implementation and evaluation. Be realistic in what can be accomplished within your budget, timeframe, and particular community. When those goals are reached, take pride in that accomplishment and communicate it to all stakeholders.
8. Know When to Ask for Help
Unforeseen circumstances can derail even the best-managed projects. If such a situation arises, particularly one outside your contingency planning, the project manager or director needs to communicate this to the grantor immediately. The program will likely have established formal channels for requesting extensions or project modifications. Doing this promptly and being realistic in your requests allows you to continue your project smoothly without jeopardizing your relationship with the program.
9. Find Appropriate Tools
For large-scale projects, particularly in education and health, it is not unusual to hire consultants to conduct assessments. These experts can provide essential structure to the way you view and present various milestones. Other tools, including software programs, scorecards, or comparative benchmarking, may be appropriate for your project. While project budgets should include funds for evaluation, grants exist specifically for this purpose as well. Organizations conducting programs over a long period of time with multiple funders may consider applying for a grant to evaluate their projects comprehensively.