Few people involved in grants management have had formal training in it. So it's important to take a step back and first look at the grants lifecycle. There are several different models that label the phases slightly differently, but they all boil down to these four essential aspects:
- Pre-award activities – funding research, proposal development, internal institutional approvals, proposal submission
- Post-award activities – award acceptance and negotiation, project team kick-off meeting, award management (progress/financial reports), budget oversight
- Award close-out – submitting final documentation to the grantor
Grants management shouldn’t begin after a grant has been awarded; rather, it should be considered during the proposal development stage of the game. Your grant application should clearly lay out the grants management systems you have in place to effectively manage grants. Ask your team: What kind of internal systems do we have in place for managing programmatic and fiscal reports? What kind of financial system will we use to record revenue and expenditures? Addressing these issues in your grant application will make your application more favorable and could add points to your application.
Division of Roles
The burden of grants management lies with the grants manager—the main point of contact for the grant application. Nowadays, grant applications are often completed by a team of people rather than one person, but there must always be a single point of contact for every grant. The grants manager is responsible for shepherding the grant from conception to closure and, if necessary, through the audit process. All compliance requirements for grant awards are found in the grant award letter or grant award notice (GAN).
In different organizations this role may vary. In decentralized organizations, grants are managed by department. A grant manager may also be employed in a very small organization where one person handles all grants from start to finish. Some organizations have a centralized grants management structure. In this model, there is usually at least one person who knows what’s going on with every grant an organization applies for and receives. In my opinion, a centralized structure is ideal, as it provides for oversight and transparency. The last thing an organization needs is to have a grant manager who isn't managing funds correctly or is not sending in timely reports to the funder.
Some Best Practices
Holding a post-award implementation meeting after the grant is fully executed is a grants management best practice. During that meeting, the grant manager makes certain that everyone understands their responsibilities related to things like: managing the budget, hiring employees, determining who will complete financial and programmatic reports, verifying reporting dates, and determining how often the budget will be reviewed. Reviewing these items in depth with the project teams and presenting them with a mini-contract that outlines everyone’s expectations and responsibilities is also a best practice.
In my next blog post, I will explore grants management best practices more in depth, and will discuss preparation for the audit process.
About the Author
Angel Wright-Lanier is the Director of Grants Management Consulting for eCivis. Before joining eCivis in 2011, she served as Intergovernmental Relations Manager for the City of Raleigh, helping to improve the city’s grants line of business and establishing policies and procedures that helped to drive the city’s grantsmanship.