Data storage and management is something that all of us require both personally, and professionally, but rarely think about on a daily basis. Billions of dollars in federal funding has been earmarked for electronic health records, contract support to update aging computer systems and processes (think of Veterans Affairs), and a multitude of other systems. Grant data management has become increasingly important given the more focused OMB scrutiny on how federal funds are spent, and congressional focus on Transparency.gov to showcase how each federal dollar is spent in the public sector. This information is also intrinsically important from auditing, budgeting, strategic planning, and evaluation management perspectives.
Grant Data to Track
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start by outlining the data that requires additional review and feedback, and careful tracking.
Financial – Essentially, all of the grant funds (regardless of whether they are public or private funds) need to be tracked.
- Do the grant budgets align with the actual dollars expended or disbursed for each award?
- Can you track each grant dollar and how each dollar is used?
- Is this information captured electronically (preferred) or manually by authorized organizational representatives?
- Can you easily pull information for an audit or Transparency.gov?
- What are you doing to ensure financial compliance with applicable funder reporting and guidelines requirements?
Programmatic – While mapping how funds are spent is extremely important and critical to your organization’s grants management processes, it is also critical to determine the effectiveness of your organization’s programs.
- How do you measure the effectiveness of your program(s)? Does this happen on a continuing basis?
- Do the goals and targets outlined in your grant application(s) align with the goals used to measure programmatic success?
- Can you align funds with the outcomes in terms of how funds impact the success of your program(s)?
- Do you use an internal review or external evaluation process?
What Grants Management Systems Are Available?
There are several types of systems that a grant professional should review before determining the best fit (if this is an option):
External grants software – This is software that is developed through a third-party vendor. Typically, the features are standard and do not vary, but may involve customization depending on client needs. These systems tend to go through stringent development and testing protocols, and therefore are able to meet multiple needs for grantors and grantees. One such system is the Grants Network by eCivis, which serves all grant professionals.
In-house software/systems – Systems that have been developed within an organization or the development work is outsourced to an independent contractor to meet the specific needs of the organization. This may also include the use of tracking systems and/or tools (such as Microsoft Access or Excel) that are typically not meant to be used to maintain a broad spectrum of information.
Why Is Data Management Important to Me As a Grant Professional?
- Measure financial and programmatic progress of each grantee
- Maintain files on each grantee, which contain quantitative and qualitative information for recordkeeping and reporting purposes
- Determine effectiveness of grantee programs, and whether grantees are high-risk based on how they spend funding (e.g., if a grantee spends all grant funds within the first three months of a 12-month grant period, this is a red flag)
- Maintain careful electronic records that can used for reporting, tracking, and evaluation purposes
- Measure financial and programmatic progress of each organizational program
- Create institutional knowledge related to grant funding
Both Grantors and Grantees/Sub-Grantees
- Ensure that grantors’ priorities are met and that grantee outcomes are in line with these priorities
- Use a system that shares all relevant information between members of the organization, regardless of department or office
- Review information before misuse of funding (if federal) is shared with the public
Think of it this way: Data management allows grant professionals to maintain integrity and keep track of our work. While this topic is not glamorous, due to the intense scrutiny, it does force us to be diligent in following the trail of how funds are spent, and determine whether programs supported through grant funds are cost-effective.
About the Author
An eCivis partner and founder of RBW Strategy, Rachel Werner spent nearly seven years as a dedicated fundraiser and grant writer for nonprofit organizations and freelance clients. She has served as a dedicated fundraiser and grant writer for nonprofit organizations and as a grants management specialist implementing a compliance system for large U.S. Department of Education No Child Left Behind funds within charter schools across the U.S. In addition to being a skilled project manager, she has strong subject matter expertise pertaining to the grants lifecycle. She can be reached at Rachel@rbwstrategy.com.
eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving grants performance for local governments and community-based organizations. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com. For media inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.