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Grants Management Challenges: Lack of Access to Documents

by Beverly Browning on November 14, 2011
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grants management systemToo much time can be spent locating documents needed in the preparation of grant proposals and in the management of proposals that are awarded funding.  Organizing documents in one central location is one of the keys to a successful grants management system.

Ensuring Grant Documents Are Available to Staff

Grant funding requires an organization maintain various documents and records.  Unfortunately, the grant manager or grant writer who needs the documents may find it difficult to access them.  There is sometimes a “keeper” of documents within an organization who maintains the IRS Tax Determination Letter, Audit Report, or financial statements, to name a few, or a copy of the IRS 990 for nonprofits. The document “keeper” in many organizations is the chief financial officer or someone with a similar title. Oftentimes, however, this individual may not be aware of the need that grant writers and grant managers have for organizational documents. 

The Necessary Documents

There are a number of organizational documents needed before submitting a grant proposal. Government funding agencies and foundations often require different documents.  For example, government agencies typically do not request a copy of an organization’s operating budget and instead want to see a project budget.  While the operating budget will not be requested, it is assumed that the government entity has the fiscal capacity to properly implement. Foundations, on the other hand, usually request a copy of both the operating and project budget.  Both types of funding sources often require a copy of the IRS Tax Determination Letter as well. Ensuring access to the requested documents is an absolute necessity for the grant writer. 

The grant manager will also need access to organizational documents. He or she will first need to review the submitted proposal, which often becomes part of the grant agreement; in other words, the organization is held to what they wrote in the proposal.  What documents does the proposal make reference to?  Where are these documents?  Beginning the documentation trail in the grant writing stage will ensure a smoother transition to the post-award management stage, so it is wise to start early.

The grant manager should read through the grant agreement to determine what documents are needed and whether the funding source requires the organization to submit any special documentation before program/service implementation.  For instance, in Maryland and other states, some state funding agencies require that an organization submit a “Certificate of Good Standing” before receiving any grant funds. This certificate documents that the organization does not owe the state any money and that it has met all of its financial obligations to the state.  The certificate may be obtained online at a nominal cost.  Grant agreements will typically indicate if they require such a document.

Below is a list of some common documents needed by both grant writers and grant managers.

  • 501(c)(3) IRS determination letter
  • Annual report
  • Brochures
  • EIN/Tax ID#
  • History of organization, including year established, mission/philosophy, awards, stories/testimonials
  • Accreditations/certifications
  • Calendar of organizational events
  • List of Board of Directors/ titles and affiliations, contact information
  • List of management staff and contact information
  • Map of target area
  • Minutes of board meetings and resolutions for the past year
  • Most recent audit
  • Most recent financial statement and IRS Form 990 and state filings
  • Newsletters
  • Current strategic/business plan
  • Organizational structure/flow chart
  • Current budget and budget narrative
  • Recent newsletter articles, newspaper clippings, evaluations, or reviews
  • Resumes of current staff
  • Demographics of target population
  • Mission statement
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Board policies

 Upon award, the following documents should also be maintained:

  • Grant award letter
  • Executed grant agreement
  • Organization resolution(s)
  • Programmatic and financial reports
  • Requests for reimbursement with supporting documentation
  • Grant close-out information

Any internal or external correspondence in relation to any of the above should also be documented. The rule of thumb is that if it isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist.

Understandably, this list of documents can become overwhelming. Fortunately, eCivis' Grants Network: Tracking and Reporting provides the tools necessary for keeping all documents organized and accessible. This product allows organizations to keep all grant proposals in one location, allowing for transparency among departments, customized reporting, and preparedness for audits.

Both the grant writer and the grant manager need access to a variety of documents surrounding the grants process. Ensuring that they have the access they need will increase the likelihood of successful proposals and successful audits.

About eCivis

eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving local governments' and community-based organizations' grants performance. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com.

For media inquiries, contact media@ecivis.com.

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