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Making the Most of Grants in Government

by eCivis on April 23, 2020
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Making the Most of Grants in GovernmentIn our latest webinar, we spoke about the value of lifecycle grants management and how state, local, and tribal governments can maximize revenue by combining that approach with automation. Don’t worry, if you missed the webinar, you can access the recorded presentation here

Applying a Lifecycle Approach to Grants Management

In the grants world, being a grants manager doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been trained or briefed on the full ins and outs of grants management itself. Few of our stakeholders have even been apprised of the phases of the full grant lifecycle and everything it entails. That’s why we decided to break it down to make it easier to understand and navigate. You can also review GovLoop's breakdown here. The three phases you need to know are the pre-award phase, award, and Post-award phase.

Pre-Award

Based on the corresponding law and available budget, a grant-making agency will release a formal Funding Opportunity Announcement, most of which can be found on grants.gov. Agencies then have the opportunity to apply. After deciding the grant is a good fit, a grant-seeking agency puts together an application, including a comprehensive narrative about why it should receive the grant. Once the application is submitted, it goes back to the awarding agency, where a panel reviews the grant on the basis of several factors: whether the application meets the minimum criteria, how financially stable and responsible the applicant seems, and how the applicant would administer the program. 

Award

During this phase, the grant-making agency notifies the applicant of its decision. The awarding agency irons out the final terms with recipients of this award. Both parties work to make sure the program will be a success, tweaking the terms or arranging for other resources if necessary. It’s important to note that not every awardee will have a perfect application. This could be due to finances or technical capabilities, but they can still receive the grant as long as the need is clear, the plan is achievable, and the narrative is compelling. During the award phase, the grant-making agency can often step in and fill in the gaps, assisting the grantee. 

Post-Award

Last, but not least, is the post-award phase and closeout. Following the award, the grantee carries out the binding terms of agreement and implements the grant program. As the implementation is often the longest part of the process, it’s also the most hands-on.

Officials, like the Inspector General, oversee the program, regularly sending details back to the awarding agency, which can decide to step in and provide additional resources or assistance. As laid out by grant requirements, governments are responsible for tracking expenditures and related performance standards that must be met, then regularly reporting the information. Tracking and reporting all of the related information is often one of the more arduous administrative tasks due to sheer volume. 

Even after the implementation is complete, the work is not done. Within 90 days of the project’s close, the awardee submits a final summary of program information, including expenditures and performance reports. The awarding agency reviews these reports and confirms that the awardee has resolved all concerns and met the terms of the grant. The awardee also undergoes an audit. This entire process is otherwise known as the “closeout” and officially marks the end of the grant lifecycle. 

3 Ways Automation Can Maximize Grant Revenue

You probably know these challenges all too well. You’re in dire need of funding, but often can’t afford the full-time staff needed to spend days searching out grants and ticking off compliance requirements when front-facing projects need managing. While the complex grants lifecycle helps ensure transparency and tax stewardship, it often rules out many of you from the process and from maximizing critical funds. 

However, when you tackle grants management with a lifecycle approach, you can unlock a lot more opportunities. Smaller departments and lean staff that have often struggled to pursue grants are suddenly able to receive tailored opportunities and gain visibility into hidden costs. 

The key here is automation. And there are several ways automation can help you maximize revenue:

Identify opportunities faster. In the pre-award phase of grants management, governments traditionally have to find their own opportunities on grants.gov. This means scouring all of the opportunities available trying to find the one that could be a right fit–all while trying to read the fine print that requires certain support outside an agency’s reach. However, if you automate the process with a customized search engine, then you can carefully curate what you’re looking for in grants programs. For example, you could receive daily updates on the opportunities that meet your exact strategic and logistical vision so you can search and apply without wading through grants that don’t fit your needs.

Account for indirect costs. One of the most common pitfalls is failing to account for indirect costs. For example, you’re a local government receiving funds to repave a street, but not considering the built-in requirement that you must provide repairs every six months. An automated system can help you do that by pointing out the key terms and conditions of grants programs and reporting the costs, so you don’t miss them.

Ensure compliance. Compliance can often be the largest burden on grant managers, requiring every single cost and performance metric to be captured and submitted in reports in preparation for closeout. Automation can aggregate and report all the necessary information–syncing with financial systems and sending it to the awarding agency. That way, you focus on the more important parts of your mission, like delivering aid to your communities in the wake of COVID-19. The compliance gets left to the computers.

With the right approach and tools in place, you can ensure grant funding goes directly back to the citizens you serve in the most transparent and effective ways. 

To learn more about how you can maximize grant revenue, download the full GovLoop and eCivis guide, “Making the Most of Grants in State and Local Government” here

Topics: Grant Articles & News, Grants Management Articles, Webinars & Events

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