Many nonprofit organizations and government agencies rely on grants to maintain their programs, events, and services. While it’s essential to understand the grant writing process, knowing how to manage grants successfully is equally critical. Though earning a grant can positively impact your organization, it’s only one small part of the complete grant cycle, which can be more complicated than you realize.
To effectively manage grant funds, you must track them throughout their lifecycle, accurately analyze grant data, and ensure you meet grant compliance and requirements. Grant management can refer to the organizations that award and distribute funds and those who write proposals and reports for grants. In this guide, we’ll focus on grant management from grant seekers’ perspective and explain how to keep track of funds throughout the full grant lifecycle.
Effective grant management starts with understanding the entire grant management process, which consists of three primary stages. Let’s look at the steps involved in each phase.
In the pre-award stage, grant seekers will complete an application for grant-makers to review. During this phase, organizations will collect internal information and identify opportunities that align with their goals for the funding they require. Once organizations submit their application, the review process allows grant-makers to determine whether applicants qualify. Remember, the review stage varies depending on the grant type.
With an organized, clear action plan, you can handle this process more efficiently and prevent wasting valuable time. Here are the three things that occur during the pre-award stage.
Before applying for funding, you and your team can avoid running into issues during this process by asking the following questions:
Once you send in your application, your organization or agency will move on to the next phase in the grant management process flow.
The award stage is generally the shortest, but the most exciting, of the three phases. During this phase, the funders will notify all applications of their decision. If the grant-maker approves your application, they will award the grant, come to an agreement with your organization and distribute the funds. The grant agreement will contain the partnership’s terms and conditions, which are critical to the grant management process.
These details could include information about the funds you plan to use for various programs or initiatives or the size of your volunteer team. The terms may also vary depending on the type of grant you receive and how large of a sum it is. Once you and the funder sign the agreement, your agency or organization will officially receive the money.
After you receive your funds, you will enter the post-award stage. Here, the grantor and recipient work together to meet all requirements and expectations within the agreement. During this stage, you and the funder must go through the implementation, reporting and closeout.
Now that you know the general layout of the grant process flow, let’s review some additional tips for grant cycle management.
Determine what the grant will help you achieve and how your team will handle each aspect of the grant process. Will you need new tools for tracking expenses and managing your new program? Does your grant management team include members from every department across your agency? The more everyone understands their responsibilities, the easier the process will be.
Even if you go over your grant agreement with all team members, it’s critical to periodically review your obligations to remind everyone of their expected deliverables and the time frame for completion.
Your finance and accounting team should know how to correctly record and report funds in compliance with the grant’s requirements. Depending on the type of funding you receive, and whether you’re managing multiple grants at a time, you may need separate processes for recording incoming or reimbursed funds. Grants may have several protocols and rules regarding reporting, so it’s critical to be aware of these expectations. If your agency receives a government grant, prepare your team for financial audits and ensure you have the proper documents on hand.
While most funders will require periodic updates and reports, it’s wise to communicate your progress within your team. Regularly reporting across departments or individuals about updates, changes and progress toward goals can keep everyone aligned and inform management of potential issues in advance.
During your grant program’s final stretch, review the outlined requirements about final reporting or activities you must complete before the closeout. What terms define the end of your grant? How will you and the funder measure success? Which documents and reports will you need? Determine these specifics ahead of time to avoid last-minute issues.
Grant management can become an obstacle if you don’t have the proper tools and policies to avoid frustration and use your grants effectively for your strategic initiative or mission. Consider the following grant management tracking best practices.
Whether you apply for one grant or several, it’s critical to ensure you have a well-organized tracking process to monitor each grant through its grant lifecycle. For instance, if your organization receives three grants, you should separate them in your tracking system so you can easily identify them, their requirements and your position in the grant cycle.
Likewise, if you have sent multiple applications or are in various implementation stages with your grants, you can quickly become confused and lose sight of your obligations. By tracking all funding documents, correspondence and deliverables, you and your staff may experience a much smoother process. You must also ensure your financial reports and accounting meet your donor’s required line items.
Creating a joint, robust grant tracking calendar can help you and your team members monitor grant application submission deadlines, reporting obligations and deliverables. A shared calendar allows everyone in your agency or organization to stay ahead of upcoming reports and deadlines, allowing you to prepare and review necessary documents before they’re due.
This tool can be beneficial if your organization has several grants because it allows your staff to more effectively manage their workload and see a broader view of deadlines throughout the year.
Clearly define the roles of each person on your staff or volunteer list to make managing grants more efficient and streamlined. By delegating tasks to different employees or departments within your organization, you can avoid confusion about who is responsible for specific grant activities and reporting requirements.
However, if you separate tasks this way, it’s critical to ensure every department and individual knows where your organization is during the entire grant process, from proposal development to the closeout. Assigning tasks to different team members doesn’t mean they should only focus on their end of the goal, so allow your team to come together to coordinate timelines and financial needs.
To identify problems in advance and ensure you’re meeting your requirements, establish recurring meetings to review expenses and confirm whether you can meet deliverables within the deadlines. This process can help you determine whether you may need a budget modification or grant extension.
Take stock of your organizational capacity. In your grant proposal writing process, confirm whether you have the bandwidth to deliver on the activities, budget, and timeline. Consider whether you may have to hire new team members and whether you’ve accounted for all necessary costs needed to carry out the proposed activities.
During the application process, one of the most significant mistakes you can make is underestimating the costs your agency or organization needs to appear more favorable to grantors. Ultimately, this can create stress about stretching your budget and your ability to deliver the planned activities in the required time frame.
Once you receive your grant award, you may either receive allocated funds directly to spend or implement your work on a reimbursement basis. Either way, you must provide proof of where and how you spent these funds. With a specific procedure for tracking each expenditure, you can ensure you manage your proof of purchases and receipts when needed for a report.
Your agency, organization or facility should ensure all necessary team members read and understand the terms and conditions of the grant agreement before you sign. By having your team confirm their knowledge of the budget, reporting deadlines and deliverables, you can avoid running into problems down the road. Because every grant will have different details and requirements, everyone in your organization must understand these nuances and the grantor’s expectations.
Before signing the grant agreement, consider having a legal team review it to prevent unforeseen issues and make necessary changes, such as altering reporting timelines or deliverable due dates.
Whether you’ve applied for your first grant this year or have to continuously adapt your grant management plan to make it more effective, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. Implementing a grant management system lets you see complete grant data from a centralized point.
With tools that allow your staff to review and report on grant data throughout the entire funding life cycle, you can more effectively manage your grants and meet required deadlines on time. With grant management software, you can track your status and critical information from the pre-application phase throughout the closeout.
The entire grant funding process can be a headache waiting to happen if you don’t know how to manage grant funds correctly. At IGX Solutions, we know how essential it is to keep up with critical deliverables throughout the entire grant life cycle. Our IntelliGrants platform allows local and federal government agencies, educational, healthcare facilities, nonprofits, transportation agencies, and many other industries to manage all data in a unified, user-friendly, grant management system.
The IntelliGrants solution empowers agencies to efficiently analyze, track, and report on all grant data in the system from any stage in the grant life cycle, from pre-application and beyond. Our full-service grant management software will allow you to streamline your workflows and enhance your grants’ visibility and management. Instead of using outdated systems or separate tools, keep all the information you and your team need right at your fingertips. Book a demo today or contact us online to see how we can help your organization manage grants.