Whether you’re a nonprofit organization, health care facility or government agency, you should prioritize a grant management process as a key component of your grant funding. Though applying for and securing a grant are complex and often time-consuming tasks themselves, you can’t neglect the management and compliance steps that follow.
Both grantmakers and funders need to know the grants they award are put toward their intended uses and follow their outlined requirements. If you’re not effectively tracking how you’re using the funding for your reports, your financial records and grant agreement management can become an issue. With the right tools and processes in place, you can efficiently manage your grants and achieve your mission or implement a new program simultaneously.
If your organization is in the grant-seeking process or wants to learn how to improve your existing grants management process and procedures, follow our guide to learn more about the grant management cycle.
Grant Management Lifecycle
A grant’s lifecycle management process involves many factors. From the initial application to awarding the grant to the closeout of the program, it’s important for organizations and agencies to understand all the necessary steps involved in receiving and implementing a grant.
Let’s look at the lifecycle of a grant through the three fundamental stages — pre-award, award and post-award.
1. Pre-Award Stage
To begin, funders must establish and develop a funding program and announce funding opportunities. From there, they’ll advertise their grant awards to invite proposals from communities that align with their mission. For grantmakers, the pre-award stage involves creating clear guidelines for applications and collecting and reviewing applications.
On the other side, grantseekers take the following steps:
Completing an application: Once you identify a grant your agency wants to apply for, you can begin collecting the required information about your organization for the application. This information could include financial data, the size of your team or explanations of proposed work.
Tracking application status: Once you successfully fill out the application and submit it on the grant website, your agency will enter the application processing stage as you await the decision. You can generally track your application’s status by corresponding with the funding agency, though every grant application process is different.
During this phase, it’s critical to double-check every aspect of your application and ensure you review the requirements for every grant you apply for, including important deadlines. Applying and awaiting an award for a grant can be a lengthy and tedious process, so you should only apply for those that fit your organization’s needs. Likewise, be sure to have a strong proposal for how the funds will be used in your agency.
2. Award Stage
In the next phase of the grant lifecycle, grantors and funding agencies will decide which organizations receive the awards and provide the funds through three primary steps:
Notification: Grantmakers will notify all applications of whether their applications have been approved. If your organization receives the grant, you’ll move on to the next steps in the process.
Grant agreement document: Before your agency receives any funds for your new program or project, you must work with the grantor to clearly outline the legal terms and conditions of your agreement and finalize the award with both parties signing the document. It’s wise to have legal counsel review the details of the agreement to ensure your agency has the bandwidth to meet expectations, including all deadlines, activities and deliverables.
Distribution of funds: Once you and the grantor have successfully completed and signed the agreement, your organization will receive the funds. From the moment the grantor disburses the funds, it’s necessary to start tracking your spending and any other details that correspond with your grant agreement.
Depending on the type of grant you’ve applied for, your grant terms may vary. If your agency has applied or been awarded several grants, it’s critical to communicate all expectations and deadlines with your entire team to properly fulfill the grant contract.
3. Post-Award Stage
The post-award stage is the longest of the three stages. After distributing the award, the funder will ensure compliance with the agreed terms through reporting or periodic audits, interviews and visits. Remember that every grant and granting agency will handle the post-award stage differently, but it’s best to always be prepared by properly tracking your budget, providing proof of how your agency uses the funds and staying on track with obligations.
Here are the three main steps of the post-award stage:
Implementation: After your agency receives the funds to start your new initiative, you must ensure your whole team is on board to spend the grant funds as outlined in your grant agreement. During this step, you should employ a tracking system to help you manage your grant activities. You can also assign separate tasks to team members or departments to stay on top of grant responsibilities.
Monitoring: The reporting step of the post-award stage is arguably the most important. This phase requires monitoring your activities and sharing details of your spending with your grantor. Whether you communicate project updates, provide receipts or show proof of the impact the funds have made on your mission, grantors will want to confirm you’re using the funds as intended.
Closeout: Once you’ve used the funding for its outlined purpose, your agency will enter the closeout stage. Your grant agreement will explicitly describe what terms and dates mark the end of your grant partnership and your grantor will determine whether you’ve met the requirements. As your program comes to a close, keep records of all your grant activities, including accounting information, related documents, and other data that revolves around your project. This information can be helpful for applying for future grants.
Common Mistakes Made During the Grant Management Process
The grant management process involves many tasks that require the cooperation of your entire agency. Let’s review five common mistakes organizations make during the grant management lifecycle so you can make the most of the process:
Missing outcome data: Funders find it difficult to feel confident in the awards they provide if organizations fail to maintain plenty of evidence they’re carrying out their intended purpose for the grant.
Putting all awarded money in the general organizational fund: If your agency doesn’t have a dedicated account for restricted funds, it’ll be much more complicated to determine how the funds were utilized when it comes to the grant report.
Neglecting staff compensation in the grant request or report: If your organization has paid employees, you’ll need to factor in their compensation in addition to the expenses for your project. Failing to do so can cause you to quickly exceed your original requested amount.
Missing a grant renewal deadline or report: After receiving your funds, your agency will likely be busy juggling many responsibilities to get your project or program started. However, you must remember to keep tabs on all important grant deadlines. Using grant management software can help you stay on track with due dates.
Not allocating enough time to complete an application or report: Preparing and collecting internal information for your grant application can take up much of your time. If you wait until the last minute to gather financial, organizational background or impact data, you may end up missing your submission date.
Modernize Your Grant Process With IntelliGrants® Software
The entire grant lifecycle involves many crucial tasks that can be challenging to track without the right tools and collaborative team effort. At IGX Solutions, we make grant management easier for grant-seeking industries, including government, education, health care, nonprofit and transportation. Our intuitive IntelliGrants platform has configurable and scalable templates to work with your organization’s unique grant process and reporting needs.
With a centralized grant management system, your agency can produce better reporting, budgeting and tracking grant outcomes to comply with your grant agreement. To learn more about how our full-service grant management software will streamline your processes, book a demo online or contact us today for more information.