What’s the most awful part of the entire grantsmanship process? If you pose this question to individuals who have been successful in getting proposals funded, I would be willing to bet they’d say that managing grants can be the worst part! Let’s look at the topic of grants management to understand why this is such a difficult process.
What do we mean by “grants management”? The topic includes many activities that you, the grantee, must carry out when you receive grant funds. Such activities include:
• Monitoring the achievement of project goals and objectives;
• Making sure that expenditures are appropriate and allowable;
• Making sure that the required programmatic and fiscal reports are completed and submitted on a timely basis;
• Making sure that the project evaluation is being conducted and that all the necessary reports are being submitted and distributed according to schedule;
• Preparing for an audit visit if the funding source notifies you that this is their intention; and, finally,
• Making sure that all project paperwork is completed and submitted so the project can be officially closed according to the funder’s guidelines.
There are many rules that govern grants management. For federal grants, you must comply with the authorizing legislation, as well as Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines and government-wide rules about issues such as drug-free workplaces. If you have questions about these rules, ask the program officer for the specific grant program that you’ve successfully applied for.
You should put as much thought and planning into the grants management process as you put into planning the project before you write a proposal. You are accountable for how the funder’s money will be spent.
In deciding whether or not to pursue a specific grant, you should carefully review your grants management responsibilities first. Do you have enough staff at your district to handle all of the grants management responsibilities? Is your staff currently managing several other grant programs, and what kinds of demands is this placing on their time? Does your staff have the organizational skills that are crucial for the successful management of several simultaneous grant-funded projects?
Answering these questions will force you to examine carefully your grants management capabilitiesand perhaps decide to let some grant competitions go without applying. Keep in mind that your district might suffer long-term consequences if you develop a reputation of not being able to manage grants successfully.
For districts with limited staff available for grants management, it might be helpful to create several forms to assist with the management process. If you decide to take this approach, I recommend that you refer to a book titled The Effective Grant Office: Streamlining Grants Development and Management by Jacqueline Ferguson, available from Aspen Publishers.
In this book, Ms. Ferguson provides several examples of forms that could be used to streamline the grants management process, such as a Grants Management Review Schedule, a Grants Management Responsibility Chart, a Grant Award Details Form, and a Matching Funds Contribution Record. I would read through the various forms, choose which would be most helpful to staff in your district, and create and implement the necessary forms.
The key to successful grants management is having an organized system in place that is coordinated from beginning to end. Appreciate the seriousness of grants management, and remember that future grants might depend on proper management of your current award! n