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 grant management to understand why this is so difficult.
What do we mean by “grant 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 expenditures are appropriate and allowable;
• Making sure the required programmatic and fiscal reports are completed and submitted on a timely basis;
• Making sure the project evaluation is being conducted and 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 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 grant management. For federal grants, you must comply with the authorizing legislation, as well as Office of Management and Budget guidelines and government-wide rules about issues like drug-free workplaces. If you have questions about these rules, ask your grant program’s officer.
You should put as much planning into the grant 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 to pursue a specific grant, you should carefully review your grant management responsibilities first. Do you have enough staff to handle all the grant management responsibilities? Is your staff currently managing several other grant programs, and what kinds of demands is this placing on their time? Do your staff members 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 grant 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 grant management, it might be helpful to create several forms to assist with the process. If you decide to take this approach, I recommend that you refer to The Effective Grant Office: Streamlining Grants Development and Management, by Jacqueline Ferguson, available from Aspen Publishers.
In this book, Ferguson provides several examples of forms that could be used to streamline the grant management process, such as a review schedule, a responsibility chart, a details form, and a matching funds contribution record. I would read through the forms, choose which would be most helpful to staff members, and create and implement the forms.
The key to successful grant management is having an organized system that is coordinated from beginning to end. Appreciate the seriousness of grant management and remember that future grants might depend on proper management of your current award!