It is a common occurrence for funders to see how their funds are being used, so grantees can expect a site visit from a funder, especially when they receive a multi-year grant. This visit can be formal or informal and presents grantees with the opportunity to showcase their project. Site visits also allow grantees and program staff to get to know each other better and gives the funder a better sense of client needs.
Typically, site visits are scheduled to see how a project is doing. Often, program staff want to meet project staff, talk to project participants, and get a sense of how the project is being carried out on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, however, site visits are scheduled because a specific problem or concern has been brought to the attention of program staff, and they want to meet with project staff to solve the problem.
Unless there is a specific problem or concern, site visits should not be a cause for alarm. View them as an opportunity to let the project shine and to show the funder the caliber of your project, your staff, and your organization.
Taking a few steps to prepare for the visit will help to make the best use of the program staff members’ time. The first thing you should do when you receive notification of a pending visit is to ask the program officer what funders hope to accomplish while visiting the project and what they hope to learn about the project. Make a list of the items the program officer mentions and ask questions, too.
Some of the possible activities the program officer might mention that he or she wants to accomplish include:
- Meeting the project staff
- Meeting a few of the project participants and asking them about their participation in the project;
- Watching some of the project activities “in action”;
- Reviewing the record-keeping procedures for the project;
- Discussing future funding (for multi-year projects); and
- Meeting the project evaluator.
It is a good idea to develop an agenda before the visit and to let the program officer review it to make sure that everyone’s needs will be met. Also, be sure to discuss travel plans with the program officer and make any necessary arrangements in advance.
Review the agenda with project staff before the arrival of the program officer and make sure the visit is on their calendar. If the program officer wants to meet project participants, make sure they know this in advance and that they, too, will be available the day of the visit.
When the program officer arrives, be sure to provide him or her with an information packet about your project that includes a description of the project, any project materials, and contact names and numbers of project staff. Include travel arrangement information and information about the area, too, if the program officer will be in the area beyond the time for the scheduled visit.
Consider beginning the site visit with a brief meeting between the superintendent and the program officer, and be prepared to provide a tour of the school as well as a tour of the project. Build time into the agenda for discussions with project staff and with clients if the program officer wants to meet with them.
If you have any questions about managing the grant or about making changes to the project, use the site visit as the opportunity to discuss this with the program officer. You can also use this visit as a time to clarify questions you may have about the budget and to discuss the budget for the next grant year.
Finally, don’t forget to write a letter to the program officer after the site visit, thanking him or her for making the visit and sharing information.