Grant funds are a major source of revenue for many nonprofits. Grant awards are heralded with public fanfare. Gaining – or losing – a grant can have critical implications. Is the grant management process at your organization as proactive as it could be? Consider these two groups of questions as you review your process.
Deciding to apply. Who decides if a funding opportunity should be pursued? Does the chief development officer and chief executive officer know who is submitting proposals or are they surprised after the fact? Are proposals strategically aligned with your institution’s priorities? What is the process for suggesting a grant be pursued? Is it a responsive process, or does it “take forever?” Does the availability of funding define your organization, or do your defined strategic directions drive your fundraising? Related to this, are your nonprofit’s priorities clearly communicated to all parties? For example, you may have a program manager with great vision, creativity, energy and connections. Should she be “allowed” to pursue funding opportunities that would grow her program area even if it is not an organizational priority?
When it comes to the work of submitting a competitive proposal, who will define the scope of work, encourage partnership, create the budget, and provide the required data and research? What if there are budget gaps, or a matching funds requirement? Who has final approval of the proposal and for resolving related implications? How are these coordinated in a timely manner?
If you are funded. Once you receive a grant, who will ensure the program is managed according to the scope of work and budget submitted with the grant? Who has signatory approval on expenditure of funds? What is the communication process between those who implement a grant-funded program and those in “upper-management?” Who is responsible for reporting on grant progress and ensuring the funds are appropriately used? There will be reports to file on time and with accurate information: is the technology infrastructure in place to meet reporting requirements? Is there coordination across departments? Does the organization have the resources to implement the grant? Without proper management you could end up with unexpended funds, or with expenditures deemed ineligible under the terms of the grant. If the grant doesn’t cover all the costs associated with the scope of work you could end up with a liability you cannot meet. Will the grant manager be required to fundraise for additional funds?
Finally, at some point in time funding will end. Make sure your process includes identifying replacement funding.
Being able to acquire grant funding can be wonderful in terms of advancing the work of your organization. But, it can also be a “curse” if the funds and the process are not managed correctly. Take the time to review your process and ensure it meets your organization’s needs throughout the life of a grant.
Copyright 2016– Mel and Pearl Shaw
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