All In One — Grant Management and Financial Best Practices for NGOs
This articles covers: Grant Management Cycle, Grant Management process, Questions for managers, Get a Task Management Plan, Get a Tracking System in place, Best Practices for Your Financial Management System, Best practices for organizing / managing your grant, Accounting system (administration) and Challenges during Grant Management.
Doesn’t matter if this is your first time being assigned to a grant or managing one. This article is meant to deliver all the information you need.
Grant Management is the process where organizations oversee grants through its cycle from pre-award research to post-award closeout.
Organizations and institutions with centralized office for grants are more efficient than others. The grant is better implemented. This is because coordinated grant writing, submission and award management is never a one-person job.
Grant Management Cycle
Identification of Grant Opportunities
Your organization should always update its system with lessons and improvements plans for identifying where the opportunities are.
So how’s your system?
Evaluate Grant Feasibility
Here you identify relevant institutions, and provide support to the grant writing team.
1- Look at who can apply for the grant.
2- Is it relevant to your organization?
3- Look at what the donor’s scope is.
4- Is there any priories?
5- Get your team to start writing the grant.
This is why having a research office in organizations — likely your grant officer is important.
Tip: When writing the grant, always check the donor’s preferences and guidelines first.
Grant Application Process
1- Grant is now written.
2- Application submission.
3- Grant is reviewed by donor.
Grant Decision: Award Granted:
2- Is there a negative effect? What can you learn?
3- Lesson learned may come from the reviewers’ comments
4- Can you re apply?
You won the award. You have the money.
Sometimes we forget with the celebration of winning the grant that there’s a price to pay. It is important that you deliver what you promised to deliver.
So, being familiar with the donor is a key. You being the recipient. Learn both parties’ financial policies and guidelines. This mean you adhere to the project implementation strategy.
This includes the key activities, the timeline, your implementation strategy which was part of your application.
When everyone is aware of their specific tasks and what they should do, the implementation of any grant becomes easy and success will be on your side. So get familiar with all guidelines and roles and responsibilities!.
Performance Measuring and Reporting
1- Motoring and Evaluation.
2- Tracking and documenting and reporting on project activities.
This is where your team or staff like reporting officer and MEAL officer comes in place.
Look where you at now! Some forms required by the donor are what closing a grant typically means.
Usually, the donors would set out documentation to be submitted within 90 days of your project end date. These can include:
1- Final progress report;
2- Final financial report.
Each organization may have different definition of “retentions of records” however, two to five years of storing your documentation is important should an auditing be opened.
Although this part of the grant is always the last, what you should think about here is the long term impact of your project won’t be achieved within your project funded timeframe.
So, have you given any thoughts over that?
What activities or strategies would be continued even after the project is ended?
This is for you as a grant manager.
Grant Management process
Grant managers should ask these three questions after each grant:
1- Have we encountered any problems and how did we solve it?
2- Was this grant any different from the last one? (this question will help you with improvement from the last time you managed a grant)
3- What are our accomplishments? You can always find your work from your organization’s (reporting officer staff).
Check out the work that you’re doing/did and try to be better this time.
Finally, the more you practice asking these three questions the more it will help you improve always every time when you manage a grant.
“in successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention”
Always look for changes when receiving a new grant. Study the contract and compare it to the application you have submitted.
If you spot any differences, document it and talk to your program manager.
Get a Task Management Plan
Do these activities every week:
1- I have meetings with staff and make sure they understand the responsibilities and mine as well.
2- list your goals and objectives or highlight them.
3- Make sure you on track in reaching your goals — depending on the cycle.
4- Send reminders to your team for example data collection, and meetings.
5- Calendar: Put the submission of any financial progress reports on calendar a week or two weeks before your deadline so you would be submitting on time or before. (this is something the donors prefer)
Get a Tracking System
1- Always review your goals and objectives. Also, look at your expenses. Include personal assistant bookkeeper or financial assistance.
2- Spending Allowable and Not Allowable. Make sure you know what you are spending and are they allowed in the grant.
3- Document any changes or approval. For example, receipt, voucher and contracts. Simply say, always have copies. Hard copies or soft copies? That’s your preferences!
4- Save materials and articles related to your program or project related to the grant. This helps when you develop your media content on a later stage. How’s your bookmark game?
Tip: develop a funnel content for your donor. Include donors and funders in your media and email and shares. This allows you to stay updated and keep others updated as well.
By doing this, you now showing your fundraisers and donors that you have given them publicity.
Best Practices for Your Financial Management System
1- Make sure your nonprofit organization meets the general accounting principles.
2- Cost management and control should equal cost allocation and compliance.
3- You need to be able to identify grant vs non grant expenditure, including direct and in-direct cost and budget categories.
All grant related costs must be supported by clear documentation such as payroll, invoices and time sheets to support when you do reporting or when do Actual Vs Cost.
4- Budget versus Actual: continue to build your e-grant system. You have to know the percentage of change.
This means you have to be sure to monitor expenses funds and spending up in early stages.
For this, you’d want to link departments. Your finance staff and program staff are in regular communication. So have a weekly meeting or whenever you need to.
5- Segregation of grant related duties: not one person should or would have overall responsibility of a grant.
From executive director to financial officer to an admin staff, always follow the policy of the organization.
Best Practices for Organizing & Managing Your Grant
Use binders and folders into sections:
Section 1: Include a copy of the executed grant agreement and approved budget.
Section 2: Include a copy of the budget and reflection of how to be processed in the accounting system.
Section 3: Include any correspondence or communication from the funder or donors. Make sure you print them and keep them in this section.
Section 4: Include any and all financial reports you filed.
Section 5: Include any and all progress reports you filed.
Section 6: This section is for auditing purposes and grant close out. Include a copy of the approved process of the grant.
Tip: Don’t stick to this particular order of sections. Make sure you develop your own section system. Do the sections how you use them normally.
Accounting system (administration)
documentation is everything. This section is all about forms and what’s its use! Having a section for forms and documentation (see above) will help you:
To track and review information;
To provide evidence of accomplishment;
To prepare for auditing;
To provide historical evidence.
Remember if it’s not documented, it did not happen.
Types of documentation: forms
1- Physical (hard) copies including purchase order and invoices;
2- Soft copies to help you with better access to information;
3- External such as forms from a bank or vendor;
4- Internal such as reports of work.
Challenges during Grant Management:
1- Program managers changing their staff
It happens in almost every organization. So updating your new staff is a good idea. Documentation and emails helps. Consider this step as your own version of a tracking system for all updates and documentation.
2- Not being a part of the grant writing process from the beginning.
What happens when you receive a grant that you were not involved in writing at the first place?
Examples: who are the people involved here? are they the program managers? What is the plan or objective?
So make sure you always update your managers about you not being involved from the beginning if such happens.