Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Meaghan Provost
The application has been submitted, the award has been drawn down, and all seems quiet on the grant front. Can you relax, now that the project planning and actual writing has been drawn to a close?
The short answer is no, for a variety of reasons. Although it might seem that the hardest part is done, and the project directors and planners can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor in terms of the grantwriting process, much work is still yet to be accomplished. This work varies in scope with each particular program, but most if not all grant opportunities require documentation, reports, invoices, and other required information to be funneled back to the funding agency throughout the project period.
Grant administration can be an arduous process, as any financial or budget person can tell you. There are rules that have to be followed, procedures to adhere to, and for many opportunities very strict reporting to be done. This does not only apply to the financial end of things, either—projects have to remain on schedule, and for some opportunities, continuation of funding past year 1 rests on the results from the first project period. It's imperative that everyone involved in the implementation of the project is on the same page, and know what is expected and required with each reporting period.
As it is with the actual grantwriting process, every opportunity is different. Some grant funds are dispersed on a schedule, while others are on more of a reimbursement basis.
Most Federal and often state-specific applications require that the grantee keep records on hand, including the original application and guidelines, for at least three years. This includes all reports, invoices, audits (if necessary) and progress reports. If reports are entered through an online system, it's suggested that you print a copy and keep the reports in your documentation for the entire project period. While individual foundations and other awards might not have this rigorous approach, it's suggested that the grantee follow similar guidelines in documentation to ensure consideration of future awards.
In keeping this important documentation, it can make the process a little easier on the grantwriting side when an organization goes after similar funding sources. Drawing on past successes, including financial management as well as program reports, is a must for proposal development, and what better documentation to use than past successful programs.
Some programs may also require site visits, either in the form of foundation executives or Federal program reporters. This is an important step in the grant administration portion, too, and should not be treated lightly. Although there are different expectations with each of these site visits, it's important to keep in mind that these individuals may be coming to your organization to see how their funding is being used. Audits may also be performed by Federal staff, and it's important to have the documentation they will need in one place that is easily accessible, and not to be hunting through multiple filing cabinets and drawers for invoices and reports.
Above all, make sure your organization understands the reporting requirements and other administrative duties for the post-award process even before the application sails through the funding agency's doors—it will ensure that the project meets baseline grant administration requirements and does not jeopardize future funding from the awarding agency.