Chances are, you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into your proposal. You’ve ironed out all the details, revised it to perfection and finally sent it in with your good luck ritual of choice. And all your hard work has finally paid off. You received the grant! Congratulations. Now what?
The nice thing about grants is that you generally have a year or more to implement the programming that they make possible. The downside is that without a proper workflow in place for ultimately reporting on that grant, you’ll find yourself scrambling at the end. With a little foresight and planning, grant management can be rolled up in a workflow that keeps everyone sane.
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Gratitude and celebration.
Of course, the first thing you will want to do is thank the funder. Often a formal letter or acknowledgment of receipt is required, but I also like to reach out personally in gratitude.
Along with this, consider who helped you throughout the entire process of pursuing this grant. It could be the colleague who made a crucial introduction for you, an advisor you turned to for help in fleshing out the programming, your team that contributed to the proposal narrative, your resident financial wizard who whipped up a proposal budget, and even the cheerleaders who lent moral support along the way. Share this success with all of them. Everyone loves to hear such great news, particularly when it comes coupled with a heartfelt thank you note.
Review the Proposal.
The proposal is your guiding document through the year. It should contain a concise, clear description of what you are going to do with the grant, the primary objectives of that work, your method of evaluation and benchmarks that you can refer to over the course of the grant time period to be sure you are on track. Consider it your roadmap to the final report.
After you’ve received a grant, review the proposal again with fresh eyes. What are the principal elements of it that you will be reporting on in a year? You may not know the details of what will happen just yet, but you can build an outline now in anticipation of your final report. This outline helps you know what content to gather as you go.
Review the Grant Agreement.
There are a few items common to most grants that you’ll want to note: the primary contact person you’ll be communicating with, when and how you’ll receive the funds, the grant time period, any restrictions on the funds, how the funder should be publicly acknowledged, deadlines and reporting requirements and the process for any programming or budget changes that may occur.
There also may be a list of various cookie-cutter requirements such as the funds must be used for charitable purposes, financial records must be kept for a set amount of time, the funds must be returned if you do not spend them within the grant period or that the work that is funded by the grant must not promote or engage in violence, terrorism or bigotry.
Calendars and Database.
Log in the deadlines on the calendar now. The year will be up before you know it. I calendar the deadlines for any reporting. It could be deadlines for interim reports, financial reports or final narrative reports – anything required by the funder.
I additionally schedule in a few informal updates or invitations that I would like to send to the funder over the course of the grant period. These typically fall around the same time as the benchmarks outlined in the proposal. I also take this time to update the database with grant details and input contact information for anyone related to the grant.
Get the Paperwork in Order.
You may need to send the funder a signed grant agreement along with a formal acknowledgment of receipt so be sure to get that in the mail right away. I also like to clean up both my digital and hard copy folders at this time. Often, files and notes are flying around in the frantic rush to get a proposal out the door.
Now that the grant is in, I take the time to organize everything, set up the grant processes on my project management platform, and be sure the files are correctly named and in their right place.
Loop Everyone In.
Depending on the size of your team, you’ll want to get everyone on the same page from the get-go. Even if you are the chief cook and bottle washer, I encourage you to cover this information in a single document. I break it down into three “team members”: Program, Communication, Finance. They each need different information at a minimum.
Your program people need to know the programming that was laid out in the proposal, how the funds can be used, the content they’ll need to gather in anticipation for the final report, and any deadlines associated with the grant.
Communications will need to know how the funder should be publicly acknowledged and any informal updates that are planned to keep the funder posted.
Finance will need to know the grant time period and how the funds should be coded for accounting purposes.
For efficiency, I loop everyone in with one group email that includes details under the following headers:
- Funder Contact Information
- Important Dates
- Funding Purpose and Restrictions
- Funder Acknowledgement
- Grant Budget and Accounting Codes
- Reporting Content
Keep the funder informed and engaged throughout the year with informal updates and invitations to see your work in action. As you approach your final reporting deadline, you may also want to make a bid for renewal funding with an exploratory phone call to your funder. After all, there is a special place in heaven for a funder who invests in your mission year after year.