To accomplish any goal successfully and with fewer interruptions, creating and following a predetermined plan is essential. When we consider all the involved steps in advance, we can better foresee any avoidable obstacles in our path. Similarly, following a well-designed grant management process proves highly beneficial to funding organisations when giving out grants.
Before we explore the different steps involved in the grant management process, let us first answer the question – What is grant management?
Grant management is the method of grant-making organisations determining how grant funds will be distributed and spent to meet community needs best. It is a complex and lengthy process encompassing many varied and overlapping administrative tasks.
The grant management process typically includes two main groups- 1] the grantor and 2] the grantee.
Any organisation that gives out grants for the community’s welfare is called Grantor, while non-profits or individuals who seek funding from grantors are called grantees.
Each grant program is unique and requires grantors to carefully execute a combination of steps such as: creating applications, announcing the grant, distributing the grant money, collecting reports, and more to be able to successfully deliver a positive impact within the community. While activities or the order in which they are carried out could differ between two grant programs, several basic steps overlap across most programs.
Below, we will go through some of the most typical steps performed during the three major stages: pre-award, award, and post-award of the grant management process.
Many activities within the pre-award stage need to be completed before the funding can be awarded. In the early stages of the grant process, the grant-making agency plans and develops a funding program based on its mission; from there, the grant-making organisation will formally announce the funding opportunity, advertising it to applicant communities and inviting proposals tailored to address the program mission. This grant stage includes creating clear guidelines for the applicants and collecting and reviewing applications.
Grantors should set aside enough time to clearly define the primary aims and objectives of their grant program before they deeply involve into drafting the grant application form and guidelines for the grantees. It is essential that grant makers not only map out what they want to accomplish through the program but at the same time ensure the funding goals closely align with the organisations broader vision and mission.
Guidelines are an opportunity for the funding organisations to clearly outline the eligibility criteria, program timeline, and any other requirements necessary for a grantee to receive the funding. Include all essential details around the terms and conditions, purpose, scope, reporting requirements, and grant eligibility.
Once the guidelines are created and the program has been set up, grant makers announce the grant program and ensure information about the same is communicated to the public.
Grantees become the focus at this step. Once the grant program is announced, grantees fill out the grant application form and gather the necessary documentation required to apply.
Gone are the days where grant-making organisations relied on cobbled together software. Today modern grant management solutions have emerged, and their capabilities are being improved on an ongoing basis. With such innovative solutions being available in the market, grantors can simplify their process of collecting, storing, and reviewing applications. An end-to-end grant management system (GMS) empowers grantors to request and manage additional information from grantees when required, communicate effectively, maintain records, and more just through a single platform.
Grant managers at this step assess and evaluate all the applications they have received against the funding objectives. The applications that closely align with the organisation’s funding goals are shortlisted to receive the funding.
Funding organisations at this stage are looking forward to communicating their decision to all the applicants and distributing the funds. However, there is more to this step than solely distributing the money. Once grantors are ready to release the funds, finalising the grant agreement is an element that cannot be overlooked. Clearly outlining the terms and conditions of the program and ensuring both parties agree it is critical at this stage.
Whether or not you choose to approve an application, it is essential to keep your applicants updated. This step is all about notifying the applicants of the status of their application and informing them whether they received the funding they were seeking. An effective grant management system makes this step simpler by automating repetitive tasks like these and allows grantors to remain focused on their goals.
Once applicants have been notified the agency begins working with the award recipient to finalise the legal framework for the funding agreement. Following this, the funds are disbursed.
After an award has been disbursed, a grants management officer at the funding agency oversees an awardee’s reporting compliance. This process extends across the life of the grant award and involves reviewing reports submitted by awardees.
The post-award phase also includes providing support to grantees, tracking program milestones, making amendments to the original plan or timeline if things are not going as anticipated, and responsibilities associated with closing the grant typically form a part of this phase.
Without reporting and progress tracking it is hard to determine if the grant program was a success or failure. Collecting progress reports from the grantees and monitoring the results are the primary tasks. Tasks related to requesting and managing reports or even sending out reminders before any information is due; can be easily automated in a grant management system. This step requires grantors to keep track of how the grantees spend the allocated funds and whether they are sticking to the agreed terms and the timeline.
This last and final step of the grant management process includes the grantee sending through the reports and financial data to be passed along to the grantor agency. The program stakeholders ensure that all requirements are being met. Upon completing all the requirements, including a review of the awardee’s final financial and technical reports, the grant lifecycle comes to an end.
Once you have a firm idea of all the steps involved in the process this information will assist you when you are required to carve a plan for your own grant rounds in the future.
Only knowledge around the different steps will not be entirely sufficient for the success of the grant program. Just like completing projects effectively requires a dedicated team of professionals; capable of managing all the tasks involved, grant-officers or managers too require specific skills to deliver grant programs effectively. Below we put together some of the key skills grant manager require to manage grant programs effectively.
Effective communication, strong leadership skills and problem-solving capabilities all form a part of project management, and a good grant manager needs to be a clear and consistent communicator who ensures the program does not suffer at any point to as well as should have the capability to lead everyone involved in the right direction at all times.
Grant managers need to be flexible when adopting new technologies; technical literacy is necessary. Nowadays, most grant-making organisations are adopting robust grant management systems and require their staff to be trained at using these online systems.
Being proactive in approaching and completing tasks within the relevant time frame is necessary for effectively managing any grant program. Grant managers who understand the importance of time can better prioritise tasks and stay focused on their goals.
Strong attention to detail is a critical skill when managing grants as the process involves important task of decision making at different stages. Even a single bad decision can have a severe influence on the entire program. Paying attention to the smallest details by carefully analysing each aspect of the grant process helps in delivering high-quality work.
At OmniStar, we understand the importance of saving time in every step of the grant management process. OmniStar ensures efficiency at every stage of the grant lifecycle by simplifying complex processes, automating repetitive tasks, freeing you to concentrate on maximising the impact of your grant program.
Get in touch with an OmniStar expert today to discover how to transform your current processes and increase your grant-making impact.