Project management is all about planning, organising, and managing resources as effectively as possible to deliver projects successfully.
You do not have to serve as a ‘project manager’ to manage projects. We all undertake and execute different projects throughout our lives, whether consciously or subconsciously. Projects could be big or small, long term or short term. Typical tasks include developing and implementing a new marketing strategy, organising an event, or constructing buildings.
Launching, managing, and closing out a grant program is also a project in itself. And when speaking about project management and grant management simultaneously, there are many similarities between the two. Having a clear goal, a schedule, a budget, and a specified timeline are just a few characteristics that the two have in common.
Like no two projects are the same, all grant programs also differ. Managing resources efficiently, be it for projects or grants, is a complex task; however, tasks become comparatively more straightforward when one implements best practices.
Before we detail how grant managers can apply project management techniques and enhance their grant-making efforts, let’s look at some project management best practices that can be used in grant management.
Planning is a part of every successful project – creating a plan ensures that you understand how you will work towards reaching the goals and objectives you have set out to achieve. Developing a clear strategy is one of the first steps project managers commit to when working on new projects. A well-designed plan not only serves as a guide for actions to the project team but also improves coordination and allows you to anticipate and eliminate any avoidable roadblocks.
Communication that is consistent and simple is critical to the success of any endeavour. A two-way discussion generates fresh ideas and perspectives, which helps to enhance project processes. Transparency amongst the project team members allows members to understand better why things are done the way they are and encourages them to raise questions and make suggestions to avoid project mismanagement or failure in the long run.
Monitor and document
Even a great plan cannot guarantee project success unless each step is monitored and tracked. Being unaware of the project’s progress can have a detrimental influence on the project’s long-term success and may result in the project going over budget, schedule, or sometimes both. Effective project managers make it a practice to monitor and document all the aspects of the project to ensure anything that isn’t progressing as planned can be fixed.
Although it is hard to anticipate risk associated with any project, this does not mean you shouldn’t try to identify what could occur. Whether major or minor, any type of roadblock can significantly slow down a project and negatively impact the budget and schedule. Therefore, project managers must perform a thorough analysis and identify possible risks at different phases of the project’s lifespan.
Project wrap up, meeting
Reflecting on the journey and getting an overview of what has worked well and what has not is always valuable. A project wrap-up meeting allows all stakeholders to gather helpful insights that may be beneficial for the future.
How to apply project management best practices in grantmaking?
Project management is a vital skill for grant-making. Effective project management best practices help projects run smoothly. And now that you have a basic understanding of some of these best practices it is time to look at how you can apply these to grant management and maximise your impact within the community.
Once grant managers have a clear idea of the goals, they want to achieve through a given grant program, they need to map out important program milestones. These milestones include the application’s closing dates, internal and external communication frequency, and how regularly the grantees will be required to provide progress reports. These program milestones should be captured in the program timeline.
Regular communication helps to build trust, form strong relationships and increase transparency and collaboration. Each grantee is unique and, grant managers must actively direct efforts towards identifying the areas their grantees require assistance in, agree on how frequently you and your grantee should communicate and find the right balance that both parties are comfortable with. It is an important project management skill to facilitate formal meetings to have two-way conversations at regular intervals throughout the program lifecycle and encourage any questions or feedback from not only your own team but also from other stakeholders.
Track and stay up to date
Keep track of how your grantees spend the allocated funds by requesting updates on the program’s progress throughout different phases of the grant life cycle. Sit together with your grantee when a milestone of your program is achieved (or not). Collaboratively identify what worked and what did not, rectify any roadblocks and jointly decide on an agreed path moving forward. This will help you better deliver your impact and effectively accomplish your goals.
Analyse and mitigate risk
Risk analysis is as crucial in grant management as in project management. Try to identify and minimise as many risks as possible by conducting brainstorming sessions at regular intervals of the program lifecycle to forecast any risks relevant to the program. Encourage your team to identify the risks and predict the severity and likelihood of occurrence and work together on strategies to mitigate these risks.
Time to reflect
Instead of closing one grant program and immediately moving on to the next one, grant managers should call for a program closure meeting. Look back, assess, and note which aspects of the process could be improved. Involve all stakeholders irrespective of their role or contribution to the program and use this as an opportunity to work together towards consciously enhancing the processes for the future.
Identifying community needs and dedicating efforts to meeting them is an enormous responsibility that grant-making organisations take upon themselves. Successful grant funding programs are complex, time-consuming, and costly. Grant-making organisations can ensure they make the best impact on the community in the long run by implementing these straightforward best practices.
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Grants management is, without a doubt, a complex process. However, with OmniStar Grants, you can reduce the time, cost, and effort you invest in managing your grants programs.
OmniStar makes it easier for grant-making organisations to create a positive impact within the community by assisting in the successful delivery of the grant programs. It simplifies and automates repetitive grant management tasks and allows you to focus on aspects that are worth your time and effort.