Don’t be the next grant management case study



A couple of years ago, a grant friend and I submitted a proposal on fraud for the Grant Professional Association’s Annual Conference. To keep things interesting, we highlighted real life examples of grants and money management gone wrong. 


Imagine my shock as I’m standing in line for lunch at said conference, when a gal finds me and asks if I’m the one teaching the grant fraud class. I said yes with a smile, assuming she had questions she didn’t want to ask in front of the whole class. Nope, she wanted to let me know that she worked at one of the organizations we would be discussing. That wasn’t awkward at all. (You’re sensing my sarcasm aren’t you, dear reader?)


All turned out well in the end. She came to class, shared some insight, and even explained how controls were tightened all around. The agency is doing well and thriving today. But that’s not always the case, or the federal government wouldn’t still need the Office of the Inspector General and the suspended and debarred list on


If you have worked in the grant field long enough, you know what it’s like to work with a program director, executive director, city manager, board member, or other coworker who takes this attitude: it’s our money and I can do whatever I want with it. You can preach until you are blue in the face, but many times your advice, insight, and knowledge fall on deaf ears. So how do you avoid being the next case study, or worse, find yourself the top story in tomorrow’s news cycle? 


Don’t worry, your friends at the Fundraising HayDay podcast have a few tips for you.


  1. Take every opportunity to educate said coworkers about what grants can and cannot do. I was the first grants administrator at the City of Alpharetta. Grants were like the wild, wild West before that. I assembled a grant team with 1-3 individuals from each department. We met monthly for a year or two until I felt like I had a group of people who got it, or at least decided it was easier to stick to the rules than suffer the consequences.
  2. If the grant department consists of you and no one else, make sure the heavy hitters are on board with grant policies and rules. I’m talking about the Executive Director (or in my case City Manager), the Finance Director, and other key staff. If you can educate them on how things should be done, it makes it easier to convince the rest of the staff.
  3. Share the horror stories. That grant management team I mentioned in item #1 above? Every time we met, I’d bring an article that showcased an individual who landed themselves in jail or an organization who lost their ability to apply for grants because of mismanagement or fraud. When all your nuggets of wisdom are ignored, real life examples seem to get their attention. As I’m fond of saying: I’m way too pretty for prison. If you’re having trouble finding stories, check out #grantsgonewrong on Twitter. The @fundinghayday account often shares grant fraud stories with this hashtag.
  4. If you really want to go for shock value, check out episode 12 of Fundraising HayDay’s second season. This episode has a whole slew of “ripped from the headlines” stories about grants gone wrong, and we name names. They say there’s no such thing as bad press, but I disagree. No one wants to be the case study talked about for decades to come.


Best wishes in your pursuit of quality grant management. May your coworkers listen to grant rules and follow them religiously, even if you have to scare them into it.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 2 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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