They lie. They steal. They cheat. Search the internet and you’ll find stories abound of individuals employed by universities, local governments, and nonprofits using grant funding for personal gain.
What about organizations that break grant regulations but do it “for the right reasons?” You know, they want to do what is best for the people they serve. Or they want to make it as easy as possible to implement the programs. And they will submit a grant report, but they only want to report the good stuff. Or maybe they want to help their community, but all that tedious paperwork isn’t their jam. When colleagues operate like this, they aren’t stealing money for personal gain, but they might be committing grant fraud just the same.
You’ve heard all the excuses before:
- It’s our money; we can do whatever we want.
- I’m a program person; my job is to ensure the program is successful, not worry about grant regulations.
- I have too much on my plate already. I can’t be bogged down with all those ridiculous rules that no one can keep track of.
- But this is how we’ve always done it.
- You’re the grant manager. Can’t you fix it later?
As grant professionals, particularly those assigned the task of grant management, our number one role is to ensure that all the rules and regulations spelled out in the grant award agreement are followed to a tee, no matter our coworkers’ excuses, bosses, and boards. So how do we get the job done?
The steps are simple, but the work is never-ending.
- Make sure that grant management is a weekly activity. Whether you’re juggling one monstrosity of grant programs or a dozen smaller ones, make sure that you never go too long without checking in on the status of each grant program.
- Gather your grant team and make sure everyone understands their role. When it comes to grant management, it takes a village. Sure, the grant manager has a significant role, but this is not a solo sport. Program staff, finance department employees, executive directors/CEOs/city managers, the highest elected official/board president, and even the human resources department are responsible for ensuring successful grant management.
- Keep track of all your deadlines. Don’t miss the submission date of a narrative, financial, or any other required report. Sometimes this includes setting internal deadlines to ensure all the data/information is collected and understood promptly to be shared with the funder.
- Spend the money sooner rather than later. If you have secured funding for a needed program, do not risk losing it because you haven’t spent it within the grant timeframe. Talk about a waste!
- Review the grant award agreement regularly. When there are so many hoops to jump through, it is easy to overlook a requirement, and there can be many with grant funders (especially of the federal variety). Make sure that you complete every report, check every box, and collect all required information. You don’t want to lose a grant because you forgot to complete one simple step.
- Document the heck out of everything. Whether you keep track of each grant program electronically or prefer the old-school paper method, make sure you have documented proof of everything you do and every approved change by your funder.
- Speaking of funders, talk to them regularly. Email them. Call them. Send snail mail. Their role is to ensure you’re following the grant rules, and if you keep them apprised of the situation and ask critical questions, you’re more likely to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”
- Follow the money. It does not hurt to have your program staff, accountants, budget officers, and grant managers keeping an eye on the money. Checks and balances are vital in grant management, ensuring that grant funding is spent on its intended purposes (and by that, I mean following your approved grant budget) and all procurement policies are followed.
- Be prepared for outsiders to look over your shoulder. Funders have every right to make a site visit or conduct an audit. Most likely, if you are an organization receiving grant funding, your organization pays for an audit by a third-party auditing firm. Other people will make sure you’re following all the rules, and you need to be ready to talk to them and show proof of your grant management during the grant.
- Educate up. This is the hard one because it’s never-ending. Use every opportunity to explain to your boss, your board, the finance department, program managers, and everyone else about the purpose of grants and their accompanying rules and regulations. Make them understand what grants can and can do. Explain to them the rules that must be followed. Explain the consequences when you don’t. Feel free to share those articles you found on the internet about organizations who had to pay back grant money, were suspended from receiving federal grants for five years or more, and worse. They must understand your pivotal role in grant compliance and why you need their support.
Grant management is a fundamental step in holding on to the funds your organization was awarded. It is the best means of securing future grant funds. It is the key to maintaining your organization’s stellar reputation. Without good grant management, the consequences will one day catch up with your organization – and those consequences are never pretty. Don’t believe me? Listen to Fundraising HayDay’s latest podcast episode: Grants Gone Wrong (podbean.com).
DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 5 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 4 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.