Relationships: They Make the Grant World Go Round

I am a proud army brat. My dad served our country for 24 years, and wherever the military sent him, my family followed right alongside him. Uprooting our entire lives, leaving behind homes, friends, and schools, we learned to start over. Again. And again. I quickly learned that I could be a recluse (and therefore miserable, because I’m an extrovert) or jump in and make friends. Having been through this process a time or ten meant I have learned friendships differ. 


There are individuals who will be lifelong friends. You know, the pen pals who keep up with you no matter where you call home. Some friendships are for a season. They are with you through thick and thin while you’re living in the same community, but once you move, it fizzles. I’ve also met the folks who are kind, but don’t want to get too close. They know you’ll leave as quickly as you swept into their lives, and they just don’t want to deal with the heartache. 


I am the type of person who believes relationships make the world go round. Want to know the secret of any success of mine? Relationships. How do I know what I know about the grant world? Relationships with fellow grant professionals. How do I fix messy grant management issues? Relationships with my funders. How do I build a quality grant proposal? Relationships with my coworkers and community members. How do I get new clients? Word of mouth from my fabulous clients and fellow grant pros who know I deliver quality work. 


And working with other agencies, organizations, contractors, consultants, and businesses in your grant programming is no different. It’s all about relationships and knowing which kind it is. The federal government does its best, through defining terms in Office of Management and Budget (OMG) regulations, to explain how these relationships work. 


The biggest stumbling block for many grant managers is the difference between sub-recipients and contractors. I find it’s best to go straight to the source of information to be sure there is a clear understanding. In 2 CFR, Part 200, also known as the Uniform Guidance, OMB gives these two definitions and determining factors:

  • Subrecipient – a subaward is for the purpose of carrying out a portion of a Federal award and creates a Federal assistance relationship with the subrecipient. 
  • Contractors – a contract is for the purpose of obtaining goods and services for the non-Federal entity’s own use and creates a procurement relationship with the contractor. 


Simply put, if you are going to pass grant funds to another agency who is going to carry out their own work, have control over programmatic decision making, and must report on the success and/or failures of their own program, that agency is most likely a subrecipient. If your own agency is carrying out its own project but just needs assistance in a particular endeavor, you’re probably hiring a contractor. Let me give you an example of each.

When I worked for the City of Alpharetta, we were a sub-recipient of a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant. The funding was awarded from the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR), State Parks and Historic Sites. This agency then did a call for applications. The City of Alpharetta applied to build a splash pad at Wills Park. We were a sub-recipient because it was our project. We reported back to GDNR, who then reported back to the National Park Service. No one at the City of Alpharetta had the experience or tools to build a splash pad so we hired a contractor, Georgia Development Partners, to carry out the work. They were a contractor because it was our project, we just hired them to do the work we didn’t have the ability to do in-house.

If you can’t get enough of this Federal relationship stuff, check out the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast I co-host with Kimberly Hays de Muga.  We talk about more details to help parse the difference between contractors and sub-recipients and offer more examples.

Other relationships in the grant world include partners and fiscal agents. Partners are used when multiple agencies are collaborating to carry out a single program/purpose. Basically, everyone is a beneficiary of the grant, some more so than others. But you are partners because you come together during the grant writing process and put your program together as a team. Many agencies include Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) to highlight the partner relationship. Fiscal agents are used when an agency either isn’t eligible to apply for a grant or doesn’t have the ability to manage it from a financial standpoint. A fiscal agent will provide some of the financial and management services to make sure proper accounting procedures are followed.

It is impossible to find partner agencies or a willing fiscal agent if your organization does not have established relationships within your community. So really, relationships do make the world go round, even the grant world. And we can use all the varying friendships we can find. So, go out and make a new friend today. 


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 3 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 & 2 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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