5 Ideas For Taming Federal Red Tape

May 22, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Before you can manage government grants successfully, you’ve got to untangle a snarl of red tape. For example, when a grant from state or local government is funded with dollars passed down from the feds, both state and federal requirements apply.

And, depending on the issue, the state-requirements may be more stringent, or the federal hand might be heavier.

If private funds are used as match for government grants, those private funds become subject to government rules. Throw a few agency-specific policies into the equation and you’ve got red-tape stew. “Initially, it can seem overwhelming,” said Barbara Floersch, chief of training and curriculum at The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But with study and diligence your organization can figure this out.”

    If your organization now receives government grant funds, or if it expects to in the future, it’s important to get up to speed on standard requirements. “I suggest assigning a couple of staff members to the task and giving them the time and resources they need to become your organization’s experts,” said Floersch. They might need to attend training, purchase books, and travel to meet with state or local government staff. Floersch offered the following few tips for starters:

  • Federal Office of Management & Budget Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200). If your organization accepts grants or contracts from the federal government, it’s imperative to become familiar with the Uniform Guidance. The e-version at www.ecfr.gov is the most up-to-date, so it’s the best place to access the UG (as it is affectionately called). After an initial reading you’ll figure out which parts you can fly through, and which you must study closely. Some requirements introduced by the UG are new and if you haven’t already updated your organization’s policies and procedures to comply, that’s a priority to-do.
  • Federal Agency-Specific Requirements. Some federal agencies have made exceptions or additions to the UG, and you can also learn about that at the www.ecfr.gov site. Be sure to check out those agencies with which you do business.
  • Federal program-specific requirements. Some federal grant programs include special requirements imposed by the statute that established them, or by the agency that administers the program. Application guidelines reference the statute and lay out the special requirements, but experienced proposal writers know it’s a very good idea to study the founding statute. Not all application guidelines are thorough.
  • State, County, and Local Government Grants. Read the fine print in application guidelines and grant awards. If the money will be federal pass-through, you’ll follow both federal and closer-to-home government rules. If the money is from some other source, meet with staff at the granting agency and nail down the requirements. Many non-federal government agencies do a great job of detailing management requirements, but some don’t. Ask questions. Be proactive.
  • Internal Policies and Procedures (P&Ps). Your organization needs policies and procedures that comply with government requirements and best practices. Review the P&Ps annually to be sure they’re up-to-date. And be sure staff members follow the P&Ps consistently.

Read books and take trainings. Talk with experienced colleagues in other organizations. Check out The Grantsmanship Center’s blog (https://www.tgci.com/blog ) and the website of the National Grant Management Association (ngma.org). “Educate yourself as much as possible before contacting government agency staff with questions,” said Floersch. “The more you know, the more intelligent your questions will be and the more likely it is that you’ll understand the answers.” © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.

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