Program Start-Up Comes With Demands

June 5, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

When you win a major grant award, a tsunami of demands roars in with the money and all too often your buoyant “we won” high sinks beneath the stress. “Project start-up is tough, and careful management is critical,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center, Los Angeles, Calif, Los Angeles, Calif. “Serious missteps at this point will throw the project into a never-ending game of catch-up.”

    The first step in avoiding mistakes is to fully grasp the importance of this stage in the life of the grant. “Experienced administrators know start-up is a make-it or break-it time,” said Floersch. “When you apply that perspective to both program planning and implementation, things go more smoothly.” Here are a few tips for a full-throttle blast off to a successful grant-funded program.

  • Submit a realistic timeline. The timeline included in the grant proposal should provide adequate time for initial meetings, re-engagement of community partners, setting up offices or other facilities, bringing on new staff members, and other project-specific demands. For example, purchasing, equipping, and staffing a mobile medical clinic will take serious time. Don’t submit a too-tight timeline hoping your enthusiasm will impress the funder. If you fear the realistic timeline looks lethargic, justify it — explain why it’s critical for solid project start-up.
  • Establish systems. Some of the most crucial start-up tasks are overlooked or delayed because they aren’t included in someone’s job description or aren’t required by policies and procedures. If you’ll be hiring a new program manager, immediately appoint an interim leader to spearhead the effort until the new manager is on board. Identify the crucial tasks then systematize them. Create checklists and establish policies.
  • Re-read the grant proposal. When your organization accepts a grant award, it is bound to deliver what the proposal promised. But the time between submitting a request and receiving an award can be significant, and it’s easy to forget the specific activities and results you’d so diligently hammered out.

“All too often a grant award produces a flurry of activity based on staff members’ lingering memories of the program plan,” said Floersch. “Then, once start-up pressure has subsided and the first report is due, it turns out that some parts of the program plan haven’t been put into place.” The first step for successful start-up is to study the original grant proposal, and to make sure that all staff members who will be involved do the same.

The well-managed start-up of a grant-funded program lays a solid foundation for success. “When you win a grant award, celebrate the achievement. Enjoy the feel-good moment,” said Floersch. “But quickly get down to the serious business of starting the program off right.” © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.

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