Grants Management: Before and After is Best

Grants management is typically thought of as the tasks and responsibilities associated with spending and tracking grant funds, implementing and evaluating programs, and reporting. There’s more to it.

“Those post-award activities are part and parcel of grants management,” said Barbara Floersch is chief of training and curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But the pre-award work of organizational readiness and grant development can’t be understated. For excellence in management and program effectiveness, your organization must be as strong in the pre-award as it is in the post-award side of the process.”

“Pre-award tasks fall into two major categories,” said Floersch. “One focuses on your organization’s readiness to receive and manage grant funding. The other involves defining community needs, building partnerships, planning programs, identifying funders, and developing and submitting funding proposals.” 

If your organization is just jumping into the grants arena, be sure the necessary operating infrastructure is in place before you apply for funds. “It takes a lot of work to develop policies, procedures, internal controls, and other necessary systems — and a great deal of thought,” said Floersch. “But attempting to manage a grant without effective rules of the road is asking for trouble. Don’t do it.” 

Even if your organization is a grant pro with a strong history of winning awards, don’t get lazy. Solid pre-award management means giving internal systems a periodic check-up. “Too often systems exist, but fall by the wayside,” said Floersch. “Most participants in my training classes raise their hands to indicate they’ve got internal structures in place. But only a few hands remain raised when I ask how many implement these systems consistently.” Good pre-award grant management means periodically and methodically kicking the tires and checking the gauges to make sure systems are operating.

The pre-award work of community needs assessments, planning, and grant proposal development lays the groundwork for a successful program. “Managing the money is important but won’t do the community much good if the program is a mess,” said Floersch. To achieve meaningful results on the ground, the program plan must respond to genuine community needs, specify well-considered activities, and aim to achieve meaningful and realistic results.

“If the proposal describes vague, half-baked activities and promises unattainable outcomes, it will take herculean post-award work to turn the effort into a success,” said Floersch. “We’ve all seen failed grant programs and it’s not pretty. Sloppy pre-award work is often the culprit.”

Pre-award work and post-award work are different, but symbiotic. To achieve stellar results, focus equally on both sides of grants management. © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.