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Grant Management

5 Tips to Improve Efficiency of the Grant Review Process

By | Grant Management, Nonprofit | No Comments

If your organization awards grants, you know how time consuming it can be to review all the applications. Then, there’s the process of narrowing the submissions to the most promising, and finally, choosing the best candidates for the grant. It can be quite labor intensive.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the efficiency of the grant review process. With these 5 tips, you’ll not only become more efficient at the process, but you’ll have an easier time finding and selecting the best match for the grant.

The Review Process Should Be Fair and Unbiased

As an organization that awards grants, it is in your best interest to make sure the grant review process is fair and unbiased. Organizations that submit their grant applications have spent considerable time and effort preparing their application. Writing a single federal grant application, for example, takes between 80 and 200 hours. For many, the hopes for their organization rest on their ability to win you over to their cause, mission, and activities.

Making sure the grant review process is both fair and unbiased is the best way to honor both the effort that goes into grant applications and the spirit of your organization’s charitable grant policy. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough process so all the grants receive the time and attention they deserve in order to choose the worthiest among them for awards.

5 Tips to Create a Fair and Efficient Grant Review Process

  1. Create a detailed evaluation guideline. These guidelines, or rubric, should provide detailed criteria for reviewers to analyze incoming grant applications. Choose between a holistic and analytic rubric. As the name suggests, a holistic approach looks at the application as a whole and assigns the entire application a numerical value. An analytics rubric assigns a numerical value to each section of the rubric and asks reviewers to give each section a number. No matter which method you choose, apply a consistent and fair process to all applications. Do not use a holistic method for one half and an analytic approach to the other half of the applicant pool.
  2. Share the assessment criteria beforehand with applicants. Don’t ask applicants to work in the dark. Instead, give them the criteria ahead of time. This respects both their time and effort and guarantees they can provide you with complete information.
  3. Build a diverse review team. Your review team should be as diverse as the people you serve. Make sure the team reviewing the grant applications holds diverse opinions to ensure opportunities are considered from all sides.
  4. Insist on multiple reviewers. If there are only one or two awards, insist that multiple people review the chosen grant applications. This guarantees the fairest possible process for all. It also ensures that fatigued reviewers don’t just rubberstamp the application everyone likes. Bring in people who haven’t read the grant application to review it before the final choice is made.
  5. Hide the applicant’s information. Lastly, to safeguard a totally fair and unbiased choice, make sure all visibly identifiable information is hidden on the grant applications. This includes name, birthdate, location, and any other identifying information that could strike at a hidden bias among the reviewers.

Build Consensus

Lastly, aim for consensus when it comes to choosing the finalists. Use the rubric or guidelines as the touchstone for agreement. Ask open-ended questions and designate a facilitator for the ensuing discussion so everyone has a chance to voice their opinions. Discussion is both healthy and encouraged but should aim for consensus-building rather than capitulation among those who disagree.

Encouraging both fairness and transparency will help your nonprofit award grants to the most deserving among the applicants. Enacting a process like this one will go a long way to improve the overall grant process.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Manage Your Money: 5 Tips to Manage the Grant Process

By | Grant Management | No Comments

Grant managers know that having policies, procedures, and internal controls ensures accountability and transparency throughout the grant process. Using grant software also helps managers track and measure their activities. Managing funds in accordance with the terms of each grant is vital to smooth operation of a nonprofit.

5 Tips to Manage Grants

It is necessary to have a strong structure in place to manage grants. Most grants are awarded for specific purposes rather than general fund grants, meaning they have to be used for specific programs or activities. Tracking expenses back to the activity and against grant funds is essential to comply with the rules of the grant.

The following five tips can help you manage your grants better to ensure both compliance and transparency throughout the organization. The better you manage your grants and grant process, the better prepared you will be to report your progress to the grant organization and to apply for renewal of funds later.

Better Grant Management: 5 Tips

  1. Share a copy of the original grant: Be sure that everyone working on the project has read the entire grant proposal and guidelines. Depending on the length and complexity of the original document,it may be necessary to have someone distill salient points into a simple guideline for everyone working on the program.
  2. Use true fund accounting software such as Abila MIP to manage documentation. Abila MIP fund accounting helps you manage grant funds against program accounts to keep funding separate from other sources and to ensure that every penny is tracked back to the program where it counts.
  3. Enforce deadlines among employees, especially when it comes to submitting program reports, funding information, and other materials related to fulfilling the grant.
  4. Make sure that all employees also understand the organization’s policies regarding grant management, funding, and adherence to the grant’s program designations.
  5. Monitor all areas of grant management and funding. Use your grant management and fund accounting program reports to keep a close eye on all expenses and revenues pertaining to the grant. If anything looks unusual, check on it immediately. 

Internal Controls

It’s also important to put into practice good internal controls pertaining to grant management, too. This includes:

  • Securing and safeguarding credit cards, banking information, and passwords
  • Monitoring grant fund use and tracking all expenses to the fund allocation
  • Training staff in grant processes and procedures
  • Safeguarding any grant-related resources such as paperwork, applications, and program data
  • Reconciling all bank and credit card statements regularly such as weekly, biweekly, or monthly, depending on the organization’s needs
  • Following up on any outstanding items that appear after reconciliation
  • Never keeping cash on hand related to the grant, or, if you must have petty cash, lock it up when it’s not in use and always have two people to count and witness moving cash into and out of lockboxes
  • Requiring two signatures on checks related to grant funds 
  • Changing passwords regularly and requiring higher security passwords on banking and other financial information

Grant managers, like their counterparts in accounting and finance, know the importance of safeguarding data and ensuring clear, careful, and concise tracking of fund expenses. Internal controls are an important part of grant management as is ensuring clear communication among the team working on fulfilling the grant obligations. Software such as Abila MIP Fund Accounting makes grant management much easier.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

7 Common Grant Writing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

By | Grant Management | No Comments

While individual giving makes up a large portion of funding for a nonprofit, grants can be instrumental in rounding out fundraising plans. All too often grant proposals are dismissed quickly after the foundation or corporation receives it. Poorly researched proposals and other glaring mistakes cause more harm than good. In this article, we’ll summarize seven common grant writing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – Rushed Research

Learning about the granting organization is the most valuable part of the proposal writing process. Start by reviewing the last three years of grant winners. What do they have in common? How can you target your grant so that you have a better chance of receiving funds?

Mistake #2 – Tardy Applications

We know that work can get busy, but that is not an excuse for turning in your grant application late. Always be on time!

Mistake #3 – Too Much Content

It is important to provide proof of the excellent work your organization is doing. Pick and choose what you would like to present. Too much information overwhelms reviewers and makes you seem disorganized. Refine the enclosures to support the central message of your proposal.

Mistake #4 – Unclear Proposals

Vague language derails many proposals. Be specific about how you plan to use the grant funds and how it aligns with both your mission and that of the foundation providing the funds. Remember that a grant proposal is a plan of action, not an educational brochure or annual report. Explain the problem but then move on to clearly explain what you’ll be doing about it.

Mistake #5 – Numbers That Don’t Add Up

Create the budget and check it twice. Make sure that the numbers included is both realistic and accurate. The financials should support the logic that flows through the proposal. Err on the side of realism rather than optimism and have someone double check your figures.

Mistake #6 – Failure To Plan For The Follow Up Call

You get a call from the foundation, and your application is part at the top of the consideration list. Now they have specific questions about the programs outlined in your application. Don’t be caught off guard. Have a comprehensive plan ready to share with foundation directors when they call you.

Mistake #7 – Not Saying Thank You

Regardless whether you get the grant or not, it’s always appropriate to show appreciation. Thanking foundation directors and anyone else at the organization who helped you with the grant application is the right thing to do. A sincere thank you goes a long way towards making a positive impression for your organization.
Winning grants takes time and effort and can be stressful. With these tips, you’ve just stepped ahead of many others who aren’t taking the time to learn more about the grant application process.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

What Impact Will You Make – Even After the Grant Ends?

By | Grant Management | No Comments

Before submitting a grant application, ask yourself one question: Have I demonstrated how the funds would make an impact even after the urgent need is satisfied?

Most nonprofits focus on their immediate, pressing needs when completing grant applications. That’s natural: when you have a leaking roof, a new program to fund, or a dire need for cash flow, submitting a grant pitch that heavily emphasizes the urgency of the needs at hand is common.

But consider the viewpoint of the grantor or foundation. They want to know not just what the funds will do today but the impact they can make for years to come.

It is this intersection of satisfying an immediate need with producing a sustainable future result that makes a big difference when applying for grants.

Providing for the Future: 3 Scenarios and Examples

Grant applications must include many points, including both the current and future impact of the funds. To improve your applications for funding, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the immediate effect of these funds?
  • What will the impact be one year from now?
  • What will the impact be five years from now?
  • Can the impact be sustainable without the infusion of additional funds from the grantor?
  • Does the future impact align with the goals and mission of the grantor?

It can be challenging to imagine how funds received today for an immediate need will carry over into the future after a grant ends. There are different ways to make this point to grantors depending on the type of funds sought, the nonprofit’s mission and need, and the grantor’s mission. The better the alignment among need, nonprofit, and grantor mission, the higher your chances of securing funds.

Here are three examples that show how the alignment may work and how different needs can translate into future impact.

Example 1: Homeless shelter pitch for a new fire suppression system.

A homeless shelter requires funds to replace an outdated fire suppression system. Without the new system, the city will revoke their permits, and the shelter will close. The shelter needs $150,000 in grant funds to improve the fire suppression system in the existing building.

The grant application may cover the following:

  • Immediate need: Without the new fire suppression system, the city will force us to close. If we close the shelter, hundreds of men and women may lack basic shelter on cold nights.
  • Future impact: If we are awarded the funds and can install the new system, we can keep our doors open for at least another five years when our lease runs out. The effect will be significant upon several hundred people we serve in the city.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor’s mission is to support programs that serve the basic needs of people for food, water, and shelter. The alignment between the immediate need, the future impact, and the mission should be made clear.

Example 2: A therapeutic horseback riding program seeks funds to build an indoor arena.

An indoor horse arena provides a covered space for horseback riding activities. It enables people to ride horses in inclement weather and to continue lesson programs despite the snow, rain, cold, or excessive heat.

A therapeutic horseback riding program that helps children with disabilities seeks funds to build a new covered arena. If they receive the grant, they will be able to hold therapy sessions six days a week and throughout all seasons.

  • Immediate need: It is clear to what purpose the funds will be used when they are awarded.
  • Future impact: To provide a thorough grant application, the therapeutic riding program should address how they plan to maintain the building. Perhaps a private sponsor has agreed to pledge funds for maintenance, or the organization intends to hold an auction each year to raise maintenance funds. The organization should state their vision for the future care of the building to persuade the grant organization that their donation will continue to make an impact in years to come.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor supports charities that benefit children. Demonstrating how therapeutic riding helps children with special needs can help secure the grant.

Example 3: A college nursing school seeks a grant for a state-of-the-art nursing lab simulator.

A small liberal arts college seeks funds to build a nursing lab simulator. Such simulators include hospital beds, equipment, and realistic dummies that enable student nurses to practice vital skills before embarking on actual hospital rotations with their instructors.

  • Immediate need: The school should make it clear to the grantor how many nursing students each year will utilize the lab and the impact this makes upon their careers.
  • Future impact: Eventually, the effect can be projected to the number of registered nurses entering the profession and filling the nursing shortage nationwide.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor provides funds for health-related organizations. Grants for a nursing lab align with their mission.

Details Matter

When it comes to applying for grants, details do matter. Paying attention to all of the details in your application can make the difference between securing funds and scrambling for money. Many nonprofits neglect to complete the future-casting aspect of grant applications. By adding this vital step to your pitch, you’ll be one step ahead in the fundraising process.

Tracking Grants – We Can Help

The entire grant application cycle can be daunting. That’s why Welter Consulting offers help in selecting the right software to track, manage, and monitor the grant process. When you need to keep tabs on documents, applications, and possible future impact statements, keeping all the information in one place makes sense. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.