Grant Management

Solving Three Common Grant Management Challenges

By | Grant Management, Nonprofit | No Comments

There are over 900 federal grant programs offered by 26 different grant-making agencies and over 86,000 foundations offering more than $62.8 billion in funding. If your organization taps into any of these funding sources, it is vital to make proper grant management a priority.

Grant recipients must take specific steps to ensure that funds are managed properly. These steps follow both nonprofit accounting best practices and guidelines issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and by state agencies, such as the Washington state office of grant management. Nonprofits often miss several steps in the management process. The following are three common grant management challenges, suggested ways to address them, and a proposed solution to streamline grant management throughout your organization.

Grant Management Challenge #1: Lack of Internal Controls

Have you documented your current grant management processes? Internal controls map out the process by which grant funds are received, allocated, and documented. Without written processes for the management of grants, the process may shift into areas that put it out of compliance with applicable laws.

To ensure your organization is following a compliant grant management process, document the steps your group takes to manage the entire process. Process mapping may be useful to view the workflow from start to finish and identify any potential gaps.

Lastly, make sure that all processes are written. If changes are made over time, they should be documented. All internal control documents should be kept in one central location for easy access by the entire team.

Grant Management Challenge #2: Compliance Issues

Documentation requirements also extend to program performance too. Measure and document progress, performance, and plans that utilize grant funds. Failure to do so could put your organization in jeopardy of losing grants. You must monitor and record all relevant activities to provide compliance documentation to the granting organization.

One important step to meet this challenge is to centralize both the grant management function and the records. Many organizations are adding a grant manager position to their staff to ensure full compliance with all regulations. Such a position ensures that one person has their eye on the many areas of compliance record-keeping and reporting needed to satisfy granting organizations.

Grant Management Challenge #3: No Central Grant Management Resources

As mentioned above, some nonprofits are adding a position to their accounting departments whose sole duty it is to manage grants. While this may not be possible in all nonprofits, most can at least add resources to centralize grant management.

Some centralized resources that improve grant management include:

  • Cloud-based file sharing platforms to enable collaboration on documents
  • Grant management software that automates much of the record-keeping
  • A single person responsible for the grant management process, or, if that is not feasible, someone in the accounting or development office who has this on their list of accountabilities

Solve Your Grant Management Challenges

One tool that can help solve all three grant management challenges is grant management software. Software such as Amplifund, available through Welter Consulting, manages many aspects of the grant process including recording, management, and reporting.

If you’re pursuing more grants this year or struggling to manage your existing grant resources, now is a good time to consider software to help you centralize data and streamline resources.

About 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 Tips to Create a Fair, Efficient, and Transparent Grant Review Process

By | Grant Management, Nonprofit | No Comments

What is your organization’s process for reviewing grant applications? Whether you run a small, local organization that provides grants to deserving individuals or groups in your community or a national foundation, having a fair, efficient, and transparent grant review process is essential to building trust with both constituents and applicants. Here are seven tips to help you create such a process for your group.

7 Best Practices for a Grant Review Process

If your grant review process could use some tweaks, the following best practices can shape it into the best it can be. With these tips, you’ll ensure a fair process that helps you choose the best recipients.

  1. Create a detailed rubric

A well-written and detailed rubric ensures all reviewers on the team will use the same criteria for evaluating applications. It helps ensure objectivity and fair scoring on the key points required in the grant application. Define the objective and each layer of the rubric, and detail how the scoring impacts the overall selection.

  1. Be transparent with applicants

Offer all applicants the same details. Publish them publicly and ensure everyone can attend any briefings or question and answer periods, if applicable. Share details of the review process and the selection criteria so applicants feel like they’ve been treated fairly.

  1. Create a balanced review team

Make sure your review team includes a diverse mix of people who can fairly and honestly review the applications while adhering to the rubric. A diverse mix of ages, genders, and cultural/societal perspectives honors your organization’s commitment to equity. Communicate the goals of the process clearly and ensure all voices are heard during discussions.

  1. Hide information

Hide information that may unfairly persuade the scoring. Names, genders, and similar information may be safely hidden by creating a numerical key that assigns an identification number to each application. By hiding identifiable information, you help ensure a neutral, balanced, and fair review.

  1. Build consensus

When there are disagreements—and there are sure to be at least some—work hard to listen to one another on the review team. Build consensus by finding common ground. Use the rubric thoroughly and rely upon it to guide any discussions.

  1. Create a numerical scoring system

Whether you average the scores from the rubric or use a weighted average, a numerical scoring system makes it much easier to select recipients without allowing unconscious bias to creep into the selection process.

  1. Use software to manage grant applications

Software has come a long way, and cloud software enables nonprofits to affordably tap into powerful systems that can make tasks such as grant management much easier. There are many benefits to using a digital process: clear communications, easier sharing of documents, streamlined review process, and reducing manual tasks. By using software to manage the grant review process, you’re able to focus more on the quality of the applications and less on the process itself.

A fair, honest, ethical, and equitable grant review process builds your organization’s reputation in the community.

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.

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.