ChristopherReyes's blog

Grants: Who’s in Charge

Supervising any high-level staff member is a balancing act. Star performers need leeway, appropriate decision-making authority, and a degree of flexibility about when and how they work. Hold the reins too tight and you’ll stifle them. But if you hold the reins too loose, you can lose control of the organizational functions they handle.

Grants Specialist or Martyr-in-Residence?

Is your organization’s grants specialist constantly frazzled, working nights and weekends and juggling a schedule bulging with proposal deadlines, program development meetings, and report due dates? Do other staff members tip-toe around the specialist’s desk, forgiving occasional expletives, ignoring the candy wrappers and dirty coffee cups, and excusing missed calls and meetings. If so, that’s a big red flag.

Outcomes for Prevention Programs

Grants are social investments that are intended to produce positive change. Defining intended change is easier for some types of programs than others. If you’re working to improve the health of diabetics, the proposed outcome may be a specific degree of decrease in blood sugar levels of participants. But grantseekers often get confused when developing outcomes for programs that are intended to stop something from happening in the first place.

Who Will Do It?

The ubiquitous use of “we will” in grant proposals paves the way for grant-management nightmares. When the grant proposal does not assign tasks to specific positions, those tasks usually fall by the wayside when the intense work of program start-up gets underway. Here are a few examples of important tasks that often end up unassigned.

The 4 Cs of Grant Management

To manage grant awards effectively, you’ve got to know the rules. With private funders, the regulations and requirements can usually be adequately handled through good business and accounting practices.

But it’s different with government grants, especially federal grants. Uniform Guidance issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), along with agency-specific and program-specific requirements, demand that someone within your organization develop an understanding of the rules and regulations.

Good Work Requires Strong Infrastructure

Almost every nonprofit wants grant funding. And why not? Grants are a great resource for powering your organization’s work forward, but the infrastructure to support grant acquisition and management is commonly neglected. Large nonprofits, hospitals, and educational institutions typically invest in infrastructure to support the grants process, but in small and mid-sized nonprofits, grants work is commonly catch-as-catch-can, with various staff members taking on roles that can be matched with their skills and squeezed into their workload.

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