Exciting news, your nonprofit organization won a grant! Grants are the lifeblood of nonprofits, as they help fund essential programs and activities.
But, applying for and winning the grant is only the first step. Once your nonprofit gets the award, you need to make sure that you administer, manage, and report on that grant appropriately and effectively.
In this article, we will share 24 post-award grant management best practices to help your nonprofit unlock its full potential and make the most of its funding.
Let’s jump in!
Read and Understand the Grant Agreement for Your Award
It is very important to read and understand your grant agreements, and we have two post-award grant management best practices that will help you do that effectively.
1. Assign specific individuals or create a team responsible for post-award management.
Post-award grant management is a team effort! So, the first thing you’ll want to do is assign specific individuals or create a team dedicated to post-award management.
For example, your post-award management team should be responsible for keeping track of the grant’s financials, ensuring that the funds are being spent correctly at the program level, and for any reporting requirements.
Not having a team responsible for post-award management could be detrimental—from missing deadlines, to going over budget, or not being compliant with rules and regulations. Any of these mishaps could threaten your grant funding and hurt your chances of winning future awards.
2. Ensure team members have a clear understanding of grant requirements, compliance, and reporting obligations.
It’s essential that everyone on your post-award manageme,nt team has a clear understanding of the grant’s details.
Make sure everyone understands:
The funder’s grant requirements
Grant compliance strategies and information
Important dates and deadlines
For example, many grants have restricted funds, and you wouldn’t want someone on your team to assume that the funding was unrestricted.
Reviewing the information above will ensure your team is on the same page and everything stays on track throughout the entire grant lifecycle.
Establish a Grant Management Team to Bring Your Work to Life
Now that you have your team on the same page, the next post-award grant management best practices have to do with using the funding to bring your work to life. This requires communicating with your team regularly to make sure your project is progressing successfully.
3. Foster transparent communication between grant managers, program staff, and funders.
Transparent communication is key both internally with your team and externally with funders during the post-award grant management phase.
On an internal level, you should foster transparent communication by:
Making sure to share relevant information timely with your team.
Answering any questions from your team immediately and substantively.
Keeping communication channels open and available.
On an external level, you should try to have your grant managers and program staff attend any meetings or training sponsored by your funder. You should also keep up with funder emails and notifications to make sure you are on the same page.
4. Schedule regular check-ins and updates to discuss project progress, challenges, and milestones.
Your team doesn’t necessarily have to meet weekly, but it’s a good idea to set up periodic meetings for regular check-ins and updates about the project’s progress, along with any challenges and milestones that you may be facing.
That way, if a problem does arise or the project is heading in a different direction, your entire team is in the loop with continuous communication.
5. Develop a detailed post-award plan that outlines tasks, timelines, and responsibilities.
One of the best things you can do during post-award grant management is to set up a shared grant calendar to outline tasks, timelines, and responsibilities.
Timelines should be coordinated and agreed upon during team meetings. Then, if conflicts arise, team members can update everyone through the shared grant calendar, like the grant calendar offered in Instrumentl.
With Instrumentl, you can assign tasks to your team, track deadlines, and monitor the progress of your funding all in one convenient place.
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With everyone on the same page, your next step should be to create a compliance and reporting protocol that everyone can follow throughout the life of the grant. Listed below are three best practices to help your team avoid missing any key requirements, deadlines, or regulatory changes.
6. Create a checklist for compliance requirements and reporting deadlines.
Staying compliant with your grant requirements primarily involves using the funds as the funder intended. Sounds simple, right? However, there’s actually quite a bit that goes into grant compliance.
Every funder will have their own specific rules and regulations that must be followed. To ensure your team is complying with these requirements, you should create a checklist that includes all of the grant’s specific requirements and reporting deadlines that your whole team has access to.
Missing important deadlines could be detrimental; not only would you lose credibility, but you could also lose out on funding. Creating a compliance checklist will help ensure that you meet deadlines and abide by all funder requirements.
7. Stay informed about regulatory changes and updates relevant to your organization and the grant.
In addition to the funder’s requirements and guidelines, there may also be government and/or regulatory requirements that could change during the lifetime of your grant. Make sure you have someone on your team who can stay apprised of any regulatory changes and updates that are relevant to your nonprofit and its funding.
Instrumentl’s Awards tool makes it easy to track your project’s expenses against your grant. That way, you can rest assured that your expenses are tracked in accordance with the grant’s overall budget.
Instrumentl also allows you and your team to manage specific tasks for each award to further keep you on track.
10. Be prepared to make adjustments when necessary, ensuring alignment with the grant's financial guidelines.
Your team should also be prepared to make adjustments to your grant financials when necessary. For example, if you are finding that your project spending is over budget, you will need to find ways to cut spending or speak with the funder about unexpected costs.
With any grant funding, it’s important to document the grant’s impact and the outcomes of all of your team’s hard work. Here are two best practices to keep in mind:
11. Maintain open and positive communication with granting organizations throughout the grant period.
Being awarded a grant doesn’t mean the communication between your nonprofit and the funder comes to an end. Quite the opposite, actually—you will want to develop an open and positive working relationshipwith the granting organization throughout the entire grant period.
If you build a relationship based on trust, transparency, and reliability, you may earn a grant renewal or be considered for other awards in the future.
12. Demonstrate the impact of the grant through regular updates, success stories, and transparent reporting.
Your grant contract will more than likely require you to submit periodic updates about the impact your grant is having on the community. This is the time for you to brag about all the great work your team is doing!
Your team should keep reporting dates in your shared calendar so that everyone knows who is responsible for sharing the updates with the grantor.
13. Create clear and concise grant reports that highlight the impact of the funding.
Creating clear and concise grant reports that highlight the impact of the funding is just one more way to develop a strong relationship with your funder. Instead of viewing grant reports as a necessary chore, you should look at them as a way to establish positive and ongoing dialogue with funders who support your nonprofit’s mission.
Creating regular grant reports will also help you develop a final impact report that illustrates all of the great work you did with the grant monies. For example, the nonprofit group, VillageReach, developed a 2022 impact report that gave a clear overview of the 70 million Sub-Saharan Africans they helped, the 11,500 health workers they supported, and the 3,000 health facilities they assisted.
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Communicate With the Funder and Stakeholders
Throughout the entire grant lifecycle, communicating with your organization’s funders and key stakeholders is essential for success. Here’s how you can do it well:
14. Provide accurate financial information, supported by narratives that tell the story of your organization's achievements.
There are both quantitative and qualitative requirements that your team will need to deliver to its stakeholders and grant funders.
Quantitatively, you will need to provide accurate financial information to the funder, along with a qualitative narrative that tells the story of your organization’s achievements.
These financial and narrative reports should be worked on and developed by your dedicated grants management team. Remember: tracking financial performance is essential, but funders also want to know who is being helped through the grant and how.
15. Keep meticulous records of all grant-related activities, expenses, and communications.
To stay organized, compliant, and to make the reporting process easier, you should carefully track all of your grant-related activities, expenses, and communications.
As noted above, a shared grant calendar is the perfect way to track all grant-related activities that your entire team can access.
16. Be prepared for audits by ensuring that all documentation is easily accessible and well-organized.
Audits are a real possibility when you receive grant funding, but as long as your documentation is easily accessible and well-organized you will be just fine.
For example, you can use Instrumentl’s Document Library to store all of your grant-related documents for you and your team in one place, such as:
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Monitor and Adjust Your Budget as Needed
By now, it should be clear how important it is to keep track of your grant funding and how it is being spent. This is why our next post-award grant management best practices have to do with monitoring your budget over the lifetime of the grant and making adjustments as needed.
17. Anticipate potential changes to the grant scope or budget and have a process in place for requesting modifications.
While you should try to stick to your grant budget as closely as possible, it’s important to recognize that things can change—such as the scope of your project or the cost of some of your program supplies.
Someone on your grant management team should be the point person in charge of requesting any budget modifications from the funder if necessary. Let the numbers do the talking—if your program is more expensive than you originally thought, just be transparent with the numbers and have a process in place for requesting financial modifications.
18. Communicate openly with granting organizations about any challenges or unexpected developments.
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that unexpected things can happen. Funders understand this, which is why you should be open with them about any unexpected challenges or obstacles you're facing.
The more open and transparent you are with a funder, the easier it will be to establish trust with them.
Establish a System for Performance Metrics
Efficient post-grant administration is just as important as the beginning and middle of the grant process.
All grants come to an end, so here are some best practices to learn from the successes and challenges for the future.
19. Conduct post-mortem reviews of completed grants to identify lessons learned.
You should identify a few individuals on your team who will conduct post-mortem reviews of the entire grant process.
What was the most successful aspect of the grant? What challenges arose? Were you able to stay within the budget and make the impact you thought? These are all questions that should be answered during this final process.
20. Use insights from past experiences to continually improve post-award management processes.
Make sure to document insights from your experiences so you can improve the post-award management processes going forward.
Celebrate Your Achievements
As we noted earlier, be sure to brag about all of the good work your team has done with the grant! Here are some post-award grant management best practices you can use to celebrate your achievements.
21. Showcase the positive outcomes of the grant through various channels, including newsletters, social media, and donor communications.
Someone on your team should be responsible for sharing the positive outcomes of your grant through the following communication channels:
22. Emphasize the value and impact of the funding on your organization's mission and beneficiaries.
You will also want to emphasize the value and impact of the funding on your nonprofit organization’s mission and beneficiaries.
The whole reason you won the award was because your mission aligned with the funder’s mission. So, make sure to emphasize this connection to illustrate how your nonprofit was able to leverage the funding to help its community.
Simplify for Future Funding
Your nonprofit will continue to apply for grants in the future, so you will want to invest in strategies and tools to simplify your grant management processes moving forward.
23. Explore and utilize grant management software to streamline reporting processes.
Grant management software like Instrumentl streamlines the reporting process and makes it easy to keep track of all your grant-related information in one place.
If you are new to grant management software and are looking for a solution designed to cover the entire grant lifecycle, you can try Instrumentl for free for 14 days.
24. Leverage technology for budget tracking, compliance management, and generating accurate reports.
When it comes to post-award grant management best practices, one of the best things you can do for your team is invest in technology to help you track your budget, ensure compliance management, and properly generate accurate reports.
The 24 best practices we’ve shared should help you streamline and maximize your post-award grant management efforts. For even more grant management guides, tools, and solutions, check out this collection of resources on Instrumentl’s blog. And don’t forget to sign up for a free trial of Instrumentl to see for yourself how its tracking, collaboration, and management features can help you make the most of your grant funding.