Successfully Managing Federal Grants

Document SigningWhether you’ve been awarded a federal grant, or are considering whether you’re ready for one, there is a lot to do. I have managed many federal grants, and found they have a lot of similarities, no matter which department they are from. Here are some important tips on how to manage the funds correctly.

      1. Have good quality bookkeeping software. QuickBooks is the easiest software to use if you don’t already have a program. The on-line version is simple, and you can share amongst multiple people. You’ll be able to generate professional reports for your grants. Using QuickBooks allows you to separate the grant income and expenses out from all other funds you manage so you can see what you have spent.
      2. Read everything the granting agency sends you very carefully. There’ll be plenty of information on how you can and can’t spend your funds. This includes learning the terms used in the grant award letter. Do some research on those you don’t understand. Here’s a glossary you can start with. Knowing the rules on indirect costs, personnel costs, fringe benefits, what counts as equipment, and much more, will be important to your success.
      3. Reread your grant proposal. What did you say you would do? Schedule a time to meet with all partners mentioned to discuss their role.
      4. Get to know your contact at the federal agency. Some are helpful, some aren’t, but it is definitely worth trying, as they will be your best resource for any questions or problems you have. Introduce yourself by phone and learn what areas they can help with. Often a separate person handles all budget questions.
      5. If you can, find someone at another agency who has received the same grant or at least a grant from the same department. They can give you background information that will be helpful in administering the grant.
      6. Be very organized. Put all deadlines from the granting agency on your calendar. You will need to save every receipt so you have the documentation to prove you purchased an item and that it is related to the project. Set up a system to track all in-kind contributions to the grant project.
      7. Think about how you will track the data you need to collect. Put those systems into place at the very beginning of the grant. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a grant award and realizing you don’t have the data you need for your final report.
      8. If you aren’t already using a timesheet that separates out each employee’s time by project, you will need to be sure to do this. Each person needs to document how many actual hours they spend on the federal grant. This is an area that can be challenging to implement, but is also a common area for nonprofits to make mistakes in. Be sure to get it right by implementing a simple tracking system at the beginning.

    This is a brief overview of everything to consider with a federal grant. They definitely require a lot of work upfront to be successful. Feel free to contact me if I can help you in the process.

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