As mentioned last week in Part 1 of this blog post, when an organization accepts a grant award, it’s entering into a legal agreement with the funding agency. Should the organization depart from that grant agreement over the course of the funding period, it risks damaging its relationship with the funding agency as well as potential legal repercussions.
There are measures organizations can take to protect themselves when working with grants. Last week I listed some things organizations should consider prior to submitting a grant proposal, and in this blog post, I’ll explore how organizations might safeguard themselves once their grant has been awarded.
Post Grant Award Safeguards
Before accepting, double check the requirements
With most grant programs, if your proposal is accepted you’ll be sent an “acceptance agreement” that explains your organization’s responsibilities in regards to the grant funds. Reporting requirements are often included in this packet. Before accepting the funds, read through the entire agreement including the reporting requirements and make sure that your organization can carry out the requirements as stated. If you have questions, contact the funding agency for clarification and document their response.
Act wisely with the grant funds
Keep records of all grant-related expenses, and stay within the budget parameters. If you must vary beyond your proposed budget, seek a budget adjustment with the funding office first. Plan on having a professional within your organization (or hire outside assistance) administer the grant. While volunteers are wonderful assets, it’s wise to leave this duty to someone on payroll to ensure that nothing falls between the cracks. We also advise clients to concentrate these responsibilities to one individual or (if necessary) a very close-knit team, as opposed to spreading them out amongst different staff members for the same reason.
Document, label and save
Keep a copy of all communication between the funding agency and your organization, especially reports and other required submissions. In addition, when you submit materials to the funding agency, be sure to include a cover letter that identifies your submission and what requirement you are meeting. You never know when a grant maker may check in to ensure that you are fulfilling the grant requirements, and if you keep copies and a clear record of your activities, you’ll be prepared.
If you have a cost match or in-kind match requirement, keep track of those exenses and gifts with equal care. Since they may come from different sources and you don't get reimbursed for them, they can be more difficult to track than typical direct expenses.
Stay in contact with the funding office.
If you encounter a problem or believe you may have violated your grant agreement, notify the funding agency. Grant-makers want your program to succeed – that’s why they invested in it – so if your organization faces a challenge, let them know. You might be surprised at how helpful they can be.
Even if you aren't facing a problem, regular contact with the funding agency is a good idea. Send them brief program updates from time to time, even if not required. The positive, ongoing relations can really help if a problem does crop up.
How we can help
In addition to grant writing, The Grant Helpers provides a number of services designed to help your organization become more effective and efficient. From grant reporting to program evaluation, we have a service to match a variety of needs and price points. For more information, contact a Grant Helper or visit our Services page.