Grant management: A nonprofit’s guide

Retrato de contribuidor da equipe AsanaTeam Asana
28 de abril de 2024
8 minutos de leitura
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As a nonprofit leader, you likely know just how complex the grant management process is. From searching for the right grants to handling reporting requirements and filing applications, it can be a time-consuming endeavor. Thankfully, there’s a way to streamline the process. 

With the help of software tools, you can organize and prioritize your grant applications until final approval. With a process in place, you can spend more time creating meaningful workflows that support your mission. Can you imagine the good you could do with that much time back in your day? 

In this article, we define the entire grant management process, show you how to implement it, and provide you with tips that can help you along the way.

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What is grant management?

Grant management is a process that helps nonprofits administer grant proposals by prioritizing, and processing grant applications. 

The grant management system administers the entire grant lifecycle, which includes organizing grant money, grant tracking, and processing grant applications while seeing them through to post-award and finally grant closure. 

This system involves three distinct parts, which include:

  • Grantmaking: Grantmaking is made up of funding opportunities that are awarded by the federal government. 

  • Funding: Nonprofit organizations must meet the grant eligibility requirements in order to be considered for funding. 

  • Eligibility: In order to be eligible you may need to provide information about staff members, stakeholders, grant reports, grant profits, types of grants previously acquired, and future funding objectives readily available.  

A large part of the grant management process involves grant writing, which is where dedicated team members physically write the grant proposal with the information they’ve gathered.

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Grantmakers vs. grantseekers

Grant management involves two key roles: grantmakers and grantseekers. Both are key to the overall process. Other roles involved in the process include grantors and funders who assist in awarding grant funds though they are not typically business-facing.

Grantmaker vs. grantseeker

A grantmaker is different from a grantseeker based on their roles and responsibilities. 

  • A grantmaker is someone responsible for creating grants. This role involves a variety of deliverables, including setting strategic goals, evaluating regulations, and awarding grants. A grantmaker works for a federal agency within the grant department.

  • A grantseeker is someone who searches for grant opportunities, which is likely the position you’re currently in. This involves identifying needs, collecting internal information, and writing and applying to grants. This could be an organization such as a 501(c)(3) or small business.

Both of these roles play vital parts in an effective grant management process and often work together to achieve their desired outcomes of a successful grant lifecycle. Below we outline the process and steps for a nonprofit grantseeker like yourself.

Leia: Como criar um plano estratégico para a sua organização sem fins lucrativos, e um modelo

The grant management process

The grant lifecycle consists of three separate phases: pre-award, award, and post-award. Each phase ensures the grant process goes smoothly from start to finish, including initial planning to ultimate grant closure. 

The process is essential to the overall success of new grant funding and can help you, the grant seeker, organize information in order to efficiently apply for grant proposals. 

Consider this checklist of steps to get started with a grant proposal:

  1. Gather internal information: Collect information on cash flow, employee size, and volunteers for the application process. 

  2. Seek grant opportunities: Search the grant database for updates on new opportunities and to see eligibility requirements. 

  3. Apply to relevant grants: Find the right grants for your organization based on financial needs and funding eligibility. 

  4. Execute the grant funding: Once awarded the grant, use the funding to execute your missions. 

  5. Close the grant proposal: Store necessary information in a shared space that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

These steps will help you stay on track with necessary tasks each time you apply for a new grant program.

The grant management process

We’ll go through each of these phases and explain the steps you need to take in each to create a thorough grant proposal.

1. Pre-award phase

The pre-award phase includes all tasks prior to the grant recipient being chosen. This includes planning, collecting internal information, finding grant opportunities, and finally, applying for grants. 

This phase is important to the overall organization of the grant lifecycle as the objective is to collect information and disseminate it to grantmakers. Without a clear plan of action, you could end up losing time that could otherwise be spent on your organization’s mission. 

There are three steps within the initial pre-award phase:

  • Grant planning: Planning consists of gathering internal information on revenue, team size, and fundraising needs. Once you’ve collected this information, you can begin seeking grant opportunities that fit the gaps within your nonprofit organization. This can be a specific goal that requires funding or a new mission you’d like to start. 

  • Grant opportunity: In order to find opportunities, you first need to organize the information you gathered in the first step into simple qualifying points. For example, in order to be approved for funding, you may be required to possess specific internal capacity and expertise. You can then search for grants, for example, by using your country’s grant database. You may also choose to use work management software to better streamline your opportunity pipeline. 

  • Grant application: Once you’ve gathered your qualifications and found a grant that matches your needs, it’s time to apply. Grants with specific criteria will have necessary information listed within a grant opportunity. Use that information to write your grant application and send it to the appropriate contact. 

Some questions to ask yourself before you apply for funding are:

  • Do I have a clear funding objective?

  • Do I know the revenue projections?

  • How many volunteers do we have on staff?

  • Will this funding help us succeed in our missions?

Once you’ve sent in your application, you’ll move onto the grant award phase where you’ll be notified whether you’ve been awarded a grant. 

2. Award phase

The award phase is where the grantmaker chooses the grantees. The grantseekers will be notified and, if chosen, be provided with an agreement of the grant terms and conditions. 

These could include terms around the size of your volunteer team or the grant funds you’re using for various initiatives. These terms will depend on the type of grant and how large of a sum is being given. Once the agreement is signed by both the grantseeker and funder, the grant will be officially awarded. 

If you aren’t chosen for the grant, the grant process will end at this phase and you can move on to the grant closeout step which involves storing information for later evaluation.

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3. Post-award grant proposal process

Once the grant has been awarded and the agreement has been signed, it’s time to work on executing the grant. This involves receiving the funding and applying it to your organization. 

The second phase consists of two steps:

  • Grant execution: During the execution phase, you’ll receive the federal funding and begin using it toward your intended initiative. You may be required to send periodic reports proving you’re keeping up with the agreed-upon terms and service and overall project performance. 

  • Grant closeout: Once you’ve implemented the funding, you can move to closing out the grant project. This involves storing data on funding amounts, such as what they were used for, to reference in the future. This is also the time to reflect on your business objectives and consider whether the grant was useful. Doing so can help you during future grant proposals. 

These two steps help execute and close out the grant process, which is a recurring cycle for most nonprofits. You’ll repeat these steps for all new grant applications in order to receive federal funding.

Read: 6 steps for writing a persuasive project proposal

How to manage grants effectively

What makes the difference between merely receiving grant funding and truly maximizing its impact for your nonprofit organization? Whether you're dealing with a federal grant, a nonprofit grant, or any other form of funding, effective grant management is key to maximizing the impact of the financial resources entrusted to you. Below, we explore the key steps in managing grants efficiently for both new and experienced grant administrators.

Develop a project plan

Successful grant management begins with a detailed project plan. It should outline the project's goals, objectives, timelines, budget, and key personnel. This plan serves as a roadmap for the project's implementation and a reference point for monitoring real-time progress and making necessary adjustments.

Read: How to write a project plan

Establish clear communication

Grants often involve multiple stakeholders and partnerships. Establishing clear channels and protocols for communication ensures that everyone involved is informed about project progress, challenges, and changes.

This means setting up regular meetings, updates, and perhaps even dedicated webinars to keep all parties informed. These processes not only improve collaboration but also make sure that everyone is on the same page about the project's goals and progress.

Read: 6 strategies and tips to improve team communication

Implement rigorous financial management practices

Proper financial reporting is essential to ensure that grant funds are used appropriately and efficiently. This involves setting up separate accounting systems for tracking grant expenditures and procurements, conducting regular audits, and adhering to the budget outlined in the project plan. It's important to maintain detailed records and receipts for all transactions related to the grant.

Read: How to monitor project spending to increase profitability

Monitor performance

Monitoring the project's progress toward its goals is essential for timely decision making and improvements. Real-time monitoring allows a grant administrator to resolve problems quickly, keeping the project on schedule. This continual oversight is key to completing project milestones and adhering to grant agreements.

Project tracking 101: A guide to tracking projects effectively

Ensure compliance with grant requirements

Compliance is non-negotiable in grant management. From the intricacies of a federal grant to the specific conditions of a nonprofit grant, understanding and adhering to all grant requirements is critical. This includes compliance with reporting schedules, financial guidelines, and any other stipulations outlined in the grant agreement. Regular compliance checks and staff training can help prevent any missteps.

Project deliverables: What are they in project management?

Prepare for audits and final reporting

Audits and final reporting are key components of the grant lifecycle. Preparing for these requires maintaining detailed and organized records of all project activities, spending, and outcomes. Preparing for these evaluations involves maintaining comprehensive records of project activities, expenditures, and outcomes. A well-prepared grant administrator should be ready to demonstrate the project's success and the effective use of grant funds.

Read: A 6-step guide to requirements gathering for project success

Focus on sustainability and impact

Finally, effective grant management looks beyond the immediate project to consider long-term sustainability and impact. This means planning for how the project's benefits will continue after the grant period and measuring the impact on the target population or issue. Demonstrating sustainability and positive outcomes can strengthen partnerships and support future grant opportunities.

Read: ​​How to conduct a project premortem

Grant application tips

When it comes to applying for grants, there are a few tips you can implement to ensure it’s as efficient and effective as possible. 

Grant management best practices

These include things like creating a grant calendar to ensure you’re pacing accordingly and implementing grant management solutions to streamline the process. We’ll touch on each of these best practices and explain how you can use them for your own grant proposals process.

Create a grant calendar

Creating a project calendar is a great way to ensure your whole team is on the same page during the grant proposal process. It can also help you track and organize which grants you’ve applied for to prevent duplicate work.  

Your calendar should include: 

  • The application window deadline

  • Internal task timelines

  • Any recurring dates associated with the grant process 

To get the most out of your calendar, look for communication functionality so your team can collaborate directly in the calendar. Ideally, look for a tool with timeline functionality so you can connect tasks with your organization’s goals. 

Automate the manual application process

Business process automation can help streamline your workflow, leaving you more time to focus on the work that matters. And as a nonprofit, more time means more giving back to the community. 

Consider software automation to streamline the application process and remove manual work. By automating the process, you can set and shift due dates, hand work off to the right team member, and increase cross-functional visibility. 

Assemble a resource library

Applying for grants can be a time-consuming task. It requires various documents to be assembled to provide proof of eligibility to grantmakers and grantors. By creating an organized template library, you can easily access information whenever you need it.

To create a resource library, organize relevant documents that show proof of information such as revenue, current funding, and the size of your team. Then, store these documents in a shared tool that all stakeholders can access at any time no matter where they’re located. 

Implement work management tools

Using work management software can help you oversee and streamline the grant proposal process. It enables you to manage your grant programs in one place, set up workflows in a snap, and, most importantly, hit your goals. 

With work management software, you can reduce the busywork and spend more time achieving your organization’s mission. For inspiration about how other nonprofits have used grant management software, learn how Hope for Haiti improves the lives of more Haitians with Asana.

Streamline your grant management process

Implement a grant management process to ensure that your nonprofit receives the necessary funding it needs to make a difference. Following the tips above will help your next application process run smoothly to create a more efficient grant application process. 

Ready to get started on your own grant management plan? Find out how Asana helps nonprofits streamline grant management so they can focus more of their time and resources into their mission.

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