Preferred Type of Grant Management
Crum: read entire document (attached)
Ward: chs. 1–4
Presentations: Presentation: Course Overview, Second Half of Course; I Got the Grant, Now What?
Read the entire resource document Managing Grants by Dr. Gary Crum, including Appendices One, Two, and Three (Appendix Four is optional, though highly recommended). Follow any Internet links suggested and review the first page that appears at the link. If a link is out-of-date or otherwise not viewable, move to the next one since the links are not part of the required activities.
Which grant would I rather manage (from a grant manager’s standpoint, not your personal desire to be a school teacher or a Texan, for instance), and why:
A. A Coca-Cola local plant’s foundation grant for $20,000 to start a class at a local high school on health career selection. The school is already on board, a teacher is available, and you have a year to plan the class. Students will be required to take the class. An extensive evaluation process will need to be developed to make sure the class is having some effect. You would have a staff helping you composed of one secretary, plus the teacher. Or . . .
B. A federal grant to develop a highway for Eastern Louisiana. The highway would be two lanes and stretch for 150 miles through a swampy land. It would cost $100,000,000 and take ten years. You would have a staff of two hundred people, including highway engineers, experienced federal grant experts, etc., plus construction subcontractors with many staff and much equipment.
All key components of the Discussion Board question/issue are answered in a new thread and are professionally presented.
Major points are stated clearly and are supported by the following:
1. Good examples (textbooks, Bible, presentations)
2. Thoughtful analysis
HLTH 553 Resource Document:
Gary Edward Crum, MS, PhD, MPH, MASS
Welcome to the Grants Management Section of the course: this section concerns the administrative actions necessary once your grant application has been approved and funded.
The type of grant you received, and the size of the funding, will determine just how much effort will be required of you as the recipient’s grant manager. Federal agency and large foundation or corporation grants can require a huge amount of management effort. Each separate federal agency will in turn have some similar and some different requirements. We cannot go into every possible foundation, government agency, or corporation grant possible and list all their requirements, but we can give in this resource document, including its Appendices, an overview of the types of challenges you will face and the vocabulary of terms you might encounter.
[Students: In addition to this resource document, which takes the place of a text on the subject of managing grants, there are in the course video presentations that augment your understanding for some of the tasks of grants managers and give you some hints for success. Be sure to watch the videos. There will also be a quiz and term paper.]
Duties of the Grants Manager
Grants managers require special skills and experience, and are often highly respected members of a funded organization’s (a recipient’s) management team. They may have a variety of educational backgrounds, as their task for an organization is a very pragmatic one: one that is drawn on the special demands of the types of grant they are addressing. As noted above, each granting agency has a variety of expectations and twists and turns, and the best manager is one that is knowledgeable of that particular funding (grantor) agency’s forms, deadlines, and other expectations, which can change from year to year.
Grants managers make sure that the hard-won funds are well-spent and any problems with the funding agency are kept to a minimum – thus making more likely the possibility of additional funding at a later date.
Some of the key roles and responsibilities of a grants manager (and his or her team, if they are in a large organization) are the following:
1. It is important that you understanding the expectations of the funding agency through attending briefings, close review of award documents/contracts, phone conferences, and research of other successful grant award recipients (some of this is like being a detective). Be proactive in gathering information, but do not “bug” the funding agency liaison for only minor reasons.
2. If the funding agency is a governmental agency, there will be extra complicated policies to manage, and you will perhaps need to have some team members working on governmental grants with other managers. Federal grants have numerous regulations, Congressional Acts, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars that will pertain to your management, and your “notice of award” may have special grant exclusions and caveats. These need each to be studied and taken seriously. Even foundations and corporations that provide funding, especially if there are large amounts of money involved, may, like federal agencies, run you through many “hoops” as they make sure that while you are spending those funds you are . . .
a. not violating employee or patient (for health-related grants) rights;
b. not violating other special federal or state laws for grant recipients;
c. meeting accounting control expectations;
d. meeting procurement requirements (for federal grants, there are complex expectations for purchasing expensive items, especially those over $25,000, which may require newspaper-announced bidding processes, obtaining multiple estimates for purchased services, solicitation of estimates/bids from women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises, etc.). “Capital” projects, like building a bridge or a new medical center, require multiple steps preliminary steps like developing and submitting architectural plans; eventually getting building permits; eventually letting bids for electrical fixtures, bricks; etc.);
e. accurately applying previously-approved indirect (e.g., “overhead”) cost rates for various eligible grant expenditures;
f. maintaining “property management” inventories of equipment items like large copier machines or nuclear particle accelerators purchased with the funding agency’s money (federal grant’s property acquisitions, for instance, might have different OMB rules for handling minor capital goods – items between $500 and $4999 — and major capital goods at higher costs; the latter which may have to be returned to the federal government when you are through with your grant project);
g. doing no illegal partisan political activities (so-called “Hatch Act” violations);
h. billing for travel expenses in accord with ever-changing federal limitations;
i. assigning personnel to this or that funding project’s budget hour by hour each day (perhaps based on end-of-day hourly reports they create for you and submit weekly);
j. assuring confidential patient/personnel record protections;
k. avoiding labor law violations;
l. not risking endangered species or the clean streams/air in violation of federal acts;
m. maintaining the safety of workers;
n. keeping records in preparation for an eventual audit;
o. providing proof of liability insurance or other underwriting requirements related to the project, its personnel, and its products;
Electronic submissions of grants (e.g., for federal grants, check out “grants.gov” on the Internet and look at a menu item called “applicant resources” or something similar) and electronic submissions of funding expenditure reports by grants managers are becoming more common, and can first require the completion of extensive training programs to use properly.
(By the way, do not be daunted by these myriad expectations – each is manageable, they just take some time and some common sense to learn and monitor. Be informed on each and “squeaky clean” in complying with them and then you can sleep well at night. This is sometimes referred to as “compliance management.” Your organization expects you to be able to warn them if it is getting off track on these many grantor agency expectations, some of which may change even as you are implementing them through your grant. Stay up-to-date and let your superiors know you are doing that, and that it takes you time to do right.)
3. You should create a timeline for meeting the deadlines of the grant for things like financial reports and product submissions. If you have, for instance, promised a population survey will be done and submitted by such and such a date, then be early in meeting the deadline if you can – this will buy you some good will if later you think you may miss a different deadline and need to request an extension.
4. Stay up to date on any new regulations or guidelines that the funding agency sends to your organization even as the grant is being played out. If these new rules make it more expensive or delay some milestone in your planning timeframe, be quick to get back to the funding agency through the liaison person you have been assigned. [Note: in regard to these liaison people for federal grants, there are “usually two Federal entities that play a role in overseeing your grant: the grant management officer and the program officer” (quoted from Managing Public Grants in Appendix Four of this document). For a thorough description of these two persons, see the optional reading assignment in Appendix Four]. Make sure they understand the difficulties represented by the change they have made after the funding has been received – but always be polite, of course – it is their money more than yours.
5. You are to be frugal in spending the funds, and detailed in keeping records in the way that you need to make periodic reports back to the funding agency. Your organization may have an accounting unit that helps with this, but expect they will want to keep records the way they like to keep records even though the funding agency demands that reports be processed back to them with a different frame of reference – like special line items for various supplies, or special rules for depreciating vehicles purchased with grant funds, for instance. You must make sure you do not have to go back to the funding agency and say – “Oops, our accounting people could not prepare the financial reports in the way you wanted reported on Form X.” If push comes to shove, you will need to redo the accounting reports from your organization into the format the funding agency demands, or risk having the grant funds suspended or even terminated.
6. Keep records on everything, organized, cross-referenced, in duplicate – with back-up computer files.
7. Make sure in contacting the funding agency that the contact is made by the official grant “project director” or “principal investigator” or whatever title the granting agency assigns to the key day-to-day liaison person in your grant-recipient organization. The only other person who should contact the funding agency might be the fiscal authority of your agency, like your chief operating officer (CEO), Executive Director or Chief Financial Officer, especially concerning the obligation of your agency legally to receive and be responsible for funds – those tasks may be well over your pay-grade, as they say, and the CEO signature and involvement may therefore be demanded from time to time.
Other than that, the official project director for a particular grant should be the sole contact person with the assigned person at the funding agency and be the one to get to know them. Be sure to respect that assigned liaison. They will be sympathetic, usually, if you are new and have some basic questions, but be polite. Also, make sure that any contact efforts by other people than are generally restricted. For example, if an independently-minded member of your organization’s Board of Directors gets involved in calling the funding agency on matters related to a specific grant you have received, the CEO of your organization should do what she or he can to stop this immediately. Otherwise, it will drive the funding agency crazy, not knowing who is speaking for your organization.
8. Set timelines for staff to produce what is expected under the grants and monitor progress. Hold meetings if milestones appear to be behind schedule. Help your people to meet the funding agency’s expectations – do not be a nag, but do be a conscientious facilitator. If someone is not doing their job, keep a record of your contacts with them so it is clear that you are doing your job for the organization that is expecting you to be on top of things. One way is to have a monthly report on the deadlines coming up and even subdeadlines previously discussed with the various grant workers and subaward recipients (e.g., subcontractors). They will be expecting them and it will help them to make sure they have not missed some part of their assignment. If it is done on a regular basis, it will not seem you are picking on them. It will also help you to keep up on the timeline and progress, and help to do some early damage control if things are in trouble.
9. Be sure that you are well aware of the grant application process that went before the funds actually being received. There may have been promises or communications in correspondence that are still fresh in the funding agency’s records about which you need to know. If you were not part of the application process, do not assume its negotiations and promises are an explicit part of what you receive in a grant award document. Get copies of the official grant application and the important correspondence associated with it – read it and speak to the people involved in your organization if you have any questions.
10. In dealing with subaward recipients, subcontractors, and consultants funded under the main grant, you may find yourself even needing to communicate well in advance of deadlines, and asking for reports and products before they are necessarily demand. In other words, do not allow a delay by a small piece of a project to become an impediment to the whole project being accomplished on time. Gaining crucial consultant products or approvals from busy government agencies for health inspections, building permits, radiation monitoring, environmental impact statements, etc., often do not happen right on time. Use of GANTT charts (see the brief example in Appendix Two if you are not familiar with these types of timeline representations) can be used to help plan for upcoming tasks and even the staff assignments and pending budget expenditures required.
11. The evaluation component often is an after-thought for grant completion, but really is a crucial step that must be conceptualized even before the first dollar of the grant is spent. If you are using grant funds building a road, running a clinic program, or educating inner city youth, you need to be able at the end of the grant award period to prove that you have met the goals of the grant. If there is a road built, does it meet the standards promised and go from where it was supposed to begin to where it was supposed to end? If it was a clinic program, did people get healthier and how can you prove it? For the inner city education project, did the students get educated and how much? You can either measure the processes completed (e.g., number of loads of concrete laid, number of clients going through the clinic, number of students attending classes, number of new classes created, etc.) or you can try to look at the true outcomes desired. The number of loads of concrete used is not really a good result if the people traveling the road are in danger, and the number of clients seen is not really so important if they are getting poor quality care, and the number of classes developed is not so important if the students in them still cannot pass standardized exams or find a job. (In the national federal health program that I once ran, we wanted to the outcome of reducing teenage health risk-taking activities, but often it was hard to prove that so complicated a social/health status outcome was actually affected by any program we might start or pamphlet we might write. So, we often used process evaluation measures like the number of people attending our programs as the measure of the program’s effectiveness. A better measure we sometimes used was pre- and post-tests, where the teenagers would be asked to take a quiz on what they knew before and after a class to show there had been a change in what they knew. However, even that might not always prove they might have some desired change in their behavior later.
Funding agencies more and more want you to justify your program’s funding by showing some real results that a disinterested person would say was good proof that the money was well-spent. Learn the funding agency’s value system and program mission to help you state the effectiveness of your program in terms they will respect. Usually the grant application your organization submitted to get the grant had some specific program evaluation ideas in it, and you need especially to follow-though with any promises made along that line. Do not assume the funding agency or the public or your own stakeholders will automatically assume that your grant implementation efforts were great simply because you spent all or most of the money.
On the topic of spending all or part of the money, remember that the return of a small amount of money is not a bad thing – it shows you did not just spend it all to spend it all, but also realize that sending back a large amount suggests that you over estimated the cost of your project and you may be looked at with less respect for not being able to better estimate your likely costs. An exception would be if you developed some innovative cost savings idea during the expenditure period that could not have been easily projected before the application was submitted – savings returned because of your special initiative on behalf of saving the granting agency’s funds will be greatly appreciated and be seen as evidence that you are a good steward of their money. This can help you get another grant the next cycle.
In the final analysis, being a grants manager is like following a cake recipe. You have a list of ingredients and resources you need to obtain and a series of steps and processes that have to be obeyed to end up with the particular cake you are seeking. If you have the right steps in mind and in the right order, if you understand the processes and cooking devices you have to use to put the ingredients together at the right place and time, you can end up with what you were looking for when you started. Otherwise, the process will result in something ugly and/or unpalatable. Be super detailed-oriented and diligent in monitoring everything, especially the money coming in and going out, and you will do fine.
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