The New Year is just around the corner! Undoubtedly, this means you are working to close out your Federal grant project by September 30, and chances are good you are trying to tie up some loose ends before then. The GrantVantage team knows the stress of this time of the year which is why we decided to offer these helpful tips for closing out your project in the right way.
- Read the fine print on financial regulations for your grant: While the fiscal year is universal (even many nonprofits and foundations use it instead of the calendar year), many Federal agencies may have different regulations about cutoffs for spending. For example, one agency may require that all expenses, goods, and services, etc. must be complete by a certain date before September 30th. However some may allow you to bill planned expenses for goods that arrive in October, for example. Don’t assume based on past experience, even with the same agency, that things will be the same with this project this year. You don’t have to worry about last minute scrambles if you know the regulations of each project in your portfolio.
- Set deadlines within your organization well before Federal cutoffs: We all try to be optimistic about our team, but unexpected staffing challenges, especially around grant closeout time, can have big impact on our final performance. If you need your program manager to send along sign-in sheets for a performance measures report by the end of October, ask them to turn it in at least 1 week before the final deadline. Especially if multiple steps are required to process information or get approval, make sure you are factoring that into your planning because even our best laid plans can hit speedbumps. Even if others have the best intentions, the priorities for any given staff person may vary based on their place in the organization. Despite your sense of urgency, factor in extra time so everyone can compromise priorities that are best for your team and the grant project.
- Make a sustainability plan: Many grants require language or activities within the project related to this on a more programmatic level, but this tip is more about nuts and bolts. Do you have an easily accessible place to store documents related to your project after closeout so they’re not just taking up space? If you have been tracking numbers only within your grant’s reporting database for ongoing activities, have you copied that data or found a way to keep tracking it once you can no longer access the grant-specific resources? Have you made sure you have planned for staff transition?
- Leverage, leverage, leverage!: Related to #3, use the data you’ve tracked, the grant success stories or even the areas of improvement you’ve gathered in these last project years to write new grant proposals. Often we forget that success builds on success, and even if you’re looking forward to the end of reporting requirements on a project closing out this year, you’ll likely miss the program dollars unless you use what you’ve done to keep growing. Use grant reports to write new grant proposals (especially to private and family foundations this time of year), or seek local partners to help continue the best parts of your grant project. Some grants even require that you’ve previously built capacity or completed assessments through other projects prior to applying, so don’t miss out!
- Call your Technical Assistance provider: Better late than never, right? TA providers across the country report being underutilized for support they can offer grantees. It can be intimidating to call someone for help on your project, especially at this late date but that is exactly what these contractors are paid to do! It’s likely that no matter your question they can at least offer advice. While not every TA provider can get you the answers you need, in many cases they are more responsive, more experienced with on-the-ground implementation, and certainly more impartial than your grants officer or program officer in the Federal grantmaking office. They want to help you succeed and. even if you are not able to fix everything, you will at least have another advocate helping you look at your work in a new way.
The GrantVantage team built our solution based on years of experience with grant closeouts, hoping to more seamlessly implement these tips. Within a digital platform, many of these tasks, like storing your grant documents or tracking deadlines with your team, are directly integrated into a simpe dashboard. Even if you’ll be waiting until the next project year or budget cycle to implement a digital solution, take these simple tips to build grant management and organizational success.