While last week we looked at closing out major projects by the end of the fiscal year, this week we take on starting new projects. Federal award letters will be arriving by the end of September, if not before, so make sure you’re prepared by trying these simple tips for grant project start up:
- Gather your team: Especially for major Federal or foundation grants, if you are likely to hire staff or increase staff time now is the crucial moment to start out on the right foot. A very common problem for grantees is delayed hiring of key project staff or key requirements missed by existing staff as projects start up. As you receive your award, gather the whole team that’s currently on board to make sure everyone is clear about their upcoming responsibilities, hiring processes, and grant requirements. Don’t be surprised if someone around the table reports they plan to apply for an opening role or adjust their schedule at this key moment. Start work on writing job descriptions and posting for key grant staff. Be ready to plan and strategize accordingly.
- Revisit grant objectives: While the contents of your grant award may seem obvious to you by now, remember Federal agencies often send amendments to original proposals or budget adjustments that you’ll be obligated to complete once you sign the final 424 form. Do you remember all the key requirements that made it into the final language? In your excitement to receive the award, did you make key budget changes you’ll have to make adjustments for now? Don’t worry, these are typical steps in the award process, but the sooner you tackle them as your project starts up the better you’ll be positioned for long term success.
- Open a new bank account and make sure grant funds are closely tracked: No one wants to run afoul of Federal guidelines, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports a steep increase in punitive actions against grantees and contractors in recent years due to fiscal mismanagement. The report suggests grantees are not necessarily making more mistakes, but that government agencies are putting more safeguards in place to track public dollars. Even if you’ve worked with Federal grants for years, this might be a good time to review your financial protocols and make sure they match up with the oversight required by your project.
- Get to know your Federal officers and Technical Assistance provider: Upon receiving your award, reach out to key management officers and TA providers for your project. Be sure the people connecting with Federal officers are the appropriate contacts listed on your grant documents, but do not be shy to reach out. While it may seem intimidating or unnecessary, those first impressions go a long way as your project develops.
- Consider investing in a digital grant management solution: Whether you are new to major project management or you’ve coordinated multi-million dollar project portfolios for years, the number of easy, powerful and complete digital solutions for grant management is on the rise. The 2014 Philanthropy and Social Economy Blueprint (a forecast for trends in major giving), devoted a great deal of its predictions this year to themes of digital accountability, transparency, and impact using new data platforms. As you initiate multi-year projects, consider leveraging additional funds or freeing up dollars to invest in a digital grant management platform like GrantVantage.
GrantVantage offers both digital solutions as well as on-site grant management consultation and start-up services. Consider signing up for a demonstration today.