Grant Management for Nonprofits - Some Dos and Don'ts


Google "grant management" and you'll end up with thousands of hits offering grant writing services or articles.  (You'll also get links to the grant management divisions of various government agencies, but that's another story.)

So where is a grant writer to begin?  This post is intended to provide some very high level dos and don'ts in grant management and for nonprofits.  Future posts will address some of the finer points, and will address some dos and don'ts for grant writing as well.

Grant management begins before the grant is received - in order to dedicate sufficient resources to the grant if it is received, you need to know what you're pursuing, why, the likelihood that you'll be successful, and what you're planning to do with the grant once you succeed in getting it.

A few dos:

  • Be strategic about which grants you pursue.  Your organization has limited resources.  Writing grant proposals that are very unlikely to be funded isn't necessarily a good use of those limited resources.  Also, grants can sometimes be costly to an organization once they're funded (see my previous post about The Cost of Managing Grants)
  • Know what your reporting obligations are.  When do you have to submit reports to the funder?  What do they need to contain? 
  • Use a grant calendar to remind yourself and others in your organization about due dates for reports.  The calendar can be on paper, in Outlook (or another piece of software that provides a calendar), or in a grants management tool like PhilanTrack, but what's important is that:
    • Deadlines are recorded;
    • There is a mechanism for reminders;
    • Everyone who needs to know about upcoming deadlines has access;
  • Communicate with others in your organization who are impacted by the grant requirements to let them know what those requirements are, what you need from them, when, and in what format it should be conveyed.  Be sure to communicate with them frequently;
  • Understand what kind of financial tracking needs to be in place.  Most government grants require significant documentation of all expenditures related to grants (foundation grants tend to be a little less exacting, but foundations still want to know where their grant money went).  Be sure that you have a good financial tracking system in place - or that you're working with someone in your organization (or someone contracted to your organization like an accountant) who has a good system in place.

A few don'ts:

  • Apply to a prospective funder without doing sufficient research;
  • Think that your job is done once the grant is funded;
  • Wait until the last minute to let your CFO, accountant, or anyone else who needs to be involved know what the requirements are for reporting on a grant;
  • Submit reports late.  This may sound obvious, but I'm consistently amazed by how many grantees miss reporting deadlines.  A lot of funders will only consider future grants once reports are received (and if they are received on time), so the timeliness of your submissions to your funder is not only good stewardship of the grant, it's also frequently necessary if you hope for future funding;
  • Hide information when things go wrong.  It happens.  Sometimes information is misplaced or communications are confused.  Address that type of issue by getting out in front of it with your funder, rather than waiting until the last minute, or hiding the information altogether.

What are some other dos and don'ts for nonprofit grant management from your experience?


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Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 06, 2010, 07:46 PM

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