February 27, 2023

8 Best Practices for Grants Management

With ever decreasing budgets and ever increasing expectations to generate demonstrable impact, it’s likely feeling as though how you manage your grant program is coming under a microscope. We can help. Based on more than a decade of experience working with grant providers, we’ve compiled our list of eight grants management best practices. These considerations will help you better serve your applicants, streamline your processes, maximize your organizational efficiency, and demonstrate your impact.

1. Define grant guidelines and goals

    1. Establishing guidelines can help you visualize the ideal design of your program. It can also call to attention items that may warrant more oversight, outsourcing, or consideration, and it can help you stay on track with the entire grant process.
    2. Clear goals ensure that everyone involved understands the key objectives. Your team can work toward goals with minimal friction when they are clearly identified. Setting benchmarks relative to your goals can also keep your team on track and ensure that there are no surprises later on in your process.

2. Review compliance requirements

    1. Rather than bookmarking compliance as a task to be completed down the road, familiarize yourself (and your team) with requirements — including reporting guidelines and deadlines — before you get running. Integrating these requirements into your initial planning will save you time and resources in the long run. If you can only make grants to 501c3s, for example, make sure this is clear at the start of your application and ensure that applicants are registered as valid 501c3s.
    2. Understanding compliance requirements will also clarify important legal issues, which will safeguard your entire team while reinforcing the integrity of your programs. For example, you’ll need to plan from the start how you will meet security and privacy requirements (if you use a grant management platform, consider why SOC 2 Type 2 compliance might be critical to your program).

3. Prioritize data and reporting

    1. Reporting is essential to stay in compliance with funders and be accountable to stakeholders and constituents. There is also an increasing expectation that grant makers and their recipients track and share impact. To do this effectively you must determine what you will track when you establish your program. Asking the right questions during the application process and establishing your reporting requirements up front will set you up for success.
    2. Having clarity on the data you need will heighten your ability to communicate with grant recipients and funders while also making it easier to demonstrate impact, identify areas of success, and highlight areas for improvement.  While the process can seem intimidating, adopting a plan early on can save you time and worry. Implement a grants management system, such as ZengineTM by WizeHive, for a user-friendly, configurable solution that assists with analytics, data auditing, and timely, accurate, reporting.

4. Front-load eligibility

    1. Not everyone is eligible for your grant and it is very helpful to empower potential applicants to self-select/deselect. Set up your application system to enable eligibility screening before applicants have devoted time filling out forms. This will save time on both sides — for applicants and for reviewers.
    2. By starting with an eligibility quiz, for example, you create a filter that allows only those who qualify for your grant to proceed to the next step. This saves those who do not qualify valuable time that could be spent on applying for grants for which they are eligible. This also streamlines your process by removing the need to weed out those who clearly do not meet eligibility requirements so review time is instead focused on qualified applicants.

5. Focus on equity

    1. By approaching grantmaking from an equity standpoint, the goal is to make the work as inclusive, balanced, and representative as possible. This extends from the very first questions asked to the end reports written and the milestones marked along the way.
    2. Whether you are a seasoned grantmaker or launching a new program, now is always a good time to review each step through an equity lens– from ensuring a diverse applicant pool to the design of your application and application process to your review process. This equity checklist will help guide you. 

6. Create a grant calendar

    1. Having a dedicated calendar with key milestones, goals, and benchmarks mapped out is useful to ensure that: (a) your planned timeline is realistic, and (b) all team members understand what is expected of them at particular intervals.
    2. A grant calendar can also be helpful for keeping note of deadlines related to both internal and external reporting.

7. Facilitate an objective and bias-free review process

    1. It’s vital to the integrity of your grant program that application reviews are free of bias and subjectivity. A broad and diverse pool of reviewers helps increase objectivity. Removing demographic information from applications can also reduce bias.
    2. Managing this review process manually can be a challenge, however. As with other best practices outlined here, a grant management system reduces your administrative burden and increases the efficiency of your process. For example, Zengine offers the ability for review committees to access and score applications against a rubric, resulting in a less biased, more objective review.

8. Automate your workflow

  1. In addition to furthering all of the best practices, a well-organized, automated process can help you standardize your workflow, increase organization, and introduce more ease into your entire grant process, from beginning to end.
  2. This automation is possible when you utilize a grants management system. This will increase your efficiency, decrease risks related to data loss and security, and make reporting more intuitive.

Whether you are seasoned at managing grants or you’re just starting out, making use of the practices above will save you time, money, and stress. By increasing efficiency, building equity into your process, and focusing on the integrity of your program from start to finish, you free up resources you can use to maximize your impact and do even more good.

Discover how we can help you implement these best practices and more. Schedule a chat with us today.

Topic(s): Grants Management

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