June 1, 2023

Grants Management 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Grants

The world of grants management can be overwhelming at first glance, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll break down the process of grants management by looking at the nuts and bolts that make up the system. When you have a clear understanding of exactly what goes into the process—as well as tried and true suggestions from those in the field-–it’s easier to achieve your goals.

What is Grants Management?

Let’s start with the basics.

What exactly is a grant? A grant refers to funds awarded to an applicant for a specific purpose or project. These funds are provided by organizations or government agencies after careful review and selection. They are not meant to be repaid. They are, however, meant to be tracked and generally come with requirements for reporting on their use and impact. 

What is grants management? Grants management is the process of overseeing a grant throughout its entire lifecycle. It applies to both grantmakers (those who award funds) and grantseekers (those who apply for funds). The lifecycle of a grant begins with program setup and moves on to application intake and review, decision-making and awarding of funds, and finally, post-award assessment. We’ll take a deeper dive into the lifecycle of a grant below, but first, let’s review the types of grants.

Types of Grants

There are four main types of grant funding: 

  • Competitive grants
    Competitive grants, also known as discretionary funding, are awarded based on the merit of an application. Applications are evaluated by a reviewer or team of reviewers and selected based on how well the proposed program design fits the characteristics of the specific grant
  • Continuation grants
    Continuation grants are primarily available to those who have received funding under a competitive grant program. Awardees of competitive grants have the option to apply for renewal of funding, which extends their budget beyond the initial time frame. Decisions are generally based on the availability of funds as well as performance during the initial grant. Sometimes new applicants also apply for continuation grants, though priority is given to returning grantees. 
  • Formula grants
    In contrast to competitive and continuation funding, formula grants are non-competitive. They are awarded to predetermined recipients. Formula funding is usually distributed from the federal government to states, and can then be distributed from the state level based on local priorities. Unlike competitive grants, all eligible applicants who meet minimum requirements are entitled to funding
  • Pass-through grants
    Pass-through grants are funds allocated to states by the federal government or non-profit organizations for use as the state sees fit. Because of their structure, states have flexibility in how they run pass-through grant programs. They can be competitive or formula-driven. 

Grantseekers vs. Grantmakers 

Grantseekers can be understood as those seeking funding for projects via grants. They may apply for competitive grants, continuation grants, and pass-through grants, depending on their eligibility and how their focus area matches the specifications of the grant opportunity. Grantseekers may be state, county, or local government agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, research organizations, businesses, or individuals. 

Grantmakers, or grantors, are those who design and administer the grant. They set the parameters for a funding program, accept and review applications, make decisions regarding awards, disburse funds, and evaluate outcomes. They may be government agencies, nonprofits, and educational institutions such as colleges and universities, corporations and corporate foundations, or professional associations.

The Lifecycle of a Grant

The lifecycle of a grant encompasses the entire process of grantmaking, from the initial idea for the grant opportunity all the way through the assessment of its impact after it has been awarded and put to use. It can be broken down into three primary phases:

  • Pre-award phase
    The pre-award phase of a grant begins with the basic design of the grant program. It extends to the planning of the grantmaking process, including specifications of the grant, requirements for applicants, the design of the review process and the recruitment of reviewers, the selection process, and the request for applications. It then moves on to the review of applications (often against a rubric), followed by applicant interviews (if required), and culminates in the decision of who the grant will be awarded to.
  • Award phase
    The award phase of the grant entails the awarding of the grant, the agreement between the grantor and the grantee, and the disbursement of funds. 
  • Post-award phase
    In the post-award phase, the grantor supports the use of funds by the grantee, receives progress reports from the award recipient, closes out the award, and measures the impact of the grant-funded project. This often involves looking at performance metrics, analyzing regular reporting from the award recipient, and sometimes conducting site visits.

Challenges in Grants Management

It can be challenging to prioritize the many moving pieces of the grant management process simultaneously. Before they offer a grant opportunity, grantmakers must clearly design the parameters of their grant program, review compliance requirements, integrate data and reporting obligations, and ensure equity is built into their application and review process.

Once the award is given, it is important to streamline processes and maximize organizational efficiency so that data and reporting can be prioritized. This will pave the way for funding requirements to be met in the award phase and for performance metrics to be analyzed in the post-award phase so that impact can be demonstrated.

Juggling the requirements of all stakeholders, while also keeping track of key milestones and reporting dates—and potentially running multiple grants at the same time—can be daunting.

Best Practices in Grants Management

To set you up for success, we have compiled a list of five best practices to effectively navigate common challenges specific to grant management:

  • Visualize your ideal grant program. Establish clear guidelines to bring your vision to fruition. Review potential ways of achieving your goals with team members to make sure they are actionable, reasonable, and meet funding requirements. Finish by setting benchmarks for each of your programmatic goals to help keep your team on track.
  • Build in equity. This begins with the design of your application and application process, extends to fostering a diverse applicant pool, and continues with your bias-free review process, awarding, and end report writing. This checklist can help you navigate the process.
  • Get comfortable with compliance. Include reporting and monitoring guidelines, deadlines, security and privacy considerations in your initial planning. This will safeguard your team from a legal perspective while reinforcing the integrity of your programs.
  • Create a grant calendar. It can be extremely helpful to design a dedicated calendar with key milestones, goals, and benchmarks mapped out. This can help ensure that your planned timeline is realistic and all team members understand what is expected of them at particular intervals. It can also be useful for keeping note of deadlines related to both internal and external reporting.
  • Prioritize reporting. This will allow you as the grantmaker, as well as your grantees, to effectively track and share impact and outcomes. Once you’ve identified what types of data you will need in order to accomplish these goals, it can be useful to implement grants management software, for a user-friendly, configurable solution that assists with analytics, data auditing, and timely, accurate, reporting. 

Grants Management Software

Because there are many moving pieces and competing priorities in the lifecycle of a grant, it’s advantageous to identify and employ tools that can streamline your processes. Grants management software helps solve many of the challenges listed above and can be instrumental in implementing best practices.

A comprehensive grants management software program aids in the entire lifecyle of the grant, from application submission through post-award reporting and even financial management. 

Utilizing a well-organized, automated process, can assist you in multiple ways, including:

  • streamlining the process of grantee report submission, budget allocation, disbursement and amendment requests 
  • increasing efficiency in application management
  • supporting communication between your team and grantees
  • decreasing risks related to data loss and security
  • assisting in evaluating outcomes and managing compliance requirements
  • facilitating post-award reporting


While grants management is a complex process, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With an understanding of each component, as well as tried and true advice for how best to navigate potential challenges, you can stay ahead of the curve. To increase the ease with which you move through the process, consider using a robust grants management platform like Zengine by WizeHive. Doing so will streamline your workload, freeing you up to focus more of your attention on impact and future program design.

To learn more about how we can help support your grantmaking process, schedule a time to speak with our team. 

Topic(s): Grants Management

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