Ah, grants. As any Early Childhood Education professional in the nonprofit world knows, managing grants and funding for your program can require extensive administrative resources. Whether you or one of your team members is responsible for researching, applying for, and managing grants and funding for your nonprofit, it is essential to have a system in place for grant management. In the following article, we cover several best practices when it comes to managing grants. Read on to learn more.
Grant Management Best Practices: Pre-Award
In order to develop an efficient system for managing grants for your Early Childhood Education nonprofit, it’s best to break down your approach into the two stages of the grant lifecycle: pre-award and post-award.
You will find much of your administrative resources, time, and effort goes into the pre-award stage. It’s important to set up your organization for success by careful preparation in this stage. Here are several ways you can make the most of the pre-award stage of the grant lifecycle:
Define Your Objectives – How well can you define the mission and vision of your organization? Can you state your goals in a clear and compelling way? In order to set your organization apart from the rest, you need to communicate what makes your program unique, including your purpose and your goals.
Research Opportunities – Once you have defined your organizational mission, vision, and goals, you will need to research relevant opportunities for funding. Consider possible donors within your local community. Use a research database to look for prospective donors who are a good fit for your organization. Plus, explore government grants and other funding opportunities.
The research stage can take a lot of time and energy. However, it’s worth it to really find out which potential donors, foundations, and government programs best align with your Early Childhood Education nonprofit. Finding a good fit before you apply can save hours of wasted time and energy on applications for the wrong grants.
Put Together Proposals – After sifting through prospects and finding grants to apply for, you will want to put together solid proposals for each one. Really take your time with this step. The application process can be tedious, but the payoff can be big. Be sure to answer all questions on the application form, provide the necessary documentation, make sure your budget is complete and accurate, and follow all application instructions. Keep an eye on those deadlines, too!
Grant Management Best Practices: Post-Award
Congratulations! You have been awarded a grant! Now begins the post-award stage of the grant lifecycle, and there’s still a few important things to do:
Identify Requirements – Learn what the grantor will require of your organization when it comes to documentation and reporting. You want to make sure you stay accountable for how the grant funds are spent.
Allocate Grant Funds in Your Budget – Go ahead and allocate the new funds in your nonprofit budget so you can maintain a clear picture of where, how, and when the money will be spent. This step is critical to making sure the funding fulfills your organization’s goals as well as the grantor’s spending guidelines. Your accountant can help you with this step.
Now that we’ve addressed important to-do’s in the pre-award and post-award stages of the grant lifecycle, let’s look at a few ongoing best practices you can implement throughout the lifetime of a grant.
General Grant Management Best Practices
Grant management can get pretty confusing if you don’t have a system down. With the following organizational tools in place, you will have a much easier time keeping track of funding for your nonprofit organization:
Create a Grant Schedule – Keeping track of a single grant is one thing, but when you try to manage multiple grants with different requirements and deadlines, you can quickly become overwhelmed. Create a grant schedule to keep track of the entire lifecycle of each grant, from proposal, to award, to spending and reporting.
Assign Grant Management Tasks – Who is managing grants on your childcare team? Whether you have a grant-writer on staff or find most of the grant-related tasks fall to you or your assistant director, get clear on who is responsible for which part of the grant management process. If you need to, assign tasks to your team to lighten the load and make it easier to manage the grant lifecycle. Consistency is key here. Once you find a system that works for you and your childcare team, stick to it.
Organize Your Fiscal Tracking and Reporting – What’s your plan for tracking and reporting grant funds? Get organized and set up grant tracking with your accounting software or reach out to your accountant to come up with a plan for tracking and reporting the grant money you spend for your nonprofit.
We realize that grant management can be very involved and nuanced. Some organizations have the capacity to hire a full-time or part-time grant writer or outsource this important function to a professional. Many others are learning how to research, apply for, and manage grants all on their own. Either way, following these best practices and keeping your accountant on board with your grants and funding will ensure your administrative resources, time, and energy devoted to grants is invested wisely.
The Honest Buck Accounting team can help. We are dedicated to serving Early Childhood Education organizations, including preschools, charter schools, and nonprofit programs. Schedule a call with us to learn how our professional accounting services can help you with grant management, budgeting, streamlining your financial processes, and more.