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Grant Management Blog

Blog for state, local, and tribal government grant resources and articles.

Building a Grants Management Team

In order to sustain a healthy grants management team, it is important to have the appropriate staff with specific responsibilities.
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Grants Management & Goal Setting: Tools to Drive Performance

Organizations that include grant funding in their strategic planning and goal setting processes can benefit from a comprehensive system that assists staff in the development of proposals as well as grants management. Systems for the Grant-Active Organization For most organizations, goal setting is an essential planning activity; for those that are grant-active, goal setting becomes even more vital. At times goal setting can be an overwhelming process, especially as you plan for grant funding. Fortunately, tools are available to assist your organization to become strategic and sophisticated in goal setting for your grant-active department. Grants Network, a full lifecycle cloud grants management systems, offers organizations an effective tool to set grant goals and track progress toward them. The grants management system encourages transparency throughout the organization by clearly delineating how goals are being met and by stating the amount of each grant award. Organizations can be strategic in their efforts by tracking progress toward specific outcome measures and by ensuring that various organizational units are working together, with no overlap. Grants Network enables organizational leaders to determine “real time” where the organization stands with grant awards as well as what is still being considered. With just a glance, leaders can determine which agencies have funded the organization; this helps the organization to nurture positive relationships with these agencies. The system itself becomes a planning tool—with all grant awards in one location, managers can determine the workload facing their staff and plan in advance for needed adjustments. Grants Network also acts as a time-saving tool for the grant writers within the organization. Because all grant proposals are maintained in one location, pieces of a previously written grant can easily be obtained for cutting and pasting into a new grant proposal. This ensures a consistent organizational message is delivered to funding sources. Remember, however, to always reference the funding agency’s instructions should any modification be required. The grants management system allows the client to know the progress it is making toward that goal, and which departments have been successful in submitting grant proposals and which need additional assistance. With this information, management has the knowledge it needs to make long-term strategic planning decisions. Rather than a vacuum of information, Grants Network provides a central solution to managing grant performance for the grant professionals and leadership. By becoming strategic and sophisticated in goal setting for grant-active departments, your organization will be truly able to best meet the needs of the public you serve.

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Grants Management Challenges: Being Direct About Indirect Costs

When it comes to dealing with indirect costs in the budgeting process, it is important to be familiar with the concept of indirect costs, what they can be budgeted for, and exactly how much can be allocated toward these expenses. This publication describes indirect costs, gives examples of what they can be used for, and explains how they are calculated in the grants management process. Understanding Indirect Costs Generally speaking, indirect costs are the costs related to the management of an award and/or a signed contract. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines indirect costs as “those costs of an institution that are not readily identifiable with a specific project or activity, but are nonetheless necessary to the general operation of an institution and how activities are conducted.” When you are budgeting for a project, it is important to classify and document any indirect costs appropriately. These costs represent an attempt to compensate award recipients for the expenses incurred in housing and maintaining a project. In business terms, these costs are referred to as “overhead.” Examples of indirect costs are: Costs associated with operating and maintaining buildings and grounds Equipment depreciation General salaries Administrative services Office supplies and equipment For example, a community-based art project to paint a mural on a public facility may require indirect costs related to personnel time to supervise volunteers, the use of scaffolding or other painting equipment owned by a city, and administrative costs associated with the public unveiling of the completed mural. Indirect costs are generally divided into specific areas and represent the basis of an indirect rate, which is used to formulate the percentage of project costs that may be used for indirect costs. The indirect rate is a calculated percentage of total direct costs, modified direct costs (i.e., direct costs minus equipment costs), personnel costs, and salaries/wages. Some funding agencies have an upper limit to what award recipients can charge on what is indirect, but any difference between the agency’s indirect rate and your organization’s indirect rate can be calculated and charged to a grant as a donated amount. Indirect cost allowances vary by applicant, so it is important for you to know exactly what your organization’s allowable indirect cost rate is and on what basis it is calculated. You should verify whether your agency has a negotiated indirect cost rate or inquire with the funding agency about how to obtain an indirect cost rate. Since the nature and use of indirect costs are not specific, they can be scrutinized closely in an audit or involve meticulous documentation in a final report that may be required by a funding agency. Keep these points in mind when determining how much funding to propose for your project’s indirect costs. Despite its name, indirect costs are important to the execution of a project. Indirect costs are not readily identifiable with a particular project or activity, but they are part of a common objective that funding agencies recognize and support. Having an awareness of what indirect costs may be used for and how much grant funding can be used for indirect costs will allow you to better allocate your resources to ensure that your project is able to meet its objectives.

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3 Types of Objectives for a Winning Grant Proposal

<div class=""hs-migrated-cms-post""> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you’re thinking, <em>“What? There are three types of objectives?!”</em>&nbsp; then you’re not alone. Most grant writers or those charged with writing grant applications often confuse the types of objectives and don’t know where to write them in the program design’s narrative. <strong>This can cause your grant application to lose peer review points!</strong><em> (This post was updated on May 5, 2018)</em></p> <!--more--> <h2 style=""text-align: center;"">Three Classifications of Objectives</h2> <ul> <li><strong>SMART objectives</strong>: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound - <strong>S</strong></li> <li><strong>Process objectives</strong>: tasks or activities - <strong>P</strong></li> <li><strong>Impact objectives</strong>: benefits or outcomes for targeted populations post-funding - <strong>I</strong></li> </ul> <p>In your mind, fill in the correct letter for each of the three types of objectives written below.</p> <ol> <li>""Hire 10 new law enforcement officers.""</li> <li>""Neighborhood block watch groups have bonded with members of the community policing teams, incidences of felony crimes have been reduced in the targeted census tracts, and the satellite police station has become a nucleus for community meetings.""</li> <li>""By the end of Year 1, the City will increase its community-level police presence by 25% as demonstrated by pre- and post-grant personnel levels.""</li> </ol> <p>Okay, let’s see how you did!</p> <h3 id=""last"" style=""text-align: center;"">Number 1 - Process Objective</h3> <p>Why? It’s a task or activity that can be assigned a specific start and end timeline in your project’s workplan (a part of the program design narrative section). Here are some more examples of process objectives:</p> <ul> <li>Recruit 200 new neighborhood block watch volunteers.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Schedule 12 meetings in Year 1 with new community partners.</li> </ul> <p>Process objectives appear in your implementation plan component (a part of the program design narrative) and in your workplan (landscape columnar chart with timeframes and personnel responsible by month, quarter, and year—for multi-year projects). See page 3 of this <a href="""" title=""example of a workplan with process objectives"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">example of a workplan with process objectives</a>.</p> <h3 style=""text-align: center;"">Number 2 - Impact Objectives</h3> <p>It answers the question that all grantmakers ask when they read your grant application’s program design: “What impact will your project make on its target population when our funding is gone?” Well-written impact objectives are written in a present-perfect tense (e.g., ""crimes <em>have been reduced</em>,"" ""police station <em>has become</em> a nucleus"") and have optimistic language. As the grant writer, you must be able to visualize the future impact of having your grant application funded. You have to step out of the present and imagine the high level of change and greater good that the grant award created for your community.</p> <p>Impact objectives appear at the end of the logic model graphic; usually in the final row. For more on the logic model, you can read <a href="""" title=""this eCivis blog article"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">this eCivis blog article</a> or visit the website for the <a href="""" title=""W.K. Kellogg Foundation"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">W.K. Kellogg Foundation</a>.</p> <h3 style=""text-align: center;"">Number 3 - SMART Objective</h3> <p>It meets all requirements in the definition for SMART. The objective is very specific (about what will increase); it is measurable (must always be written in percentage terms); it is attainable (low percentage based on existing number of community policing personnel versus the grant-funded level for the same personnel group); and finally, it is timebound (by the end of a specific timeframe). You can write SMART objectives in monthly, quarterly, or yearly timeframes.</p> <p>SMART objectives appear immediately after each goal statement in your program design narrative. <a href="""" title=""Here’s a tutorial"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">Here’s a tutorial</a> on how to write SMART objectives and match them to each of your goal statements.</p> <p>If you’d like to practice more on distinguishing between the three types of objectives found in a program design, please visit my <a href="""" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"">website</a>. I’ll send you a 50-question quiz on these objectives and I’ll give you the answers for self-correction. And as always, you're welcome to join this discussion by leaving a comment below.</p> <p>Interested in learning more about grants? Subscribe to our blog today.</p> <p>{{cta('e1693ec4-2251-46b9-b285-e8d0a2a426f5')}}</p> </div>

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Grants Management Success: Ensuring a Successful Kick-Off Meeting

<div class=""hs-migrated-cms-post""><!--more--> <p>The kick-off meeting is an opportunity to gather your energized grant team and discuss the project you are about to collectively tackle. This article provides an overview of grants management goals for the kick-off meeting and useful tools to ensure a successful endeavor.</p> <p>Holding a successful grant kick-off meeting is essential to ensure success throughout the grant cycle, from deciding to apply for a program, to compiling the final report documents. Many variables exist at all stages of the grant process, and grant teams typically consist of individuals across various levels of the organization. It is therefore essential to begin the grant process with a cohesive plan and clear lines of communication.</p> <p>It’s imperative that all team members be in attendance at the kick-off meeting in order to achieve the following goals:</p> <ul> <li>Facilitating an open discussion of the project</li> <li>Establishing relevant timeframes</li> <li>Identifying individual and collective roles and responsibilities</li> <li>Creating a clear consensus among the team</li> </ul> <p>In order to achieve these goals, the meeting must be run in an organized and productive fashion. Creating an agenda is an important aspect of holding a successful kick-off meeting, and the agenda should be dispersed to team members at least one day before the meeting. The agenda should clearly outline what is to be discussed and should serve as a guide for both the meeting administrator and those present. Below are some examples of what should be discussed during the kick-off meeting:</p> <ol> <li> <p><strong>Purpose and Goals</strong> – Clearly identify the goals in which you are seeking to achieve. Inform the team why they are there and what piece of the pie they will be assisting in.&nbsp; It is imperative that every member of your team is clear on this issue.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Team Member Introductions</strong> <span>–</span> Make sure everyone knows who is a part of the team and what their individual expertise area is.&nbsp; Clearly state the roles and expectations of each team member so there are no questions along the way.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Project Plan</strong> <span>–</span> Clearly outline what steps will be taken and when. Project plans should be easy to understand and, at a minimum, consist of the following: essential deadlines, names of responsible individuals, and any other key information. By doing so, any potential roadblocks can be addressed and a plan for overcoming those may be established early on rather than later.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Communication Plan&nbsp;<span>–</span></strong>&nbsp;Outline what type of communication mechanisms will be used. For example, will the project lead email weekly updates to all team members? How often will team meetings take place? Consider creating a special page on your agency’s intranet site or create a spreadsheet that all members may access to easily track the program’s progress as examples of increased communication.</p> </li> <li><strong>Questions <span>–</span></strong> Always leave room on the agenda for a Q&amp;A session. All questions should be answered so that all members of the team leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the project plan and goals.</li> </ol> <p>The kick-off meeting is the first of many steps to ensure grant success. By following these simple steps in running a successful kick-off meeting, you can help ensure a well-informed team ready to be successful throughout the grant process.</p> <h3><strong>About eCivis</strong></h3> <p>eCivis is the nation's leading <a href="""" title=""grants management software"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">grants management software</a> solution and the ideal platform for improving local governments' and community-based organizations' grants performance. For more information about eCivis, visit <a href=""""></a>.</p> <p>For media inquiries, contact <a href=""mailto:[email protected]"">[email protected]</a>.</p> <h3><strong>Grants Management Software for Your Team</strong></h3> <p>Grants management software can help your grant team manage grants during pre-award and post-award phases, from kick-off to close-out. Enjoy this free white paper on the topic:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style=""text-align: center;"">{{cta('d45d0890-bc51-47f7-a2d2-fe3ca75fdfb5')}}</div> </div>

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Grant Writing: Thou Shalt Not Supplant

<div class=""hs-migrated-cms-post""> <p class=""Default"">But you may supplement. If you’ve ever read through a NOFA from the Department of Education, chances are you’ve come across the clause stating that federal funding may “supplement, but not supplant,” state/local funding. But what exactly does that mean?&nbsp;<em>(This post was updated on May 1, 2018)</em></p> <!--more--> <h2 style=""text-align: center;"">Defining ""Supplant"" and ""Supplement""</h2> <p class=""Default"">Let’s start with the definitions. “Supplement” means to “build upon” or “add to”; “supplant” means to “replace” or “take the place of.” Federal law prohibits recipients of federal funds from replacing state, local, or agency funds with federal funds. Existing funds for a project and its activities <em>may not</em> be displaced by federal funds and reallocated for other organizational expenses. This is illegal. On the other hand, federal agencies encourage supplementing—that is, adding federal funds to what is available in state, local, or agency funds.</p> <h2 style=""text-align: center;"">Helpful Examples</h2> <p class=""Default"">The Texas Educational Agency provides the following example of illegal supplanting of federal grant funds:</p> <blockquote><em>A program coordinator, working with the parent involvement component of a campus, is paid from local sources. The local school district receives new grant funds to provide literacy services to parents within the campus and transfers the coordinator’s salary to the new grant, since the population that is being served [comprises] the same parents that are participating in the parent involvement center.</em></blockquote> <p class=""Default"">The program coordinator was already paid by local sources, so it's not legitimate to transfer that position's salary under the funding of the new grant.&nbsp;</p> <p class=""Default"">Now an example of a proposal to legally supplement existing programs with federal funds. The Board of Education for Clarke County, Alabama, was awarded a Title I “Improving Literacy Through School Libraries” grant from the Department of Education for a program focused on updating its print materials to improve the quality of education. Addressing the requirement for “broad-based involvement and coordination,” the successful applicant clearly bulleted how federal funding would ""<em>build upon</em>"" programs and detailed the funds already available in the county system, including state library enhancement funds and technology funds. (eCivis Grants Network subscribers should refer to page 15 of this <span><a href="""">previously funded application</a>&nbsp;</span>for more details.)</p> <h2 style=""text-align: center;"">Critics of the Rule</h2> <p class=""Default"">&nbsp;“Supplement, not supplant” is not without its detractors. <a href="""">Critics</a> have pointed out that compliance with this rule can be an enormous administration burden for Title I recipients and can prevent effective spending of funds for comprehensive and innovative programs, because spending must be accounted for on a cost-by-cost basis. This issue will be taken up in a future eCivis blog post.</p> <p class=""Default"">Other perspectives on the ""supplement, not supplant"" clause can be found <a href="""" title=""here"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">here</a>. For a cogent discussion of this topic, I recommend <a href="""" title=""this article"" target=""_blank"" rel=""noopener"">this article</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p class=""Default""><em>What's your take on this topic? Leave us a comment below.</em></p> <p>To learn more about supplanting, check out our article on the subject from a <a href="""">Department of Justice perspective</a>.</p> <p><a href="""" rel=""noopener"" target=""_blank"" style=""background-color: transparent; font-weight: bold;"">Read our latest blog posts</a><span style=""background-color: transparent;""><span style=""font-weight: bold;"">&nbsp;</span>and be sure to subscribe.</span></p> </div>

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