The Art of Grants Management: Building a Mighty Team
I’m not really sure when I first heard the term “centralized grants management”. It’s an operational model that is often seen at an educational institution or government agency (eCivis, 2017; Ohio Department of Education, n.d.), yet the concept, especially understanding roles and responsibilities, can help any size organization effectively manage the life cycle of their grant awards by building capacity with existing staff. In general, a grant life cycle includes pre-award tasks (e.g., prospecting, proposal development, and submission) through post-award activities (e.g., acceptance, award set-up, monitoring, and final reporting and close out).
Here at AMC, we offer a centralized grants management services to our clients. For us it means having one department that has the operational oversight, skills, and experience to manage a high volume of grant awards and support a large number of projects. We may or may not be subject matter experts (SMEs) in any one topic area and usually look to the volunteers and staff who are carrying out the project to be the SMEs. But, what we do offer is our expertise in managing all facets of a grant life cycle, such as
- prospect research and knowledge management
- proposal and project development
- writing and communications
- evaluation and outcome metrics
- grant budget management
- donor/funder stewardship
- project management
- customer service.
Building Blocks for a Mighty Grants Team
I’ve distilled some of the core responsibilities and duties that are key to honing the art of grants management and building a mighty grants team. One person can have multiple roles, but it’s important to be clear about each individual’s role and related responsibilities.
Other Handy Tips:
Grant Readiness Assessment
I cannot stress enough the importance of a grants readiness assessment. If your organization is new to grant funding or hasn’t done it in a while, a grants readiness assessment will get you started on the right foot. It’s also a good tool to share with your board and helpful in setting realistic expectations about achievable grants revenue.
By nature of the duties, a grants team must be customer centric. The team’s sole existence is to seek out funding to enable our co-workers—the program staff—to do what they do so well. We must be active listeners to not only write about the activities of the project, but also to write it in the voice of those who will carry out the activities and be the beneficiaries of the funded activities. We must remain mindful of the other day-to-day duties of the volunteers and coworkers who are collaborating with us, and knowledgeable and sensitive to the initiatives and requirements of the funders. As grant professionals, our job is to strengthen the relationship between the funder and the organization and recognize that we are mere facilitators of the relationship. While this is nuanced to some point, our ability to connect the two on a shared mission and goals is where the magic happens. Furthermore, we build trust by following best management and ethical practices.
Why is this important?
Grants management is unique in areas of revenue generation. Though there is overlap with fundraising and sponsorship activities, there are vastly unique operational elements that require special expertise and dedicated staff. Identifying activities and assigning tasks is a start to successful life cycle management; moreover, some may even find it fun to be part of a mighty grants team (we in AMC Grants Management Department most certainly do!). There is nothing more joyful than opening an e-mail that announces an award! Truthfully, there is even more joy in closing out a successful project (whew—relieved it’s done). I can’t promise day-to-day joy, but I hope this post has offered a simple idea to aid you in developing operational best practices!
eCivis, The 3 Types of Grant Office Structures (2017). Retrieved from https://blog.ecivis.com/3-types-of-grant-structures-in-local-government-which-one-are-you.
Ohio Department of Education, About Grants Management (n.d.). Retrieved from http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Finance-and-Funding/Grants/About-Grants-Management.
Susan Vogel is a director of grants management on AMC’s professional relations and development team.
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