0. Get the board’s buy-in before you put in too much time or effort in preparing a proposal.
1. A grant proposal summary should be submitted to the board in advance of filing the grant application and include enough detail to allow the board to make a decision. Information should include:
- the funder
- purpose of the grant and the expected outcomes
- commitment and partners
- explanation of how the grant will support our mission
- total amount being sought
- dates: start date, end date, closeout date, reporting dates
- financial budget
2. The board should approve any grant application before it is filed as the application commits the organization to performing the requirements of the grant. Such approval should take place at a board meeting, with a quorum of the board voting on a motion to approve in favor of the grant application. Approval should appear in the minutes with the grant details as shown in #1, above, (minus, perhaps a complete budget).
3. A grant administrator should be designated or hired for each grant. The job description should include the following:
- administer the income and outgo of the grant
- manage the grant budget
- provide status reports to the board, monthly if there is ongoing activity, otherwise quarterly for active grants
- file quarterly financial and performance reports with the funder, as required
- fine the final report
- at the end of the grant period organize the close-out documents, and make sure they are available for audit.
4. A grant program manager should be designated for each grant. Often the person that finds the grant and prepares the application is not the same person who is managing the day-to-day activities of the grant. The program manager’s job description would include:
- “champion” for the grant
- “owns” of the mission of the grant
- ensures that the grant is executed and the goals are accomplished
- works closely with the grant administrator to prepare invoices, financial reports, narratives, and to stay within the budget guidelines
Research grants have a “Principal Investigator”, or “PI” who is the subject-matter expert for the grant, and the person held accountable for grant outcomes.
5. Bookkeeping and Accounting
Financial transactions need to be tagged in the accounting system so that financial statements and a detailed list of transactions can be produced for each individual grant and each individual funder. Essentially this means you want to be able to produce a customized profit and loss report that restricts financial input and output to a specific grant.
In QuickBooks, this is typically done by designating a funder as a customer, and an individual grant from that funder as a “job”, or “sub-customer”… (depends on which version of QuickBooks you are using). Further, in QuickBooks you can also assign a “class” to a transaction; this is typically used to classify each transaction as belonging to either “program” (i..e direct expenses), “administrative” (indirect expenditures), or “fundraising”; the three classifications required for filing on the Form 990.
6. Finally, the organization must realize that by accepting grant money, the organization must be prepared to successfully go through an audit. So, accepting a grant is indeed a major commitment by the organization. The division of labor outlined above by no means require a separate person to perform each function. Many of us live for the day we can fob off some of the administrative stuff and grantwriting to a capable colleague.