How To Better Manage Your Grant Program

Sections of this topic

    Too often we wind up letting the tail wag the dog. I know, I’ve been there.

    Not long ago, I came across an RFP (Request for Proposal) that was outside the scope of what our organization was planning to do during the current fiscal year. I talked to our program staff, and they came up with a good idea that would fit the RFP … an idea, however, that was not in our operating budget.

    So, with the enthusiasm of the staff, I wrote and submitted the proposal. And we won the grant.

    Great news, right ?? Not exactly !!

    Now we have to implement this new project that doesn’t underwrite any costs in our current operating budget. So, in reality, we will have to ask our already stretched program staff to implement this project in their “spare time”….

    The better way to manage your grant program is to collaborate with your program staff during the budgeting process to agree on what your organization is planning for the next fiscal year.

    Projects, programs, and overhead costs that end up in your operating budget can then be included in your grant-seeking calendar. Those that end up getting cut during budgeting can also be included, but at a lower priority.

    This allows you, as the grant manager, to focus your efforts on funding your organization’s operating budget, instead of chasing after money for projects or programs that your organization may not need or can’t afford to implement.

    There is, then, a simple question that should, with rare exception, define your decision-making process: Is the project or program in the current operating budget? If YES, pursue for grant funding; if NO, don’t….

    This might come in handy when you have to explain to your program staff/executive director/board member why you didn’t pursue a “great grant opportunity” that they handed to you.

    And, please keep in mind that this is best managed with some flexibility. Perhaps an RFP comes your way that is too good to pass up. As long as your NPO’s leadership and program staff give it the green light … and understand the consequences of implementing the new venture, then go for it.

    Another green light for an off-budget project or program is one in which you can include a portion of your current operating budget – perhaps staff time to implement the new project/program.

    Just remember, don’t let off-budget new-ideas control your grant-seeking process. Be the dog wagging the tail, not the other way around; you will better serve your organization with a more thoughtful approach.

    Lynn deLearie Consulting, LLC, helps nonprofit organizations develop, enhance and expand grant programs, and helps them secure funding from foundations and corporations. Contact Lynn deLearie..