5 Steps To Perfect Post-Award Grants Management w/ Rachel Werner
During this session we’ll talk about the importance of grants management and why it is critical to avoid risk, ensure transparency and maintain compliance (hint: avoid the front page of the Washington Post).
By the end of this workshop, you'll learn:
- The necessity of post-award compliance, especially for government funding.
- Thinking about go-no go for grant opportunities to ensure you can manage the funding.
- Resources needed to be effective post-award grant recipients.
- Tools and process to help manage grant funding.
Create your Instrumentl account using the link above. Save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires with the code RBWSTRATEGY50.
Rachel Werner is the Owner & CEO of RBW Strategy. She has served as a nonprofit fundraiser/grant writer, grants manager at an education management organization, and management consultant overseeing federal government contracts. Since the beginning of her career, her firm has helped to secure over $40 million in funding from government, foundation, and corporate sources, and has managed over $2 billion in grant funding. Rachel is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association and Association of Fundraising Professionals, and regularly conducts in-person and online trainings at national and local conferences.
Rachel's favorite thing about this work: Learning about causes and missions that help communities all over the world and how little steps make a huge difference. It is a privilege to help organizations fulfill their missions while enhancing my perspective on critical issues and causes.
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5 Steps To Perfect Post-Award Grants Management w/ Rachel Werner - Transcription
Will: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Five Steps to Perfecting Your Post-Award Grants Management Process with Rachael Werner. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So, please, keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email later in case you want to review anything from today.
In case this is your first time here, this free grant workshop is brought to you by Instrumental. These collaborations are with different community partners to provide free educational opportunities for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle some sort of problem that you folks often have to fall for while sharing the different ways that Instrumentl platform can also help grant writers win more grants.
Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you want to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management in one place, we can help you do that. And you can use the link that I'll put in the Zoom chat in a little bit in the case where you want to try us out. Lastly, be sure to stick around for today's entire presentation. At the end, we'll be sharing some extra resources, more details to come on after Rachel’s presentation.
With that housekeeping out of the way, I'm really excited to bring back to our stage Rachel Werner. She's the owner and CEO of RBW Strategy. She served as a non-profit fundraiser, grant writer, grants manager, and education management organization and management consultant overseeing federal government contracts.
Since the beginning of her career, her firm has helped secure over $40 million and funding from government foundation and corporate sources and manage over $2 billion in grant funding. She's an active member of the Grant Professionals Association and Association of Fundraising Professionals, and regularly conducts in-person and online training at national and local conferences. Some of her favourite things to do--her favourite part about this work is learning about the causes and missions that help communities all over the world and how little steps can make a huge difference. So, it's a privilege to help organizations fulfil their missions while enhancing her perspective on critical issues and causes.
We ask that if you have any questions throughout the presentation, please include three hashtags in front of that in order to make it easier to stand out in the Zoom chat. Other than that, Rachel, feel free to take it away.
Rachel: Thanks, Will. Well, hello, everybody. And thanks for taking the time to talk about all things grants management. Now, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, especially with a lot of the government grant funding that's been coming down the pike.
So, really, we're just trying to look at this in a way to make it more manageable for you. Because a lot of times we focus on the pre-award and all of the steps involved with that, which are critical; the research, and the planning, and all of the application writing and cultivation, all of that is incredibly important. And then what I want to see is sort of that translation to the post award side. Because a lot of times, there isn't as much of that focus on post-award management and compliance.
And so, I'm here to kind of bring up some things and see how we can sort of learn some new tips that could help you as you start to dig into this work a little bit more, or perhaps, gain some things that you can bring back to your organizations. So, I think that we already had people starting to share their information in the chat. So, thank you. It was really great to see a wonderful representation of folks from all over the country.
And Will already gave me an introduction. So, I'm not really going to go into detail about my introduction. I'm based in the DC area. So if you're there, hello. And we primarily work with clients--started out in the DC area. But now we've expanded across the country. And one of the things that we've really started to also focus on is post-award management. So, let's talk about what we're going to be reviewing today.
So I think of compliance as sort of the broccoli of the grants work, because a lot of people don't really want to talk about compliance, and policies, and reporting, and all of those things. But they're sort of an important component if you want to keep that grant funding and sustain it for the future years. It can be a lot more fun to talk about those applications and going after new funding sources, new projects, and really looking into these new relationships that you can develop and building out existing relationships with funders.
But this is also a critical component. So, what we're going to do is talk about the importance of post-award management and how we can use research tools like Instrumentl and other research strategies to learn about post-award needs and how you can think about that from pre-award as you're starting to pursue opportunities. And then we're going to go into the top five tips to manage your grants. And then we’re going to have some review and reflections to kind of talk about what we learn.
And I think that, as I mentioned before, there's a lot of focus on pre-award. So, this is sort of shifting our thinking of how we take some of the skills or the tools that we use in pre-award and apply them in post-award? And that's really what this is about. So first of all, why is grants management so important? And this is sort of a question that I'm posing. And I'd love to maybe, Will, you can call out things from the chat box.
But what do funders want to see regarding their grant awards? So if you are requesting funding from a foundation, from a government funder, from a corporate entity, what do you think they want to see regarding their grant awards? What is it that you think is important for them? And so, Will, you can start sharing anything that people have shared.
Will: Yeah. Absolutely. One person mentioned the impact. Stacey mentioned how we're going to measure success and report on outcomes. Julia talked about relevance and proven management. Mary talked about demonstrated need. Contract adherence from Colleen; as well as Anna mentioning meeting deliverables, and a few other things here.
Rachel: Great. Well, those are all wonderful answers. And I know that those are all very much top of mind for funders. And depending on the funder type, some more than others. But the answer is knowing that their funding makes a difference. And I think all of the things that you shared is part of that. They want to see how are you as an organization implementing their priorities, their interests, and making an impact into how they're directing their resources towards the support of a larger issue, or cause, or initiative.
So thinking about target groups or causes that need additional resources that could be based on a certain target population, certain geographic area, also thinking about the community aspect, especially for a lot of those local funders, community foundations, and so forth, and thinking about how that can be a really critical component to building those more viable communities that can really help preserve the fabric of that area. And also thinking about ways, especially now we're focused on a lot of DEIA initiatives and thinking about how that contributes to the more equitable, inclusive society that we're working towards, and funders that are thinking about this across the sector.
So, all of your answers kind of fall into this. And sort of thinking about also just the backbone of the organizations; how to strengthen them so they can do great work. And so that you can continue to do the great work. And that's really what the point of post-award compliance is. I’m going to keep kind of trying to take it back to that is that it's really trying to make sure that you can continue providing great services support and just contributing to the impact of people that you serve or the causes that you support.
So, why is it important? So if your organization does not report on our outcomes or provide enough information on progress to your funders, you may not receive additional funding in the future. So, it's important to really contribute to that story and contributing to that cultivation strategy. That's a huge component of building that relationship with funders because you want to make sure that everything that you put in that application is actually adhered to. And if it's not, how are you making those pivots? How are you explaining that to funders? Because as some people mentioned before, the reports, and outcomes, story, and the data is really critical to sharing your story.
We know that there are challenges. We know that things have changed, especially in the past three years. But how are you conveying that? How are you reporting on that to funders? And also connecting with grant makers and making sure that you continue providing that sort of story to them throughout the course of the life cycle, and making sure that you maintain that information on file can share that as needed for all different areas, either financial regarding your budget, operations, or any sort of administrative information that needs to be, or emails and programmatic, of course, which is your data, your activities, your outcomes, and any sort of stories or testimonials that would be important to share.
And this is something that I generally use on presentations because all of the grants related work kind of fits into this lifecycle. So, we know the importance of research and strategic planning. I think that that probably is the most important component of the grants lifecycle because it sets the stage for how you do all of the other work. And the other one that I'm really going to be focusing on is four, which is award management and monitoring.
And that's really, to me, almost the second most important component because that's what you do to sustain that grant throughout the lifecycle, throughout the work that you're doing with that funder. And so, how are you sort of setting that tone with funders? And just in terms of what this means from an organizational perspective is that when you think about grants management--and I really like this description. So, grants management is a process and methods. Organizations go through to oversee grants from operations, financial, and programmatic vantage. So, it encompasses every part of a grants lifecycle from pre-research to post-award closeout.
So even though the award management and monitoring is a specific phase, the whole focus of grants management, you have to kind of think about it across the lifecycle. So, it's really important to kind of think about it throughout the whole process. And as you're looking at opportunities, determining if they're the right fit, because you're going to have to manage that funding. I've actually had clients decide not to pursue additional funding because of the additional post-award requirements that were needed for them to continue with that.
And so, the other thing I want to quickly mention is that the government--if you are a recipient of government funding, then you probably are aware of 2 CFR 200, which is the uniform grant guidance under the Office of Management and Budget. So, that's really the federal grant requirements. And it's required if you're a recipient of state, local, or federal grant funding. And that is what you must adhere to. So in order to make sure that you continue to be a good steward, you need to make sure that you understand 2 CFR 200 and understand its components.
That can be a whole other presentation. So, I’m not going to dive into it too much. But happy to answer questions if you wanted to email me about that. And I know that it's so easy to be overwhelmed when you administer grants. So just trying to focus on the things that are high priority, things that you can build upon that you're already doing within your organization that can make you continue with your success.
So, I'm curious--and this is another chat question. What are your biggest challenges related to grants management? What do you see as the greatest barriers to success or things that you might need additional help on? So I'll defer to you, Will, to call out the responses.
Will: Yeah. Absolutely.
So, there are a couple references to technology, reports, scheduling, and upkeep are some other responses so far. Coordination with the team, staying on top of deadlines, and requirements for reporting, entering data and monitoring, reporting deadlines, and a lot of reporting deadlines and upkeep, and navigating all the different funder portals. That's a good one. And, yeah, upkeep of grant tracker and results data from internal team. Different stakeholders.
Rachel: Oh, gosh, I heard a lot of reporting, a lot of--because a lot of it just seems like the administrivia around grants management, which I know can be a lot. And Will is going to probably share a little bit more about how you might be able to better manage this. And a lot of it just depends on the capacity of your organization, what you'll be able to manage from a financial perspective, and also just from personnel perspective on who's owning the system.
We're going to get into a little bit of the tracking later. But thank you for sharing.
And so, part two is really how can I leverage research? So when going back and thinking about that grants lifecycle and thinking about the first part, which is the planning and research. So thinking about that and how can I start thinking about post-award and grants management at that particular phase? And so, one of the things that I like to do is try to think through kind of be a little detective. So, what are the things that you want to gather during the research process? Some things to think about. Are there multiple application cycles for this opportunity or for this funder?
Because if you're looking at it from a reporting perspective, if you can apply to this funder at a different time in the year, will that sort of ease your burden post-award? Because if you know that they might administer the award three months after you submit the application, is that going to be a burden for you? Because I know that for the work that we do with clients, it tends to be either December or the end of the fiscal year, which could be in June. And so, there are certain times of year that seem to be more busy than others. So, are there things that you can sort of plan out in your calendar?
And also, thinking about the application. So, looking at the application. Are they requiring a great deal of information? And thinking about, “Can I report on this? Do we have the capacity to gather this information, and these data, these outcomes, and so forth? Can you report on them accurately?” And also financial, because we know that if they ask for a lot of different breakouts of budget and how you're spending your funds, and thinking about do you have the capacity to report on those. And also thinking about it from an outreach perspective, are there going to be requirements for you to incorporate their award and progress into your existing social media, digital marketing campaigns? Is that something that you need to integrate? And also, thinking about how responsive they are.
So if you have the ability to connect with them and you're able to have a conversation with them, you might be able to find some more details before you actually apply so that you can maybe even avoid an opportunity that you know in the end might not be a good fit. So, thinking about what you can look at from a research perspective.
And so, here are a couple things that I like to think, again, thinking about the application as a treasure hunt. So when you’re thinking about post-award support, here are some questions that are common in applications and here's what they're really trying to ask. Well, here's the information funders are trying to gather. So what successful outcomes does the organization anticipate for this fund, for its use of funding from this particular organization? So, they want to have assurance of the impact. And I know that this was referenced before. They want to know how your clients or the people that you serve are impacted by the program and what activities are really driving change.
And also thinking about how you define success and how you're going to incorporate that into the metrics to determine whether or not you're successful against those activities. And then another one is sustainment. Because I know that that's a lot of concern for organizations, especially as you're thinking about renewal funding. And thinking about how--or if they're going to continue to invest in you, how is that going to be leveraged within the organization? So, thinking about the other sources of funding and your overall strategy for seeking additional support and other revenue that you're bringing in. So, those are the kinds of things to think about when you're putting together your applications that they're going to be asking you about post awards, and probably in the reports as well.
And so with that, I'm going to defer to Will to talk through how Instrumentl can be used for this kind of research.
Will: Awesome. So one of the things that you're often going to want to look into is you're going to want to look into digging into different under profiles, looking into the sort of folks that they have been funding in the past, as well as the grant that’s on their website as well. So if you are into bringing some of the management components back into your work, what you'll see in Instrumentl is that--let me know once you see my screen.
What you'll see is you'll essentially see a dedicated tracker for each of your projects. And within these trackers, some of the folks were mentioning some of the challenge points of post-award grant management is keeping everybody in the same loop, getting all their stakeholders involved in the process. And that's what you can do once you start to save things into your tracker. You're going to have different dedicated workspaces for each of your respective fundraising initiatives. And then you'll be able to add different tasks for the team members that are responsible for different components of the process.
So, we cover things from the start of the process to the latter half of the lifecycle that Rachel shared in that graphic a couple slides ago. What you'd be able to do is if, for example, somebody on your team is responsible for reporting in some sort of way, then you could schedule that sort of task to that person. And then from there, set a due date for when they need to tackle that by, say it's next Thursday. And then also set who might be collaborating with them on that certain thing. And then once a week, once that happens, you would be able to get notified of those upcoming tasks related to the grants that you're looking to attract or manage towards.
The other thing you can do is see all the information about the funder in the same place as well. So when you dig into these funder tabs, you'll see where those opportunities exist in your different trackers. You'll see that I have these not only in my environmental project, but also in my STEM education project, since this is a general operational support grant.
And then as I scroll down through here as well, this is where you can really start digging into the funder as well. You can give them a quick phone call. Maybe you already have an existing relationship and you want to catch up with that funder. Maybe you want to just access that funders’ direct website. From here, what we can do is we can dig into that side of things. So one of the earlier comments was on all the different funder portals as well. It can just be useful to have everything in one place because whether that's you using the notes section on the right hand side, as you can see here, I've kind of included a note of what they're proud to support. You can also just dig into their actual background information of who they're finding the most.
So, things like the giving averages and medians. Or if you're on our standard plan or above, you'll see things that are unique to Instrumentl, like the openness to new grantees. And knowing the difference between these sorts of things can make it so much easier to prioritize which relationships to cultivate the most in the next sort of section of your life cycle, as well as just to organize everything into the central source of truth.
And I know that’s something that some folks are probably thinking about is what about the grant opportunities from outside Instrumentl that I don't find? Well, in that situation, what you can do is you can also add new and then upload many. In here, you can just download our template where--once you bring this into Instrumentl, you'll have your existing opportunities also in the central source of truth.
And so, that makes it so that everybody can just stay on the same page a lot faster. Because once you set up a couple projects on Instrumentl, you're going to have what we call a master tracker. And that's where you really start to see how all this comes together in which if I have 5 to 10 different fundraising opportunities that I'm pursuing, I see it all in one place. If you're on our standard planner above, you'll start to have a master calendar view. And now, everything is kind of organized, tidied up in the same place as well.
I have a couple of questions that I'll answer quickly before packing it back to you, Rachel. But Teresa is asking to assign tasks to staff, do they need to have an Instrumental log in their account? They do. And if you want to add them to your account, you go to that bottom left corner under Account and then go to Manage Team.
The other thing you can do is maybe you have a team member who's like a volunteer in your organization, and they're not necessarily going to need Instrumentl every single day. Another thing you can do is when you're in these funders, that little--a lesser known sort of feature that folks do is they share this grant with their team members this way. And this will just send a direct email to that respective funder profile as well. And so, that can be super useful as well.
All of our base plans, to answer your question Diana, support starting out three users. But if you want to add an additional user, it's $5 per month per additional user. Everett asked a question of, if we integrate with any CRMs, like Monday.com, we actually do integrate directly with Salesforce right now. And so, if you're looking for that sort of feature and whatnot when you're creating your free account in Instrumentl, let our team know and we can definitely share more about how our Salesforce integration works. And we're working on some other integration in the future as well.
But, yeah, that should go over some of the fundamentals in terms of the tracking side of things and the management that you might be able to bring into one place along with some of the funder research that you are referencing.
Rachel: Great. Okay. Let me go back to sharing my screen. Okay. Great. All right.
So, we've just gone through the demos. So, I'm just going to flip past here and get to another chat question. So how would you rate your organization's Grants Manager processes on a scale of 1 to 10? I love to know this, because we're going to get to the tips now. So, I'm curious to see how people are thinking. So, Will, what are you seeing?
Will: Yeah. Absolutely.
I am seeing a wide range of numbers, actually. I'll read it from the start. 3, 5, 8.5, 547, 4857, 6653. I feel like I'm reading a number, a phone number right now.
Rachel: Yeah, I have 6753, 09--
Will: 761, 705, 45 and 9 and 6 and 8. So, anywhere, it looks like the lower end, 0. Upper end, maybe an 8. But not too much beyond that.
Rachel: Okay. Well, you know what? I think in the middle is good because that means that you already have some things in place. But maybe you need to kind of build that up and enhance it a little bit more. And sometimes it's a question of--it becomes a situation when you receive more funding, because I know that some of our clients have received a lot of ARPA federal funding. And so, they have had to develop these out of necessity because they've had to really think about post-award management because of the greater transparency related to that. So, it could be a situation where you're sort of forced to deal with compliance when you might not have focused on that much before.
So, here's my top five tips that I'm going to share. And I'm going to go through these fairly quickly because I do want to leave time for questions. But I do want to open the door so that if you have additional questions, feel free to email me. My contact information is going to be at the end, because I'm happy to discuss this. I love talking about compliance. And I'm happy to kind of share some additional thoughts.
So, first thing I want to talk about is your resource capacity. Because I think that's really critical to determining how many grants you’re able to manage. So the first thing I would suggest is really kind of conduct a needs assessment. Here's a couple of ways you can approach it. It’s the incremental approach. And that's basically trying to answer the question, what capacity would enable us to grow and move forward to meet our goals? So, thinking about what it is that you're going to have to build towards in order to get to a state where you can successfully manage these grants.
And the other approach is sort of the gap analysis. So, sort of taking what the ideal situation is that you'd like to be in the future and comparing that to the current situation, and what are the differences between them, and thinking about the difference between your current and ideal state. And I think that some of you are probably thinking about that when you're ranking at a three. How do you get from that 3 to a 10? Or even to an 8? Somewhere where you feel more comfortable with what you're doing and what you are presenting to funders.
And the way that you want to think through your resources is kind of breaking it down to different areas. You have personnel. And that could be people who are staff, volunteers, or outsource support. So, anybody who's kind of there to support the process. It doesn't have to be people who are in grants that’s thinking about finance, programmatic, and also administrative.
So thinking about how all of those people, are there sort of any weak links or areas of improvement that are needed? And also technology and systems? I know that that was mentioned before. So, what kind of tools that you have to kind of get through and make sure that you're able to manage the grant funding? And do you have anything that's weak? And also things like information sharing, do you use something like teams or Slack or some other kind of system to organize all of the information so it can be shared readily, and also the systems that you have in place to make sure that that flows between different individuals, especially because a lot of people touch it.
And then also knowledge. This is a big area because sometimes there's a knowledge gap between what people might know about post-award management and what actually is in-house. And so, making sure that there's enough understanding about how you need to create that sort of opportunity for your team to have the skills that they can be able to be successful in this area.
And also thinking about from--this is going to be a little bit more about leadership. And thinking about not just the leadership buying is incredibly important, because it's the top down to ensure that there's a compliance culture within your organization and making sure that there's that sort of focus on reporting and monitoring. But also, how were you documenting that for purposes of making sure all the authorized individuals are established and know what their roles are, and that level of accountability because that's important. Whether you receive government grants or not, it's really important to kind of have that sort of ethos, because we don't always talk about cultural philanthropy. But I think it also should be a culture of compliance because that's what allows you to sustain the funding and make sure that you remain a viable recipient of funding from any funder.
And thinking about your policy. So, this is definitely focused on government funding. But this should be applied across the board. Now, the policies that you'll want to have in place are dictated by the grant awards. So, it's really important to understand their current grant agreements to make sure what you must adhere to. And thinking about those from an administrative standpoint of what are the different individuals and roles involved and thinking about your budget, thinking about data management, thinking about the submission and the reporting policies, how are those codified within your organization? Because that's really important to setting the tone again for that compliance culture. And if you don't have those in place, what are you doing to, as part of the needs assessment, to figure out how you can get those in place and figuring out which policies you need to develop.
So thinking through some of that will be really helpful for you because those policies have sometimes been requested by funders, even non-governmental funders. And they don't need to be extensive, they just need to be accurate. And they need to really dictate what you're doing as an organization to ensure that you're going to be a good steward of their funding.
And then here are some examples of policies. Again, these are sort of a little bit more focused on government grants. But you can kind of see how they can be incorporated into some other policies that you might be developing, like travel policy, cash management policy. Again, some of these might not be applicable, but important to kind of think about.
And this is thinking about federal funding. What this really is is the COSO Internal Control framework. And this is part of 2 CFR 200 for developing internal controls. And this sort of outlines all of those policies I just referenced in the previous slide. It shows, what are you going to do to be a good steward of that government funding?
And this provides that assurance that, yes, we have these controls in place that assure that we are going to minimize risk. And that's really what compliance is, is minimizing risk.
And so then let's think about the processes. So, you have your policies in place for the outlines of who is responsible for what and how things are going to flow from one department or one person to another.
So, what are the processes? So thinking about it from three different vantages; administering the grant, tracking the grant, ensuring quality. So, these are thinking about systems and technology that were referenced before for the tracking and administering of the funds, the people. So, having people with the right skills and ability to do this work and also the timeframe. So, making sure that you can do this within the reporting deadlines and that there are certain processes in place to ensure that you're being reminded of these deadlines. And what are those processes? And that this is where the leadership buying is important to making sure that those are set up from the top, and that that's going to be followed.
And these are from the three separate advantages to think about it from a financial perspective. It's really important on the budget reconciliation side to track all those grant related expenditures. And I would honestly, definitely recommend having sort of a kick-off call post-award and thinking about what you're supposed to be doing on the award and who's supposed to be involved in the process, because that could help set the right tone.
So as you're thinking about who's your financial point person, who's your programmatic point person, who's your operations point person. If you're all in the same room or virtual room, how are you sort of getting on the same page about the deadlines and the responsibilities and managing that award? And these different lanes can really help you sort of ensure that you're on the right track.
So, financial is really making sure that the budget is intact and they're coded correctly. And if people's time is reported on grants, that that's going to be organized correctly in your system of record. Your programmatic is making sure you're thinking about the performance measurement and how you're actually doing the work, and making sure if you are using funds that they're going to be reported to financial. And operation is just sort of going to be that sort of project manager person who might be reporting to the awarding agency, if there's any updates. And also, just making sure that things are running smoothly and those reporting deadlines are being met.
And so, sometimes that person is a bridge between programmatic financial. Sometimes that person could be financial or programmatic. So depending on the size of your organization, I understand. So, it's just important to clarify the different components of the process.
And this is where we get to tracking. And I'm going to bring in Will back in a second to talk about some of the tracking that needs to take place.
But when you're thinking about tracking, because a lot of times people ask, “Well, what system should I use? How should I be tracking these grants? And I also have to track all these outcome requirements, all of these things.” These are the things I want you to think about and reflect on with your team, within your organization. Is more than one person tracking key deliverables? Are you going to be the one? Are you the project manager? Or are there going to be more than one people? Because that's going to be a systems and technology concern. If you're going to have more than one person, then you need to have the information in the space that's accessible.
Is there a system that you already use for grants and fundraising functions? Can you leverage that for tracking? And also, how many people are involved in the process? And again, this goes back to the question of tracking the key deliverables if there's only one point person. And also, the level of accountability. So if there's going to be someone who's checking, who is that person? How are they involved? And how do we kind of ensure that they're a part of the process?
And also thinking about your budget, because if you don't have a lot of additional funds to spend on a separate tracking tool, try and leverage what you already have because--I'll say that those responses are going to determine the system that you use.
Now, I've seen all different kinds of things. I have seen grants that are managed in manual systems or databases, like Excel files, or Google Sheets, and they're shared and teams that are shared in other Slack, Basecamp, you name it. I've also seen Google Sheets. So, all of those things. It really depends on how you use it. Project management systems, I've seen that. So, I've seen Asana. I've seen Monday. I've seen a bunch of different tools that can be used to track. I’ve also seen grants management systems like Instrumentl, GrantHub, and other systems.
And again, it depends on how many grants you have, and how many people are involved in the system. But if you're already using something like Instrumentl for your research, it seems a natural segue. And again, there's no right or wrong approach.
Somebody asked me before, what's the best project management tool out there? And I said, “It really just depends.” You really have to figure out what are the important components for your organization. Because so many of them are cloud based and they're more cost-effective. So, I think that you can find a solution that fits you if you're looking to get something that's a little bit more cloud-based or user friendly, perhaps, than a manual spreadsheet.
And so, Will, is there anything else you wanted to share about the tracking?
Will: Yeah. The main thing that I'd say, aside from what I shared earlier on different tasks that you can create for team members is that we also have customizable reports where in the case where a few earlier questions are made on what about people that may not necessarily need Instrumentl every day and whatnot. But we often see our folks who will generate custom reports and then attach those for different weekly or bi-weekly team meetings. And that can be a great way to see whether it's your board are involved or your executive director that you might be reporting to on how your grants are doing in the loop in terms of all the different things you're working on. The biggest thing though is what you said, Rachel, figure out the system that works for you.
What's really nice that I will say about bringing your work into something that is fully integrated like an Instrumentl is that aside from the discovery of new opportunities you'll be getting from your matches, you're also going to get those auto reminders of path and deadlines all in the same place as well. And so, we have a separate workshop. It's actually also free and available on demand where we dig into different considerations when you're assessing different tech tools. And so, I can definitely provide that as a follow up resource for folks that just want to explore that further. We go through just a hopeful decision matrix of like factors to consider when making that sort of evaluation of some of the different tools that you've outlined.
Rachel: Right. All right, thank you. And Instrumentl has a lot of great resources out there. So, definitely take advantage of some of them. I think there's a lot of things that could really help you throughout the process. And so, the last thing that I want to say is my last tip is making sure that your team has the skills who are able to manage it.
Now, first of all, it's really important to identify who's involved in the grants process. And that could be a pre and post award, thinking about who's involved in this. Because, likely, the people who are well pre-award are going to be involved post-award and determine--and this is part of the needs assessment that was reviewed. And the first tip is, is there a knowledge gap? And can that be filled by someone in house? Or do you need to outsource? Do you need to look into other trainings?
Now, there's a lot of training out there on federal grants management. I've seen a lot of things on that. And there's also training on grant requirements. So if you have specific questions about resources, again, you can email me because I know a lot out there. I just didn't want to bombard people with information that might be specific to your organization.
And just thinking about what are the greatest needs? You need to have more on the financial management because there's a lot of financial accounting, or programmatic, which is more evaluation, and that's a whole different area. And then also thinking about it from an administrative standpoint, which is thinking about the tracking and the management, what are the things that you need to think about to help make sure that you're up to speed and have the right resources and skills available to do the work successfully?
And so, the last part is really thinking about the ongoing maintenance and thinking about what you have in place. Is it working? Is it not working? So thinking about the tracking, especially when we look at the protocols and the systems, what is working right now? And what's keeping you on track? What might need to be updated? And again, thinking about that reflection of what exactly are the greatest needs, and where do you want to go, and are there other priorities that need to be addressed and thinking and--or could this be part of a larger organizational initiative that you're doing to improve technology across the board? So, thinking about that.
And when you have meetings with your team to talk about the deliverables--or all the right people there is someone from finances, someone from programs, someone from--there might be more than one program lead, especially for multiple grants. And also thinking about administrative, so maybe having a monthly touch point meeting to just check on, “Hey, how's this going? We have a report. Do we need this level of information?” Because I think sometimes what I've seen working with different clients, especially in those that have more siloed departments is that there's not as much communication about where they can contribute to the reports. Are they given a schedule in advance to know when those reports are due? And what information might be required? Is there a template you need to use? So, those kinds of things can be helpful.
And especially if you had a system, like Instrumentl to help track some of those things, then you could just tag those people and making sure that they're in the loop. And ensure that those things are updated because sometimes, especially if one person's doing it, it can be a bit tricky to have one person who's managing all the different components. But if that's their role, perhaps they're more of a project manager, then that could be systematized across the board and be part of the process. Other times, if there's other people involved, then making sure they know that they're going to be updating and tracking in the same way.
And just making sure that you update your processes and policies, especially if you receive government funding, because there's always new updates from OMB and always new information for awarding agencies. You just want to incorporate into the work that you're doing.
So, just some considerations. Make sure that you focus on the top priority grant management needs. If it's going to be technology, focus on technology. If it's going to be training, then focus on that. Don't try to do everything at once because then it’s just going to be overwhelming. You're going to feel like you're not doing enough. And so, it's really just part of that review of what is going to be critical. And thinking about it from a risk-based perspective because that's what compliance is. What is going to be the--if you don't address something, what is that going to be the riskiest, or what is going to be the riskiest thing you can do?
So thinking about that and how you can minimize that risk through some of these sort of these solutions to try to make sure that you're covering the bases, and that you're not going to be--that you're not going to be flipping up on anything or missing any key deadlines, and you're not going to be in compliance.
And also, just with the federal grant funding, just making sure that you're aware of any updates related to 2 CFR 200 because there's always some new things. And there are a lot of great resources out there. So if there's going to be final roadmap to kind of pull this together, and then I'll go with the key takeaways is, first one is really understanding your grants management requirements, understanding those notices of grant award and making sure you know what the reporting requirements are, and any other monitoring, any other updates, and who's the point of contact. Just making sure that that information is available.
And then determining what kind of needs you have, updating your policies and procedures and other tracking mechanisms. And then making sure that the team has the knowledge and skills that can be trained to move forward and be able to address these areas based on the need gets an updated policies and stuff. And always, just part of the checking and the tracking, is the continuous review to make sure that the systems are working. And if they're not, how can they be tweaked?
And so, my three learning takeaways are, identify what your organization has the capacity to manage. I think that's the number one thing. It's sort of that go, no-go assessment. When you're thinking about going after an award from a pre-award perspective, look and see what the requirements are post-award. Can you manage that? Can you ensure that you can provide that information that's accurate? And that you can do any of the resources able to do that work. And so, just making sure that there's that sort of understanding at the beginning, and thinking about also prioritizing your grants management needs, and making sure that you can think about them in these different buckets of financial, operational, programmatic, which areas are most in need of support right now and what are the things that you can do to build into that. And just also, that it takes time.
When we start working with clients on building out policies and procedures, it can take time because some things are in different places. And also, just understanding from an organizational perspective that we can put together great policy and procedures documents. But if it's not followed, then it's pretty useless. So, figuring out what makes the most sense within each organization because each one is completely different. And here's my contact information. And I will leave it to any questions that are in the hopper because I'm happy to answer them.
And in addition to that, I also have a takeaway here so you can feel free to snag that as well. It's a logic model template that you can use, which I think are very, very important from a pre-award perspective, because that can be used for the data gathering and management for post-award. So, I love a good logic model.
So with that, I will defer to you, Will, to see if there's any questions I can answer.
Will: Awesome. Diana had a question of, just in general, how often should folks be communicating with a funder throughout the year or after a grant is received? And what sort of communication would you recommend, personal email, a news article, or something else?
Rachel: Oh, that's a great question. My rule of thumb is that for every sort of financial request that we send out via an application, I suggest three other touch points. Now, that could be a report with an article. That could be a phone call. That could be an email. But I think it's important to understand how the funder likes to be contacted. Because I think that it's very different for government funders, as opposed to family foundation, corporate, or private foundation.
So, I think that I would really understand how they want to be involved in the process. Because other times, if it's a corporate funder, they might want to have a volunteer day with some of the other employees that they have. And so, that could be a great way to have a touch point or a site visit. So, it really just depends on the funder because some might say, “You know what, that one progress update email is enough.” So, I would say to understand your funders and to know what works for them.
Will: Awesome. And Julia asked, if there's a layman's version of 2 CFR 200.
Rachel: Oh, gosh. You know who has a book on it? It’s Lucy Morgan and MyFedTrainer. And she has really developed some wonderful training on the topic. And there's even a book that she wrote. So, it's my fedtrainer.com. And there's information that can really help guide you through. Because if you were to just go on online and look up 2 CFR 200, it's just going to be a lot of jargon. And that's helpful to kind of understand if you're looking at a specific issue or topic area, like matching funds or program income, or something like that.
But if you're trying to get a full sense of what's involved with 2 CFR 200, the internal controls, that's a great resource, National Grants Management Association does a training every year, and they have a conference. So, that's another great way to learn more about it. There are some other specialized webinar trainings as well that they have once a month. And also, is it the Council of Financial? I have to look up the name. But they always provide updates on 2 CFR 200. And they have them available on their website where you can access these webinars on various different topics related to it.
Will: Awesome. To Julia, if you're looking for some of those extra resources, Rachel's email is on the screen as well. I'm sure she'd be happy to share those along with you. If you have any other questions, feel free to type them in the chat. Also, I just wanted to let folks know that I put that freebies resource page in the Zoom chat that subscribe page link. If you click in there, you'll be able to get access to the planning resource that Rachel shared, as well as a few of our resources.
And then also, if you enjoyed this grant workshop, we'll be back in two weeks for project budgets, what to do and what not to do with Margit Brazda Poirier. But we also will be back tomorrow where we will have a customer spotlight. So, we're going to be sharing about how a director of giving raised a million dollars in under a year on Instrumentl. So, I’d be curious about those. I'll leave the events calendar in the Zoom chat as well.
But, yeah, if you have any questions, I'll give it another minute or so to see if any new ones come in. I think we've covered most of the ones so far. Theresa asked, “Are there any tips for getting other staff on board to help with grant management?”
Rachel: Yeah. So, that can be a challenge.
And this is why in the beginning, that's why the leadership buying is so important. And this goes without saying that in order to get people involved, it really needs to be a culture of support. Because I've actually had a client that’s--it was a COO that said, “Compliance is not important.” And this was a large healthcare association, which made me very nervous.
And so when you have that kind of ethos, it's not going to be translated well when you're actually delivering the work, when you're actually trying to do the work of grants management.
I love the book Atomic Habits by James Clear because it's about developing slow and steady and small incremental change into your daily work. So, what I would want to think about is perhaps the first step is to have that initial kick-off call when you're thinking about your grants calendar for the year and thinking about what the opportunities are that you want to pursue. And then in addition to that, when you have--if you can have a monthly grants meeting to kind of talk through the different opportunities that have been awarded, and thinking about separating them into the different functions of financial, programmatic and administrative, who has the role on each different component, and understanding why it's important.
And this is where the training comes in as well. So, I would say that those meetings and sort of identifying the reasons why compliance is important is because you don't want to end up on the Washington Post. And I've seen that happen. And it's not a good situation, especially if you receive government funding.
Will: Awesome. And then another question was asked, do you have any ideas for templates or other easier data collection methods from program managers? One thought I'd say before you answer, Rachel, is I think probably a simple Google form of sorts, or some sort of form field would probably make input a lot easier than potentially having some sort of unwieldy spreadsheet that might not have as high of adoption. So, that might be something to consider.
Rachel: Yeah. Absolutely. Especially when you're talking about--because chances are, if you receive funding for similar programs, the outcomes are going to be very similar. So I would think about from program Vantage, what information you're trying to collect. And those metrics, I think, kind of similar to what you were saying, Will, should be aligned. It could be a Google Doc. It could be something simpler. It doesn't have to be extensive in order for it to, at least, be successful.
Will: Well, can you--okay, I can try to interpret this question from Krista. How to make an argument based on your organization's organization--I'm going to ask you to rephrase that question, Krista. But in the next question, Elsa, is the logic model to be done as a team? Or is that something that the person overseeing the program would complete?
Rachel: I love that it could be a collective exercise because the program lead would be great. Now, if there's anybody else who supports the program because I think that it's important to get different vantage points. Now, the program side could definitely lead it. But it should definitely be reviewed by others because there could be other things that might be missing, or that can be built upon when you're doing that process.
Will: Cool. Dora asked the question of, how are you able to determine or research what foundations or grants are giving to new organizations? I think that's a question for me.
Will: The biggest thing that we do is we sift through all the available public data from the IRS Business Master File. And we essentially cross reference the differences between years. Now whereas, historically, you might have gone through directory listing or a PDF file of the form 990s. You have to sift through that yourself.
What we're doing is we are canonicalising every single record and essentially comparing year by year, who is a new grantee versus who is a repeat grantee, and so on. And so, that is how we are able to parse that sort of information. In my knowledge, there is no other tool out there that does that level of analysis in terms of figuring that out.
But my general benchmark that I share with folks is, if you can find folks where you're looking for new funders and you find somebody who's giving 30% or more to new grantees. That's a really good funder typically to prioritize. And that's a very useful benchmark in general when it comes to, let's say, you have three to five different opportunities on the table to pursue and you want to make the most of your time.
So, definitely, look for that sort of metric, especially when you're creating that free account with Rachel's link, just because all of our free trials do have full access to the platform. They're not restricted in any way there.
Nicole asked the question. Do you have any resources to share with the leadership team about the importance of building a culture of compliance or accountability with funders?
Rachel: That's a great question. And I'm trying to think of resources that might be good. I’m wondering if the National Grants Management Association might have some information about why it's important to attend their conference. I know that the grant Professionals Association does, because those are the kinds of things I could see being brought to leadership attention just sort of why I thought that kind of professional development is important. I think that kind of speaks to that sort of culture of compliance. And if you're talking about government grants, that's a non-issue because it's required in order to administer government funding. So, I think that it depends on the type of funding you have. But that's where I would look to start. I don't have any resources at my fingertips. But if I do some digging, I could probably try to locate a couple things. So, you can follow up with me separately if you want.
Will: Awesome. And that email for Rachel is [email protected] If you have any final questions, I'll give it a sec. But otherwise, we're all caught up on questions so far.
And I just wanted to thank everybody. I know that, as I said, compliance is sort of the broccoli of the grants world. So, a lot of people don't want to talk about it. But I love talking about compliance. So if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. And I'm happy to answer them because I can dig in and I can get into 2 CFR 200, or not. So, let me know.
Will: Awesome. And Diana just asked for my email. My email is [email protected] if you want to reach out to me. We will have this workshop replay sent out to you guys in the coming days. I will be hopping onto a flight. So, I'll get to it later this week. But I promise I'll get it to you guys. And we will be back tomorrow.
Actually, Kimberly, for your question in terms of non-profit, that was able to secure a million dollars in a year. So, join us for our customer spotlight tomorrow where we will feature that story. But other than that, thanks so much, everybody. I'm going to start working on getting this out to you, guys. And hope to see you at one of our future events.
Rachel: Thank you.