Developing a successful grant strategy for a law enforcement agency Part III
Best case scenario: You put together a great grant team, submitted a terrific application, and got funded!
Worst case scenario: See above.
The fact is, your agency can’t have a great grant strategy if you forget to also develop a system for managing the grant you were awarded. Not properly managing a grant could mean you lose the funding (in other words, you have to pay it back) and your chances of getting future grants is slim.
Don’t forget, once the award documents are signed your grant is a legally binding contract between your agency and the funder. All requirements must be met. The nice thing is, this will be spelled out in great detail in your award documents. Read everything you are given and make sure you will be able to fulfill the requirements before accepting the grant.
PLEASE NOTE: Most grants funds are handled on a reimbursement basis, meaning you will pay upfront for the budget items then request reimbursement from the funder. This is one reason why your budget people need to be involved at the very start.
Grant management is actually two distinct functions. The first is the program that is being funded. The second has to do with spending the funds. Both are equally important and should be handled by different people.
Start by bringing back the project team that was set up during the application phase. This will include someone to oversee the entire grant throughout the grant period (the grant manager), the people who will be working with the program itself, and the financial folks. The grant manager will serve as the liaison between the agency and the funder and will be responsible for ensuring full compliance.
Schedule an initial meeting with the full team as soon as you receive notification of the award to discuss the funder’s requirements and your ability to fulfill them. Set up time tables for all of the requirements as they are listed in the document, including who will be responsible for each part and when they must provide the information to the grant manager. This should be done for the entire grant period, which could be anywhere from less than a year to several years.
One of the funder’s requirements will most likely have to do with program evaluation. You may be asked to submit baseline data, such as crime statistics, at the start of the project and then keep track of any changes that are attributable to your project’s success. Many funders, particularly the federal government, will have specific evaluation criteria you will be required to follow. This may have been part of the application, so you have probably already figured out how to proceed with this part. Someone needs to track everything that goes on in the project, and ensure it is working as designed.
For the financial aspect, make sure to follow the requirements for procurement to the letter. You will need to provide documentation for every purchase made when requesting reimbursement. It’s also important to accurately track the expenditures to make sure you can purchase everything needed with the available grant funds. You can request modifications to the budget for a good reason, such as having left over funds in one category because of lower than expected costs. That money can be moved into another category with the funder’s approval. You can adjust what you spend, but you can’t spend more than the awarded amount.
Another important financial consideration is that you cannot spend anything once the grant period has ended, so spent it as soon as possible. It sends a bad message to the funder if you don’t spend the funds you said you needed, so assess your budget on a continual basis throughout the grant period to maximize the funds available.
Funders will require both programmatic and financial reports on a periodic basis, such as quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Make these reports a top priority, and don’t wait until the last minute to gather the required information or documentation. You don’t want to submit these reports late. Also, don’t look at the reports as a drudge, but as an opportunity to update the funder on your progress. After all, when your project is successful, they are successful.
Setting up a grant program requires a lot of detail and focus, but it’s definitely something that can provide a great benefit to your agency. It’s not a one-person job — it requires a strong team and a commitment from the top to be successful.