You have been awarded the grant that you so diligently developed. There is no question that everyone on your team is elated, but now the hard work of implementing and managing the grant begins. If you start immediately, the task will go smoothly. If, on the other hand, you wait, serious issues can occur that may be difficult to remedy. Assuming that all the forms and paperwork the funding agency requires have been signed and approved, the key compliance activities are:
- Evaluate your progress – If a Grant Design Chart was developed for the initial proposal, the task of connecting all the pieces, including objectives, timelines, personnel, partners, evaluations, outcomes and budget will go smoothly. You will then be able to show accountability for each of these items as promised.
- Review the donor’s regulations – In almost all cases, federal granting agencies will supply the specific regulations on how to manage the grant, both in terms of content and financially. Also, the appropriate Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular will specify the rules.
- Create Gantt charts – The three essential Gantt charts will be: (1) personnel accomplishments, including any partners that may be involved in the project; (2) all activities that have been delineated in the grant; (3) scheduled evaluations that will be ongoing, incremental and will measure the success of each expected outcome.
- Assure fiscal responsibility – At institutions of higher education, the research office will be responsible for this activity. This office or its equivalent will place and manage all budgetary matters under one dedicated account, including personnel time, salaries, and fringe benefits. This will assure that fiscal issues are handled independently, while at the same time being coordinated with the activities of those running the grant. If you are at another type of organization, your accounting office will probably handle compliance and all financial issues. Audits can become a nightmare if this does not happen. The key rule to remember is: only use funds as approved in the budget and never move funds from one category to another without institutional and donor approval.
- Time all reports – In all cases, you will write progress reports of all the accomplishments, evaluations and outcomes as promised. These should be laid out in your initial Gantt chart. If you are the Principal Investigator (PI) or Program Director (PD), you will be responsible for all the content reporting. The research or accounting office will be responsible for fiscal reporting. Thus, it is essential that there is coordination on an ongoing basis between those implementing the grant and those responsible for budgetary compliance and audits.
Ensuring a smooth implementation will take place with prompt and careful planning. There are many horror stories from those who have not planned along the way; thus causing serious budgetary and content offenses. To avoid these, deliver what you promised, get permission for any changes, follow the guidelines of what is required, and, most of all, be certain that every penny is accounted for as planned and promised.