5 Tips for Federal Grant Management: Multiple Awards

Are you managing multiple awards from multiple federal agencies? If so, then you know it takes planning and diligence to make sure that the federal dollars are used, tracked, and reported to each federal agency following the specific requirements set forth by the individual set of terms and conditions and the agency-specific grant regulations.

The following article provides five tips to help you better manage multiple federal grants.

(Excerpted from an article by Lucy Morgan CPA, MBA and director of MyFedTrainer.com, August 27, 2015)

Tip #1: Start right from the beginning.

When you first get a Notice of Award (NOA) there are a number of steps you should take to get started on the right foot:

  • Begin by reviewing all materials related to the award.
  • Set up a reporting calendar that identifies the various important dates mandated by the Federal agency.
  • Better yet, have a master calendar that includes all critical dates from all grantors.
  • Assign a team of people or a leader to administer each individual grant.
  • Alert financial staff of the new award and specific terms and conditions so they are on notice to ensure policies and procedures reducing the risk of both misuse and direct theft of funds are in place and regular monitoring is taking place.

Tip #2: Train program staff and other stakeholders on the requirements of federal grants.

Adequate training is one of the keys to administering multiple grants in ways that ensure the effective and efficient completion of the project along with compliance with individual grant requirements.

Here are some specifics:

  • Make sure that employees working on the grant (both directly and indirectly) are sufficiently trained to be effective at grant management.
  • Communicate requirements for time and effort reporting to individual employees.
  • Ensure that individual employee’s record their time throughout the work day indicating the duration of time and effort spent on different projects and mark it clearly on their timesheet.
  • Conduct regular reviews of project budgets, including exercising due diligence to find any errors and omissions where expenses may have been misapplied among multiple awards.

Tip #3: Select a central person as the grant administrator.

When you have multiple grants, managed by multiple people it can be a challenge to keep juggling all the roles and responsibilities without dropping a few balls. That is why I believe best practices for managing multiple awards include appointing a center grant administrator.

This person would be responsible for the following:

  • Oversight of grant administration by all the individual grant managers or grant team leads
  • Coordination and review of the fiscal reporting for each grant
  • Monitoring the individual awards for discrepancies or misreporting of how federal funds have been spent and reported back to the federal agencies
  • Confirming that all required milestones (including cost-share requirements) spelled out in the individual grants are met and that reporting to the federal agency has happened on schedule

Tip #4: Set up a grants management master file.

Let’s face it, grant management includes a lot of paperwork and requirements. To keep track of all the various key elements, I recommend the use of a grants management master file, including a fully maintained file for each individual award as well.

The grants management master file should include the following:

  • Original RFP
  • Notice of award (NOA)
  • Final approved budget, scope, and work plan
  • Subsequent budget revisions and prior approvals
  • Monitoring reports
  • Meeting minutes as applicable
  • Financial and narrative reports required by the funding agency
  • Log of required communication and other critical interactions
  • Other documentation related to meeting project milestones and/or performance measurements
  • Any other forms required by the federal agency

Keeping the grants management master file current and complete enables the award recipient to efficiently and effectively manage each award in a way that reduces risk and increases responsiveness to any changes in compliance with the terms and conditions of the individual award.

Tip #5: Build habits of communicating and using tracking tools from the start.

It doesn’t matter if you are managing one grant or one hundred federal awards supporting strong communication and tracking tools (whether manual processes or software solutions) will improve your grant management.

I advise you to encourage regular communication with each funding source’s program officer. It’s better to be proactive and contact the program officer with questions rather than risk the negative consequences of non-compliance with the grant requirements.