Peeling Back the Onion: Grant Implementation
Great news, you received the grant award. Now what? The euphoria switches to concern as you think about all of the elements necessary for a successful implementation. I would like to briefly discuss a few key elements that can assist with minimizing the concern. They are as follows:
- Account management and budgeting
- Staffing the team
- Project management and timelines
- Understand deliverables
- Spend the money
- Evaluate and report on sustainability
This is not an inclusive list, but should provide a workable framework that can serve as the initial outline for success.
Selecting the right program or project manager is critical to the success of the initiative. As John Maxwell correctly states, “everything rises and falls on leadership” (Maxwell, 1993). This individual will have a direct impact positively or negatively on the elements listed above. The program/project manager will be driving the train. What ideal attributes and experiences do we look for in selecting this person?
- Emotionally intelligent
- Active listener
- Understands grant processes
- Proven expertise in meeting deliverables or goals
- Proficiency with Microsoft Office applications
- Basic knowledge of the grant defined industry
- Proven expertise in delegation and follow-up
- Ability to communicate with all levels of personnel
- Basic knowledge of the sales process
I am confident that the outlined attributes and experiences need no further detail. It stands to reason that there is a level of education that one attains that contributes to the listed elements. My experiences indicate that these specifics can provide the belief necessary that you can implement your program successfully. Even though leadership is the critical element, there are additional factors that play a significant role.
Account Management & Budgeting
The grant narrative will outline the specifics of your financial forecasts and determine what you can spend the grant award dollars on. However, the budget process needs to fall within the organization’s current general ledger accounts. The grant will specify very broad categories and the organization’s grant leadership team can further drill down the dollars. It is extremely important to have a clear budget and an understanding of the uses of funds. There is some inherent flexibility within the spending process, but the organization’s grant accountant needs to be involved in laying out and assisting with budget formation. Grants have by their nature a limiting scope, and the expenditures must be able to demonstrate a necessary activity under the terms of the award.
Staffing the Team
As in the case of the budget, the grant narrative will outline the staff requirements that have been approved. Each position will be leveled by the organization to fit within the current payroll domains. For example, the grant award may indicate that a position needed is a data and outcomes specialist. The organization will determine what title and compensation level corresponds to the position. For example, a program coordinator for the purposes of the grant, will be called a program coordinator and will fulfill the data and outcomes specialist requirement. This same process follows for each outlined position in the grant award. This process holds true for both full- and part-time staff.
The project or program manager will review the requirements and can create or enhance existing job descriptions to further detail the job duties and responsibilities. Since the project or program manager has the overall accountability for success, it makes sense that they be involved in the selection process. He or she will do a similar exercise in identifying the ideal attributes and experiences necessary to give the project the best chance for success.
Project Management & Timelines
It is not necessary to have a certified project manager or someone experienced and competent in a project management software application as the program manager. However, one needs to have a good working knowledge of the principles associated with the process, and having expertise in a project management software is a real plus. It is always nice to have a visual with a project roadmap. The ability to multi-task is necessary as each day, week, and month brings forth different challenges.
The overall timeline is fixed by the duration of the award. But, individual milestones need to be put in place for all of the metric sections. These timelines can have some fluidity, but they are a great tool to assist the staff in recognizing if resources need to be reallocated based on changing dynamics. Milestones or benchmarks provide an additional illustration of progress and will assist in completing reporting requirements for the awarding grantor.
The success of a grant-funded project is entirely about the deliverables. Repeat! Success is all about the deliverables. In the proposal the project narrative outlined the metrics, and the grantor awarded you the grant because your outline and narrative made good sense. The grantor determined your project as a good investment. All plans, activities, strategies, tactics, conversations, meetings, events (you get the idea) focused on the deliverables as the indicator of whether or not it made sense to allocate time, money, and human capital to your project. You told the grantor that you will accomplish the outlined goals within the timeframe allotted, staff required, equipment needed, using the dollars requested. Once a project or program is funded, it is up to the project manager and team to make all of the things you promised happen and quickly!
Spend the Money
Spend the money! This is something that is important, when you are awarded the grant, the grantor does not want the money back. They want successful results based on the narrative they approved. The key is to create your budget and cash flow statements according to your activities. Again, this can be a fluid document, but your cash expenditures relate to accomplishing the task at hand, meeting the deliverables. It is important that key staff have a keen understanding of available dollars and how they propose to spend it.
Evaluate & Report on Sustainability
Each piece of the process should be evaluated regularly by the project or program manager to determine the effectiveness of activities. The evaluation process is not an item that is done when the grant is nearing maturity. You can research with other consortium members to see if your activity success is better or worse and then adopt additional strategies based on these evaluations. Often times, this step is overlooked because of the busyness of the day-to-day activities.
Generally, the grantor has a desire to know the sustainability plan for continuation of the program beyond grant maturity. Most times, the grantee applies for and receives grant awards as a continuation of a given program or the desire to continue a program. In either case, a sustainability plan is necessary. This can be as simple as dropping the program into an existing institute’s portfolio as additional offerings or the creation of an entity due to the demand and success of the program.
I attempted to condense the key elements of grant implementation into workable segments and provide an overview of said elements. I would be happy to discuss this information with anyone in more detail if you desire. Happy grant implementation!
Maxwell, J. C. (1993). Developing the leader within you. Nashville: T. Nelson.
About the Author
Howard Drake is the director of applied technology grants for Polk State’s Corporate College. He has spent the previous four years managing Department of Labor grants designed to build curriculum and deliver training to various constituencies such as: the unemployed, veterans and incumbent workers to build talent for the manufacturing industry. He believes that talent development strategies and tactics will assist the organization’s bottom line by increasing employee skill sets and their levels of expertise. The company bi-product is continued competitive advantage by the retention of key talent and the onboarding of qualified new employees.
He is a member of the Polk Engineering Technologies Education Council [PETEC] which brings industry and educators from the career academies together to discuss industry needs and ensures linkages of curriculum that lead to the right skill sets that the manufacturing industry seeks. Additionally, Howard is a member of the Board of Directors of the MSCA Regional Manufacturing Association in Polk County Florida. He achieved the rank of Sergeant in the United States Air Force.