What actions should be taken to successfully close out your grant? In this final installment of our grant management best practices series, we offer some suggestions for winding down a grant award. There is much to consider that is specific to your organization, so we focused on the points that seem common to most situations. These best practices are provided by Natalie Harlan and Winnie Ennenga, our grants team at the Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation.
Create your own alert schedule. As you approach the end of your grant’s lifecycle, be sure you are aware of your responsibilities for closing out the award. Some grantors may provide a one month notice that final reports are due, but that may not be enough time to address concerns. If money remains unspent or required reports have not been submitted, you will want enough time to correct potential mistakes. Be on the safe side and create your own alert schedule. The best personal notification timeline is 90-120 days out.
Assess whether you are meeting your committed performance metrics. Have all of the activities outlined in the grant application been completed? How much of your budget have you spent, and has it been spent for allowable purposes? Knowing up front what the requirements are from the grantor, or reviewing what you promised to do in your proposal, will allow you to stay on task. If you have an annual program with even spending throughout the lifecycle, check how far along you are to meeting the project goals and project spending. Halfway through the year, you should be halfway through the work and the spending.
Know how to handle an extension. If you are behind and absolutely need more time, you usually can ask for an extension in order to get the work done. Of course, there is no guarantee your request will be approved. If you have a good reason such as resignation of key staff, you can reach out to the funder early on and perhaps get assistance in identifying a solution.
Prioritize finance, purchases and records retention. Check with your accountant to make sure the financial records match yours. Ensure all grant funds have either been spent, returned to the grantor or will carry over through an approved extension. On a reimbursement grant, make sure all invoices have been submitted to the grantor and the final payment is received. In the case of an advanced payment grant, make sure all final check, transfer or credit card requests have been processed and zero balance in the grant fund is confirmed.
Account for grant purchases according to the grantor’s terms. Make sure grant-related property (i.e., equipment) has been accounted for according to grant requirements. Some grantors, particularly the federal government, require detailed record keeping regarding grant-funded equipment.
Are you following a records retention policy? Be sure to follow your organization’s policy, providing it does not conflict with the grantor’s requirement.
Understand the importance of the renewal decision. When looking at your eligibility to renew, some foundations will only consider you competitive if you appropriately managed previous grants from them. When application is by invitation only, you may or may not be invited to apply. Three months before the final closeout is a good window for you to determine whether the benefits of the grant outweighed the burden of its implementation. Did the funding fully support project services in accordance with organizational needs and policies? Did all key project staff express support of project objectives and a willingness to participate? Were the overall goals achieved, and measurable outcomes met? Move the focus from just the money to thinking through whether you have the resources to do it again. Will a future award bring staff away from their mission? If so, you might seriously reconsider reapplying.
Stay on good terms with the grantor. Ongoing relationship stewardship is a key component to future success. Remember, it’s not just about the money, it is the program goals you have been able to accomplish. The months following the end of a grant term is a good time to send a communication to funders, showing appreciation and reiterating what was made possible through their support. FBN
By Sandra Kowalski