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You researched, you wrote, and you submitted a stellar grant proposal. After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, you received an award notification stating, “Congratulations! Your proposal was selected for a grant award.”
After the initial excitement of an award notification, relief, and office happy dances are complete, your next thought might be, “What comes next?”
It is helpful to know what you might expect from the donor as well as what the donor might need from your organization.
Grant processes vary depending on whether the funds federal, state, or from a private foundation.
What is the ONE thing all your grant donors have in common?
They have chosen to INVEST in your organization.
As a steward of grant dollars, you can continue to build trust and strengthen the relationship with donors by demonstrating that you value their time and resources.
1. Do your homework!
Do not expect program officers to be your personal secretary. Before you call or email with random questions about “What comes next?”, take the time to review the donor’s website in detail. Also, make a point to read and file every grant-related correspondence so you can refer to it when needed. If you cannot find the information you need, create a list of specific questions, you need the program officer to address via phone or email.
2. Express gratitude!
Immediately upon receiving a grant award letter, pick up the phone and call the program officer to say, “We received the grant award letter today and just wanted to express how much we appreciate the opportunity to partner with your foundation.” Let the program officer know that you have read all the guidelines but wanted to check in to make sure you have not missed an important message or update. Take the time to craft and mail a hand-written thank you card that is signed by your team and extend an invitation for the donor to visit so they can see their “dollars at work.”
3. Complete key tasks!
Writing the proposal was the “easy” part. Putting those grant dollars into action is where the real work happens. Stay on top of the grant award and acceptance process and ensure that team leaders understand all the expectations and deadlines related to grant funded activities. Effective grant management processes include the achievement of goals, efficient budgeting, timely reporting, positive communication with donors.
What to EXPECT from grant donors and what they NEED from you:
1. Funding/Award guidelines
Be on the lookout for a letter or email that outlines the conditions of your grant award. Some foundations include these “funding guidelines” or “award conditions” in the same envelope or email as the award notification. Others opt to send grant-specific information in follow-up correspondence. Smaller foundations often choose to send a simple award letter then include specific award guidelines in a contract instead of an initial letter.
Regardless of the format, award guidelines should confirm:
a. The specific award amount
b. Budget conditions (If a proposal is partially funded, a donor might specify which budget line items the grant dollars are approved to cover.)
c. Reporting requirements
d. Grant acknowledgment terms
Some donors expect you to formally acknowledge the grant award via a press release, social media posts, or other platforms. It is essential to respect timeframes, content requirements, and use of the donor’s logo because many foundations request a copy of all published “grant acknowledgments” in their final report. Other donors request anonymity, which means your team will need to discuss and confirm a unified message such as “This program/project was made possible by generous grant/donor who wishes to remain anonymous.”
e. Contact information
Often donors will assign a specific program officer as the point of contact for a grantee and request updated contact information from the grantee.
2. Award Acceptance/Contract
Many grant programs require recipients to accept grant funds formally. The acceptance process might be as simple as a phone call with the program officer, an electronic signature on an acceptance form, or a signed form submitted via snail mail. Federal and state grant programs require recipients to sign a more detailed contract before funds can be allocated and released. While grant acceptance processes are the norm, do not be surprised if some foundations skip this step and send a check in the mail immediately! For example, local Wal-Mart community grants often send an award notification via email then a check in the mail within 30 days with no signature required outside of the online grant portal.
*Note: If you received multiple grants for the same project or have leftover grant funds as you near the end of the grant cycle, be sure to share that information with the donor. Do not accept an award then reallocate grant funds without permission. A best practice is to reach out to the donor and say, “We were extremely blessed to have received more support than needed for x or y line items. Your grant dollars will certainly help us achieve the program/project goals we outlined in the proposal; however, we are hoping funds can be reallocated to z line item so that we can expand upon existing goals.”
3. Receipt of funds
It is essential to know how donors distribute their awards. Many federal and state grants operate on a reimbursement basis, which means you must spend the money and submit a monthly report and request for reimbursement. Most send grant recipients a check or via direct deposit. It is not unusual for a donor to require an authorized staff member’s signature, so it is prudent to confirm that the donor has an up to date physical and mailing address as well as your regular operating hours.
As always, Keep Growing for Good!