End-of-Year Grant Management Tips
When is the End of the Grant Year?
Most people think of December as the end of the year. For some grant programs, the year runs from January to December. However, most grant programs operate on the fiscal year (July through June) or something close to it. Some federal programs operate from September or October through August or September. One of the most important pieces of information you need as a grant manager is the exact dates of your grant year. That information will drive your implementation plans, your evaluation plan, and the rate at which you spend your fiscal resources.
When you enter the final quarter of your grant year, it's time to start thinking about closing out the current year and planning for the next. Here are some grant management tips to help you finish your grant year well.
Review Your Budget Carefully
While you should always stay on top of your budget, you should review your budget and expenditures very carefully as you enter the final quarter of your grant year. Ask yourself some important questions:
- Have you spent your funds as planned?
- Are you expecting to have any funds remaining at the end of the budget period? Why?
- Do you have a plan for expending those funds?
- Do you know if it is allowable to carry unexpended funds over to the next grant year?
- Are you aware of the procedures for requesting to carry funds over to the next year?
- If you have not expended your grant funds at the rate you had expected, have you still been carrying out the activities necessary to achieve your project objectives?
This is the time to prepare to speak with the funder about any budget issues you may have. If this is your last year of funding, you should make a plan to spend the last of your project funds before the end of the year. However, be sure that you spend wisely. Spending just for the purpose of exhausting the funds is never a good idea. Think about sustainability and purchases that will help you continue meeting your objectives in the future.
If it is not your final year and it is permissible to carry funds over to the next year, develop a detailed explanation for why you have unexpended funds and a detailed plan for how you would like to spend those funds in the coming. Always stay focused on your project goals and objectives.
Gather as Much Evaluation Data as Possible
Hopefully, you have been reviewing data documenting the degree to which you are making progress toward the achievement of your objectives on a monthly or quarterly basis. Even so, most grants require an annual outcome or performance report, and the beginning of the last quarter of your year is the time to start preparing that report.
Some data may not be available until after the end of your grant year, but you should be gathering as much as you can right now. If you are planning an annual survey or focus group interviews, this is the time to do it.
If your data collection has fallen a bit behind, now is the time to catch up. You do not want to wait until the grant year is completely over to find out that you are target to achieve one or more of your objectives. There is still time now to modify your project activities if needed.
Review Your Implementation Plan
When you are busy implementing your project throughout the year, it is easy to forget some of the activities that were in your original plan. It's natural to give the most attention to those activities that demand our immediate attention. Sometimes, we become so busy with those demanding activities (or those activities with which we are most comfortable) that we forget some of the details in the plan. Now is the perfect time to pull out your original implementation plan, read it carefully as if you are reading it for the first time, and determine if there are any activities that need a little more of your attention during the final quarter of the year. Adjust your calendar as necessary and get yourself back on track.
Check in with Your Project Partners and Other Stakeholders
As the year draws to a close, it's a good time to arrange to have a formal conversation with your project partners and stakeholders about how the year has gone. Bring any relevant evaluation data you have and ask them to bring any information they have to the table. Have a candid discussion about what has gone well and what needs to be improved, and make some plans for the future. Make sure those plans include regular opportunities to meet with your partners to review progress.
Think Ahead to the Coming Year
Thinking ahead to the implementation plan for the coming year is an important part of closing the current year. Plan the next logical steps for moving your project closer to final goals and benchmarks. Be as specific as possible in your planning. If any of your plans require permission from your funder, now is the time to prepare the written request.
Don't Forget to Celebrate Success!
If it looks like you are on target to achieve your annual objectives, plan a celebration with your staff, partners, and service recipients. It can be as simple as a picnic or as complex as an awards event to present achievement awards to staff and other contributors. In any event, this is an excellent time to set the tone for the coming year.
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