As governments begin to navigate reopenings, there are many important lessons grant professionals can draw from, especially during these past few months with stay-at-home orders.
The first lesson is that the business of government must continue, no matter the budget deficit or shortfall, and no matter how lean teams get. Second: Many tasks and activities that make up the business of government can and even should be virtualized. Now is not the time to put digital innovation strategies on the backburner.
Lastly, while grants management itself will never change or diminish in complexity, it is possible to completely change the way you navigate it. In this article, I will explain how automation can help you achieve just that.
How Automation Can Change The Way You Manage Grants
Automation can help governments continue to deliver the essential services they need to and continue to apply for, receive and distribute critical grant funding. Additionally, as staffs become leaner, automation can help teams by serving as a force multiplier, replacing manual administration with more streamlined workflows and the ability to accomplish tasks faster –from any location. Here are four ways automation can transform grants management.
- Searching and Tagging Grant Funding
Scouring grants.gov trying to find the right opportunity and even just reading the fine print over a single Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) can take hours.
Replacing this tedious, manual process with a powerful search engine can give you instant access to all available federal, state, and private foundation grants for all public entities as well as relevant funding opportunities. Additionally, automating the process with search engine tools can help you tag grants so you can delineate between COVID-19-related grants and other projects.
- Creating Cost Allocation Plans
Managing budgets and cost data in disparate spreadsheets and trying to manually calculate your costs wastes time and hinders efficiency. Furthermore, it can be especially difficult using older spreadsheet models to set accurate rates and realize full funding for services rendered. This is because these older models are more prone to human and formulaic error.
Automation and virtualization allow you to import all your cost data and spreadsheets into one place. Even when working remotely, you can review data from a centralized, virtual workspace with real-time collaboration. Additionally, built-in calculations and error checks ensure the utmost accuracy and the ability to quickly prepare print-ready cost allocation plans.
- Managing Subrecipients
From managing different streams of funding to simple tasks like reimbursement requests, ensuring subrecipient success is not easy with paper-based processes and a lack of collaboration and information-sharing.
Centralizing subrecipient management in an automated portal can streamline tasks and communications, and improve the tracking of funding streams and programmatic requirements.
- Ensuring Compliance
With more administrative and compliance requirements for COVID-19, preparing all the necessary paperwork in the era of mass telework can be extremely inefficient. Furthermore, doing so with disparate and outdated processes can leave you more at risk of audit findings.
Automating grants management and processes allows you to leverage virtual reporting, update documents in real time and access to virtual signatures rather than tracking down physical signatures.
Next week, I’ll share some examples of governments that were successfully able to innovate their grants management and how they’re applying these innovations to short-term and long-term COVID-19 strategies.
As Chief Customer Officer for eCivis, Merril Oliver leads the company’s key business strategies, product development and growth initiatives. Having served four governors, both Democratic and Republican, Merril served as the Director of the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, where she revolutionized an enterprise approach to full lifecycle grants management during 2015-2017. Merril is a past president of the National Grants Management Association (NGMA), having served three consecutive terms (2009-2012). During her presidency, Merril launched the industry-recognized standard professional certification of Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS®) and participated on the credentialing exam development team as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).