3 Ways to Effectively Manage a Research Grant
After putting in grueling weeks and months preparing your grant proposal, there is nothing better than clicking on that email that says your work has paid off; you got the grant! Before you pop open the champagne, you need to make sure you are prepared to use the money well. Grant funding is an essential part of any researcher’s career, but effective grant management is a skill that takes time to develop. In this article, we look at some tips to manage the grant money efficiently and discuss why researchers need to develop this skill set to succeed.
1.Understanding Grant Requirements
Funding is a crucial aspect of research, but obtaining the funds you needed is a challenge. All research grants come with obligations for reporting and record keeping. Depending on the source of your funding, these obligations can vary in complexity. The first thing you must do when you win a grant is to sit down and carefully read through the terms and requirements. Before you spend a single dollar, you should have a clear understanding of what types of expenses your grant funding is designed to cover. Many university-sponsored grants stipulate that equipment bought with your grant money becomes university property at the end of the grant period. Other grants limit how much you can spend on overheads such as staffing and supply costs. Know what you can and can’t spend your money on before you get started.
2.Recording Every Penny Spent
Grant management is not just about keeping your project on track. It is also about managing money. The simplest way to track your expenditures is to keep detailed records of every transaction you make using the grant. Organize your expenses by budget category, and check in once a month or periodically to see how your spending compares with your expected expenses. Careful financial planning and tracking can help you avoid overspending or underspending, and allow you to adjust as you go along. Do not forget to keep multiple backups in case of electronic systems failure. A hard copy of financial records and receipts is a good way to ensure you will not be left high and dry if something goes wrong. Above all, make sure that your grant funds are managed separately from other money. Co-mingling finances with other projects is a sure path to failure.
3. Staying on Track:
It is highly likely that your funding organization will require periodic reports from your organization. However, even if they do not, it’s a great idea to write reports for yourself to track the progress of your project. A thorough grant report should always include the following information:
- Financial overview: State the income, expenditures, and remaining funds of your grant
- Program implementation: State your goals for the project during the reporting period, and summarize your progress in comparison to these goals.
- Program Outcomes: Assess how well you are doing in meeting the expected outcomes.
- Change of Plans: It’s normal to make adjustments throughout your project period. Explain what situations arose and how you adapted your project (and budget!) to meet these challenges.
- Challenges, Successes, and Lessons: State any challenges, successes you’ve had, and lessons you’ve learned.
Remember that successful grant management starts with the end in mind. Grant management starts in the strategic planning phase and ends when you close out a grant. Keep a checklist on hand, and enlist the help of your team. By regularly reviewing the status of your project and the budget, you can ensure that you’re staying on track. Detailed tracking and record-keeping also help ensure compliance with complex grant requirements.
What tips do you have for effective grant management? Does your organization encourage efficient fund management? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.