How to Get a School Grant: Grant Writing vs. Grants Management

 They're the same thing, right?

Not at all, this is where many well-meaning grant seekers fall off the playing field. It's exciting and a little bit romantic to want to write a grant. The search for a foundation, the research for data driven decision making, and the crafting of a beautiful narrative and budget can be decidedly fun. 

The call or letter comes, you got the grant. Congratulations!

But here's where the rubber meets the road. Now you have to manage the grant resources. You need to take proper care of the check, and work with business officials to be good stewards of the money. The teachers you have worked with to write the grant will now disappear and go back to their classrooms, happy that the job is done.

Do you have a grants administrator in your district? Many times, in a smaller district, the business manager takes care of all the funds going in and out. You'll wonder why she makes a face when you tell her you're writing a grant. Don't be too hard on her; she's only anticipating more hard work. In general, managing grants is a much more difficult process than managing a school's main budget. There can be multiple grants to manage, each with its own set of rules, promises and requirements.

Be absolutely certain that you have the infrastructure to take the responsibility of the cash very seriously and hopefully, out of your hands. There must be specific procedures in place, and a consistent way to run each grant. In my case, I used binders to keep each grant separate. They were close at hand and the manual task of updating the spreadsheets was useful.

There are software packages that can help with management, but it's often best to do the work by hand in spreadsheets; It keeps every balance and expenditure fresh in your mind so you know if you're going to make ends meet. If it's a good software program, the act of entering all the data into the program can take the place of the spreadsheets. I know I will get letters from managers out there who tell me not to recommend the spreadsheet process. Be nice, old habits are hard to break.

Some software ideas:

Learning to use Excel

If your district is larger, it's wise to use dedicated software packages to do the job.

List of software packages and reviews

More (Consumer's Guide, commercial)

For the small grant's office

Grant writers are creative types, grant managers are bean counters. Unless your brain works equally well from both right and left sides, it is often best to have a separate person for each job. I remember in 2009-11 ARRA regulations made it absolutely imperative that all tasks were kept separate, it was an enormous undertaking. I know of many grant writers and managers who quit in frustration and burn-out. The rules were impossible to absorb for any human, and superintendents were often unduly harsh with their grants' personnel because they didn't understand the enormity of the process. No one is at fault, just an impossible task for everyone. This was a grant opportunity for which there were "go-away" parties.

You are probably the grant writer. This blog was intended for school district personnel who wanted to write grants, not manage them. But, I'd like to expand the base a bit. The management of the money is an integral part of the process and you will be well served to understand that fact.

I'd love to feature your school in one of my blogs. Let me know if you have a good grants management protocol in place.