As a grant manager, you may be a little uneasy about the new Uniform Grant Guidance performance requirements your organization will be expected to follow.
With a better understanding on how to properly implement programmatic performance strategies into your daily processes, you can set your mind at ease.
This post highlights key takeaways from the StreamLink Software webinar with public sector consultant Sandy Swab, “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data.”
Identify Performance Goals and Measures
The first step is to document grant goals. During the proposal stage, performance measures, reporting requirements, and goals will be identified by the awarding agency.
Align your proposal scope of work, budget narrative, and project design accordingly:
- Identify the problem, and address specific priorities.
- Assess your ability to meet priorities and criteria.
- Identify expected outcomes and outputs, and relate them to the funding agency’s goals.
- Create budgets per major activity. If there are significant sub-activities under a major activity, it may require a sub-activity budget.
- Detail your project plan with a timeline. Include measurement activities, milestones, and any potential barriers.
Think about performance during the proposal stage to help identify and manage:
- Financial and other resource support for activities.
- Performance measures to be captured.
- Timelines for deliverables, reporting and completed work.
Establish Processes to Manage Performance
OMB UGG requires federal award recipients to:
- Use approved government-wide standard data collection methods.
- Relate financial data to performance accomplishments.
- Submit reports at the frequency requested by the awarding agency.
- Submit reports that encompass each program, activity or function.
To ensure all criteria are being met properly, your organization may want to implement a management and oversight process to oversee performance. As such, it is recommended that recipients produce internal reports to keep track of progress every step of the way. Some helpful tips:
- Identify required reporting timeframes, and which milestones or deliverables fall within the timeframe.
- Recognize specific activities within the project and associated resources (funds, staff, and contracts).
- Use a defined data structure to link financial expenditures to an activity. Be sure to link internal identifiers to required award data for federal reports.
- For each grant or activity, produce an internal financial activity report and an internal progress report on a regular basis.
Internal reports will help you monitor progress, catch issues before submission to the awarding agency, and demonstrate sound organizational business practices.
Demonstrate Grant Performance
You may still be asking yourself why the need for performance is so important; the answer is simple. Backing up performance efforts with data keeps your organization on track with goals, and helps improve program quality. It also enables awarding agencies to better evaluate overall funding results.
When submitting performance reports, recipients may need to include the following information in the required format for federal awards:
- Reporting period covered.
- Major milestones, deliverables and activities covered within the report.
- Narrative description of activities taken for each milestone, deliverable or goal.
- Expenditures per activity.
- Time and costs spent on activities compared to budget estimates.
As noted previously, this information needs to be submitted via approved data collection formats. Electronic grant management systems can help with data collection, organization, and report creation and submission.
Although change can be intimidating, it is often good. With strong grant management and careful oversight, your organization can transition smoothly to meet new UGG performance requirements.
Want to learn more on how your organization can prepare for programmatic performance? Watch the webinar on demand, “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data.”
How is your organization preparing for programmatic performance? Let us know in the comments below.
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After deciding to purchase grant management software, the most important factor to implementation success is widespread adoption among affected staff. As with any change of process, some employees may resist at first.
Below, we’ve mapped out common reasons for resistance and how to encourage employees to welcome and use the new tool.
Reasons For Resistance
Before you can manage change resistance, you must understand where it originates. First, try not to generalize; each employee may have his or her own reasons for resisting the new software and processes. Some common reasons include:
- Lack of technology proficiency. Some employees may feel overwhelmed by the idea of a new technology and system to which they must adjust.
- Doesn’t see fault in current processes. Ad hoc systems can become so commonplace for many employees that they see no fault in current processes.
- Fear that the software will replace a need for his or her job. Misinformation may cause panic within departments, if employees fear the new technology will diminish their value.
Managing Change Resistance
Managing resistance boils down to mitigating the fear of change. First, understand your audience, and seek to define the reason for resistance. The following are recommended steps your organization can take to position yourself for integration success.
1. First Blush Assessment. When introducing the software, take note of the grant management team’s reaction. Gauging the first blush will help you determine which team members are not immediately onboard.
2. Seek Feedback. Have an open discussion with the affected staff. Doing so will uncover the reasons for resistance and enable you to better tailor your onboarding and software integration approach.
3. Over Communicate. Explain the benefits grant management software will have on processes and efficiencies. Outline how the new technology will integrate into daily jobs to reap benefits for both the organization and its employees.
4. Offer Training. One of the most actionable ways to alleviate resistance is to offer training. With a trial run and hands-on assistance, many will begin to feel more comfortable with the software and subsequent process changes.
Pro tip: Keep this in mind when choosing a vendor, as some offer built-in training sessions with the purchase of the software.
5. Include Affected Employees. Finally, it may be helpful to ask resistant employees what you can do to ease some of the worry or concern they have. Not only will this make employees feel included in the process, but it will also take some of the guesswork off your plate.
Leaders and change agents of the organization must make alleviating resistance a number-one priority when integrating a new software solution.
For more helpful information on the adoption and implementation of grant management software, download the Grant Management Implementation Guide.
How do you plan to ease change resistance within your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Editor's Note: The 2015 State of Grant Management survey is now closed. Thank you for all who participated!
Grant management is constantly evolving, causing organizations to re-evaluate their processes for finding, managing and tracking grant money.
And new legislation, such as The DATA Act, brings greater responsibility for transparency and accountability.
We invite you to participate in our annual grant management survey to answer the question: “What is the current state of grant management, and how do new requirements affect your organization?”
With your help, we will gather valuable information on:
- Common grant management frustrations and challenges.
- Confidence levels in relation to federal changes.
- Current grant management processes and tools.
- Popular funding and revenue sources.
- The growing grant collaboration trend.
As a thank you to participants, all respondents will be entered for the chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card!
Note: The survey is now closed. Consolidated findings will be released in our 2015 State of Grant Management research report. This valuable industry resource provides a benchmark for nonprofits and government agencies to compare their readiness against others, and plot out the improvements necessary for continued success. For a look at last year’s survey findings, download the 2014 State of Grant Management Report.
What are your thoughts on the state of grant management?
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Every organization has crucial information that is needed to keep it up and running—but how can you protect that valuable knowledge?
Centralized institutional memory helps improve board member and employee onboarding, and overall organization quality and productivity.
Read on for the essential reasons your board needs to systematize its institutional memory.
1. Improve Board Member Onboarding
People come and go—but valuable information doesn’t have to leave with them. With easy access to your organization’s institutional memory, board members can better translate historical data and experiences into useful knowledge and action.
Systemized institutional memory also helps maintain board traditions and culture, such as group values, chemistry among members and staff, tone of meetings and more. Documenting these typically “unwritten” rules keeps the overall feel of the organization in tact as new members are added.
Proactively plan for knowledge transfer in advance of board members or employees leaving to keep your organization successful. Document processes, routines, useful knowledge and other essential dynamics for easy new member onboarding.
2. Centralized Board Materials
One of the most convenient benefits of an institutional memory system is that critical information can be accessed in one place. Board members will no longer waste time searching for files or organizational details.
Use an online board portal to share files and data easily throughout your organization, and keep board members up-to-date on projects and meetings. Centralize and keep track of important information such as:
- Board member bios, expertise and connections.
- Committee members and updates.
- Meeting agendas, minutes and motions.
- Organization mission, facts and FAQs.
3. Increase Productivity
Centralized information also allows board members to evaluate important terms, procedures, historical information and more to improve their productivity levels.
Understand what has and has not worked in the past to make smarter decisions for the future. If a previous board discussed a topic, you’ll have reference of what was said and why decisions were made a particular way. The sitting board can use that knowledge to better inform actions. If an alternate approach is recommended, it can be done with full knowledge of the organization’s history and past debates.
In addition, don’t spend unnecessary time trying to figure out a task that someone may already know how to do! When institutional memory is easily accessible, boards have the resources to dig deeper into a process or situation, and better collaborate as a team.
For a look at board management trends, read our 2014 Board Engagement Report.
How would your board members benefit from shared institutional memory? Let us know in the comments below.
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On Dec. 26, 2014, newly released Uniform Grant Guidance shifted the way grantees will be held accountable for performance and results.
Grantees must now be able to demonstrate both:
- Grant performance metrics.
- Effective performance management systems.
This will require proper identification of performance measures, structured data collection processes and the ability to create data-driven reports.
Though increased accountability will be beneficial in improving the way funds are managed and allocated, the transition to performance can be intimidating at first. Our webinar will provide you and all the essentials needed to prepare for the switch.
About the Webinar
StreamLink Software and Sandy Swab, an independent public sector consultant at SRSwab Consulting and former senior policy analyst for the OMB, have partnered up for a second webinar. “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data."
The one-hour free webinar will cover:
- Why the UGG is increasing its focus on grant performance.
- The goals and objectives of federal programs.
- UGG organizational and award performance requirements.
- How to identify and address performance measures within reporting processes.
- Tips for collecting the right data and creating data-driven reports.
Watch the webinar on-demand.
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Last February, StreamLink Software teamed up with Sandy Swab, an independent public sector consultant, for a free webinar on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG).
As a former policy analyst for the OMB, Sandy provided insight into UGG, which presented new financial management and federal award requirements that affect federal agencies and recipients of federal dollars. (Watch the webinar on-demand.)
Attendees brought excellent questions to the table. Below are several that didn’t make it into the webinar, and Sandy’s advice for federal grantees.
Does UGG’s conflict of interest stipulation require that employees sign a document stating they do not have a conflict of interest, or simply that a policy be in place?
Comply with the awarding agency.
Each federal agency will establish its own conflict of interest requirements. Recipients should have policies in place that reflect the awarding federal agency's conflict of interest policy. The conflict of interest requirements issued by the federal awarding agency may include how the recipients are to address conflict of interest, which may require employees signing conflict of interest statements as specified in the requirements.
If awarded funds from several agencies, adopt a policy statement that is general enough to cover all awards. However, recipients might need to have procedures in place for different funding streams to address those conflict of interest requirements. Recipients should also review current award documents for any reference to conflict of interest requirements. See Section 200.112 for more information.
Adopt a procedure to address standards of conduct under procurement rules.
Under the Procurement Standards of the UGG, recipients must have a policy and procedures in place that address standards of conduct for employees covering conflict of interest when they are performing duties associated with contracts. The procedure should indicate how the recipient organization would address conflicts of interest and any disciplinary action associated with any violations. It should also address parent, affiliate or subsidiary organizations. Recipients should review Section 200.318 (c) (1) for a complete overview of the requirements for standards of conduct and conflict of interest for procurement.
Verify no conflicts exist prior to contractor selection.
In order to participate in the selection and administration of a contractor, each employee must verify that there is no conflict of interest. The organization may be able to file a signed general statement in the procurement documentation that no conflicts of interest exist, but how that is determined must be documented in the recipient’s procedures and who is authorized to sign a general statement. See Section 200.318 for more information.
Review past audit findings.
Finally, if the recipient organization had any audits that addressed conflicts of interest, policies and procedures should be written with these insights in mind and address the issues.
How should recipients relate costs to performance, and report whether goals are met?
Track costs to the activities that are being measured.
A simple way to do this right now is to identify required quarterly milestones or deliverables, and to record the amount of staff time and funding resources used to meet the milestone or deliverable. Recipients may be doing this now through written progress reports. (Note: Also refer to any specific instructions issued by the federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.)
Identify any delays in meeting a milestone or deliverable during the specified timeframe.
Building on the above, flag delays and estimate additional resources that may be required to meet a milestone or deliverable. To do this, associate resources, dependencies, milestones or deliverables with each award activity. For example, staff resources, sub-awards or contracts awarded, and the results of these on the milestone or deliverable.
Work with the awarding agency on reporting.
Recipients should anticipate working with the federal awarding agency or pass-through entity to determine how information is to be reported. For example, it may require actual expenditures or what may be considered payables (obligations for the activities). Either way, reporting should be defined within specified timeframes, often quarterly or when reports are due.
When questions arise about requirements or policies.
Recipients should always check with their awarding agency, whether it be a federal agency, a pass-through entity (e.g., state or local government) or prime recipient regarding any questions they may have associated with award requirements or policies associated with the funding.
Consider grant management software.
Some grant management software solutions offer the ability to establish performance data. This way, a report can easily be run that links the financial expenditures to the performance measures.
To learn more about the new UGG requirements, check out the following resources:
For a high-level overview of key federal initiatives, and what you need to know to prepare, download our free fact sheet.
What questions do you have about OMB’s new UGG regulations?
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Recently, we conducted a nationwide survey on recruiting, developing and managing boards. Many responses centered on board portal adoption and successful technology implementation.
Below are the three biggest tips our survey respondents had to offer.
1. Commit to Training
Training is essential to long-term adoption. To best teach staff how to use new software, board portal users suggested:
- Ensure internal champions are well versed with the software, so that they can better facilitate pilot programs and rollout.
- Plan training based on board members’ technology aptitude. Evaluate the tech-savviness of each board member, and customize training accordingly.
- Be patient. While set up may seem tedious, know that there is a big payoff at the end of all the training.
Pro tip: Simplify training by partnering with a board portal vendor that offers robust training and support services.
2. Simplify the Technology Rollout
Rollout should be done gradually. This way, training and technology kinks can be solved before widespread implementation. For a smooth rollout processes:
- Plan, and then play. The rollout process should not be rushed. For long-term adoption success, document a rollout plan with clear and realistic timelines.
- Phase in the new technology. Give board members time to adjust to new procedures. Do this by providing hard copies, in addition to online files, for a period of time after initial rollout.
- Implement the buddy system. Ask board members to help one another through the training process.
- Keep the portal top-of-mind. Link to content on the portal in emails and documents, so board members are reminded of its functionalities.
3. Plan For Future Use
Ongoing board portal management takes preemptive planning and well-established processes. For best chances of prolonged board portal success, consider these best practices:
- Promote consistency in use. Thoroughly document how board members should use the portal in specific use cases. This includes naming mechanisms for documents and files, and how to communicate through the portal.
- Provide support. Dedicate a staff member to be the liaison between board members and the vendor’s support/training team. Route all inquiries and troubleshooting requests through this individual.
- Commit to the software. Set a precedent for board members by sending all communications, scheduling requests and documents through the board portal. The less you link to resources outside the portal, the better adoption will be.
Share your board portal adoption advice in the comments below.
Find more advice on board management in our recent report: Board Management Tips and Tricks: A Community Curated Guide.
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Good communication is a key part of keeping board members informed and engaged. It keeps activities organized, goals on target and members accountable. A board that lacks proper communication policies and channels risks falling short on duties.
In early 2015, we conducted a nationwide survey to collect board communication best practices (among other management topics). Below, we outline a few pointers shared.
Related content: Download the Board Management Tips and Tricks guide for a full look at what your peers had to say.
1. Create Consistency and Establish Processes
This was commonly citied advice among survey respondents. Communication consistency sets a precedent for expectations, and loops members in on daily activities and goals. To promote consistency, thoroughly document board member communication processes:
- Create standardized naming mechanisms for files and documents.
- Set best practices for each communication channel—i.e. how to best utilize the subject line of an email.
- Document how board members should approach specific communication use cases—i.e. when to have an in-person meeting versus sending an email.
2. Make Communications Count
Agenda-less meetings can result in poor attendance, disengaged members and ultimately unmet board responsibilities. Every meeting should have a purpose, and be focused on results and pertinent decisions.
One way to do this is by sending materials ahead of time. This saves time as the agenda isn’t debated at the meeting, and members can come prepared to dive in and discuss. One survey respondent explained it this way:
“[It lets] them know that I understand they are busy and, as such, they will receive a board packet one week in advance of the meeting. They are expected to review, call me and ask any questions prior to the board meeting and be ready to discuss the action items listed on the agenda.”
3. Solicit Feedback
Feedback is a crucial element of a good communication system, providing the insight needed to re-engage board members and tweak processes for maximum effectiveness.
To improve feedback collection:
- Tie feedback collection strategies to goals. Identify the information you seek based on board goals.
- Promote open communication. Encourage honesty in feedback sessions.
- Activate ideas derived from feedback. Put the gathered information to use. It’s not enough just to listen. Responses must be transformed into action.
Related content: Listen Up! Tips to Improve Board Feedback Collection
Are you looking to better your board’s communication processes? See what else your peers had to say on the matter in our free guide: Board Management Tips & Tricks.
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More and more, organizations are realizing the value of board portals. However, just having a board portal is not enough to enhance processes. Boards must optimally use the technology to garner the most out of it—but how?
To find out, we surveyed board members from across the nation to collect the top tricks they use to get the most out of their board portals.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
Setting yourself up for success is all about preparation—from researching options to implementation. This begins with securing internal buy-in for the technology by building a proposal that articulates organizational benefits (cost savings, advantages, etc.).
Successful preparation also includes proper vendor evaluations. Don’t settle for the first vendor that comes along. Pick a solution that is easy to use for both you and your board.
Pro tip: Don’t just pick a vendor based on portal features. Also look for quality training and support. For more on how to pick the right vendor, download our free resource: The Board Portal Purchasing Guide.
2. Encourage Participation and Engagement
Participation among members during board meetings is vital to a productive discourse. The same is true when using a board portal; the more board members participate, the more useful the software becomes.
That said, participation could easily be garnered through:
- Open communication. Frequent and open communication promotes organizational transparency and is key to creating a culture of participation.
- Promoting inclusion. Tailor tasks and conversations to board member’s personal and professional lives to make the work more relevant to each member.
- Educating board members on core business units. The better board members understand the organization, the more confident they will be voicing opinions.
- Leading by example. The more you participate and openly communicate, the more likely it’ll be for other board members to do the same.
Pro tip: Ease of use plays a big role in encouraging participation. A more intuitive portal interface is less intimidating for board members to actively use.
3. Be Consistent in Portal Use and Board Management
For ongoing board portal management, consistency matters. This includes being consistent with naming documents, addressing members and timing when materials go live—i.e. meeting agendas.
Consistency in the use of your organization’s portal helps keep the system organized and efficiently run. It also sets expectation levels for members.
With this in mind, consider how training, rollout and continued board management play a role. Standards should be set from the get go to set a precedent for future use.
Pro tip: During implementation, create a document that details communication processes, document file name mechanisms and overall board portal use best practices.
How do you ensure your board is getting the most out of its portal? Share your tips in the comments below!
Find more advice on board management from board members like you in our recent report: Board Management Tips and Tricks: A Community Curated Guide.
A strategic and well thought-out implementation plan is vital to achieving grant management software success.
If rolled out incorrectly, the software may not have the impact you wish on your organization’s processes.
Below, we’ve outlined specific questions to ask and items to consider as you plan your implementation timeline.
What is an Implementation Timeline?
An implementation timeline is a working document that lists activities, responsible parties and estimated time for task execution. It may also include costs, expected obstacles and objectives.
Here’s an example of what an implementation timeline may look like:
Download our guide for an interactive implementation guideline worksheet (found on page 10).
The implementation process varies by industry and organization. Dependent on organizational size, previous processes and inherent ability to adapt, our grant management software can take as little as three months or a long as nine to implement.
Important Factors to Consider
Think through the following as you outline your ideal implementation timeline:
- Who will lead the implementation process? Who will support? Your project leader should be the person with final accountability for grant-related data, both performance and financial. It’s great if this person is also organized, tech-savvy, and willing to learn and ask questions.
- What approvals are needed at each stage in the implementation process? Map out the decision hierarchy for each stage of the process.
Pro tip: Find an executive sponsor, someone within the c-suite who will act as your internal champion and advocate.
- How will the organization integrate or transfer data from its current system? In most cases, this can be done through a series of imports using a template to map data to specific software fields.
- Who will need to be trained on the new system? Identify affected employees. Typically, this consists of the grant management office and any other personnel who handle grants, budgets and finance.
- How does the organization plan to rollout the software? Consider a pilot program to rollout new processes to select employees. Once that runs smoothly, implement organization wide.
- What is the organization’s typical grant calendar? Comb through previous calendars to identify peaks and valleys of busy times. Find a time of year that is commonly less hectic to begin making process changes.
Seek the Right Partnership
As with any technology purchase, a strong vendor partnership can improve your chances of implementation success by streamlining the process. As you evaluate potential partners, ask each:
- What is the typical or recommended implementation timeline?
- Is integration with current processes turnkey, or is development necessary?
- How flexible and customizable is the software?
- How often will the system need to be updated and maintained?
- What level of support is provided in technology rollout and training?
Once you’ve squared away any outstanding questions, it’s time to build out the timeline. Get started with our free guide: Grant Management Software Evaluation Guide. It’s jam packed with helpful information and interactive worksheets.
What key factors will you include in your organization’s grant management software implementation timeline? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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