Community College Grant Management: Meet the Challenge
With both the TAACCCT grant awards looming on the horizon and the increased request for consortia grant writing sub-recipient management is once again brought to the forefront of grant management thinking. When managing multiple sub-recipients the goal with fiscal reporting should be to streamline the grant financial allocation, reporting, tracking and auditing process. This streamlined process will lead to greater accuracy, efficiency and ability to adjust mid-stream ensuring the best results. The assumption in any process when working with sub-recipients should be that they each may have independent financial reporting systems and the sophistication of each sub-recipient can vary dramatically. Each section below suggests ways to create a system to streamline this process even with the complications created by sub-recipient grant management.
Your system needs to allocate the grant budgets to sub-recipients including allowing the sub-recipient to further allocate the categories or line items internally. This is necessary to streamline the budget process by eliminating steps that can create errors even at the sub-recipient level. It is critical that the lead recipient be able to define each allocation to specific categories for sub-recipients to ensure spending meets the federal guidelines and any allocation system needs to allow for managing to this requirement. The other piece that is critical when dealing with allocating to multiple sub-recipients is the system that is created needs to allow for taking a single expense category and splitting it into visible sub-recipient amounts. This flexible but visible allocation will ensure auto-totaling back to the approved budget increasing efficiency and accuracy.
Each sub-recipient responsible for reporting on a grant MUST have tools to set-up milestones for expensing allocated line-items. Also, these milestones MUST be visible at the lead recipient level. These tools will ensure that the grant financial reporting stays on track. The financial reporting system needs to be able to provide forms for each sub-recipient preferably electronic that create greater efficiency in auto-totaling and automatic roll up. The sub-recipients also need to be able to report purchases directly into this system and upload receipts for each individual purchase. The lead recipient should be able to receive forms only when completed to not get confused with partial data and a system needs to be in place to manage resubmission. A key benefit if the tracking forms roll up is an auto-totaled budget from each individual reporting at the sub-recipient level increasing accuracy, saving time and saving money.
Your system must allow the grant manager to drill into the budget and analyze the budget performance as a whole or by sub-recipient and maybe even by individual. By utilizing the standardized tracking forms mentioned above the lead recipient will better be able to track sub-recipient performance to milestones for each grant. This key benefit will easily identify whether the actual allocation is on target with the milestones created at the start of grant implementation by sub-recipient, category or line item. This benefit will allow the lead recipient to monitor multiple grants across multiple sub-recipients and on a month to month basis ensure grant expense allocation is on target and when behind make earlier adjustments. Your system will now result in efficiency but even more importantly better grant performance.
Your system must assist in managing Government audits and create the basis for internal audits. There many auditing tools you may want to incorporate into your system. A few key tools include tracking individual time and effort to ensure that staff are allocated appropriately to each grant, back-up documentation for each expense and over-allocation of line items or personnel are red flagged to prevent audit findings. Audit tools ensure audits are easily managed saving time, external audit costs, eliminating audit findings and reducing paybacks.
Integration with Existing Fiscal Systems
For some very good security and tracking reasons this type of grant reporting and sub-recipient management is typically not set-up in fiscal systems but rather the grant allocating, tracking and reporting exists outside of the fiscal system. You would want your system to speak the same language, however, by ensuring GL codes can be linked to each grant expense. In addition from an audit perspective if monthly financial expenses can be uploaded to your grant management system your audit tracking ability increases. The Fiscal Office can also then run grant expense reports by GL account and export the report to excel for faster data entry or possible upload back into the fiscal system saving both time and effort.