Congratulations on winning a grant because it is a highly competitive process.
What Happens After a Grant is Awarded?
Well, that depends.
Grants vary considerably. Check with your funder for specific requirements. Many grants are awarded along with a Grant Service Agreement that outlines your responsibilities.
(OpenWater Grants, a grant management system, makes it easy for grantmaking organizations to disperse this and other documents to grantees.)
Despite the variety and complexity, all grants share a universal pathway to success:
Each of these steps impacts the relationship you build with your funder and the community you serve. All of these steps also influence how effectively grants funds are put to use. By successfully achieving all steps in the process you (or your organization) lay the groundwork for future grant awards, too.
Let’s look at how you can get the most from every step in the process.
Celebrating isn’t just a round of drinks for the people who contributed time and effort to a complicated, multi-part grant proposal. (Although many may gladly accept the gesture!) The hard work that went into the grant application has paid off, but the real work is about to begin. With that comes the true rewards.
Celebrating is a time to refresh the memory of all involved. Why did you apply for the grant? What do you hope to accomplish? Who will be involved during the implementation? Make the celebration an event that solidifies relationships that will be necessary to implement the work.
immediately after the grant award. Funding organizations spend a lot of time and money evaluating grantees and their proposals. Thanking your funding organization is an excellent way to start the relationship off on the right foot.
PRO TIP: Be sure to know what forms of acknowledgement your funder prefers. Some donors do not want public recognition, for example.
The next step is implementing the plan you outlined in your grant application.
Do as much preliminary work as possible before the funds arrive. This may mean meeting with cohorts to delegate tasks, or hiring for specific roles. Get organized.
As you start the process be sure to set up a system for capturing data and other documentation. This can be as simple or as complicated as required. A simple system might be a shoebox of receipts sorted on a weekly basis. Or, documentation could be a combination of online and offline tools to track multiple people and processes.
PRO TIP: Grantees should prioritize organization because it will make reporting tasks much easier. If in doubt, favor record-keeping. Develop a system that makes sense for the work involved. This is especially important for grants with multi-year delivery timelines.
Inevitably, things change and plans adjust.
Funders understand this; many grants are experiments. However, grantees should communicate changes upfront to avoid misunderstanding and demonstrate best intentions. Funders appreciate regular communication in general. They especially want regular communication if a change fundamentally alters outcomes, good or bad.
Remember: some grant funders are themselves beholden to others. For example, government distributes monies to non-profit, community development groups, which in turn may award grants. These groups have significant tracking requirements, as outlined here, for example. Corporate grants also must report to business leaders and shareholders.
PRO TIP: Make an effort to stay in touch with funders throughout the duration of the grant process. This demonstrates responsibility and engenders trust. Both are helpful should grant implementation hit an unexpected delay or hardship.
Ongoing updates are helpful to everyone connected to your grant.
Some grantees set up regular group emails. Others publish blog posts or photos to publically document a project. How and what you report depends on the grant. Look to your Grant Service Agreement or funder contact for guidance on documentation. (Here’s an example of reporting documentation required by an arts grant program in Louisiana.)
Reporting results, whether expected or unexpected, are extremely valuable. Regular updates engage stakeholders and highlight opportunities. Your specific results may benefit the broader community, too, by providing material for a case study.
PRO TIP: Consider keeping a parallel, private journal of project metrics. This record will help inform decisions. It will also keep track of thought processes behind specific decisions. This is useful when asked to narrate results to other stakeholders.
Finally, all grantees should embrace promotion. The only caveat: be sure to understand what your funder/donor prefers.
Most grantmaking organizations will promote your grant award, and project results, themselves.
You can choose to add to that with a series of your own public relations efforts. Some common approaches include:
- Press releases
- Social media updates
- Media appearances (traditional and/or new media)
- Internal communications (email, newsletters, etc.)
Grant winners should download our free promotional pack to get started.
Congratulations again on winning your grant! Use this pathway as a guideline. Mastering these steps will make your grant project more successful. It may even increase your ability to attain additional grant awards.