Our post today looks at the post award grants management phase of the grant life cycle. We continue from a previous post that looked at pre-award efforts such as searching for funding, developing proposals and working with internal teams on grant applications.
As we noted, institutions face distinct responsibilities and requirements throughout the grant life cycle. Each phase of the grant life cycle has its own set of exact requirements for reporting, accounting, administration and management.
In a typical Institution, a Principal Investigator takes the lead in the technical completion of the grant and is responsible for the fiscal oversight associated with the grant with the assistance of Institutional resources.
Institutional resources, typically provided by the Office of Sponsored Research, assist the PI with the varying post award management steps. These steps consist of project start up, documentation, award management, fiscal monitoring, grant and contract analysis, effort certification as well as award closeout and end of project reporting.
Typical tasks include assisting in the administration of the award; preparing and submitting invoices; tracking payments; managing financial reports; and ensuring compliance with any regulations required by the sponsoring agency, tracking time and effort, as well as any University or institution policies.
Past Approaches to Post Award Grants Management
Many of the institutions we speak with attempt to manage post award grants management with a combination of manual methods, spreadsheets and standalone systems. It’s surprising the number of institutions that rely on paper-based processes during this phase of the grant life cycle.
What’s typical is that spreadsheets might be useful for a relatively small number of grants (typically less than 20 per year) and for organizations with small administrative budgets. However, those institutions handling post award management of large number of grants quickly run into problems.
Common challenges include the lack of simultaneous data entry, limited data validation, maintaining multiple versions of spreadsheets and reports to meet reporting requirements, difficulties in managing or comparing information that spans multiple years, maintaining consistent internal coding systems for funding agencies, and other areas.
While there is no set number when a spreadsheet is no longer optimal, institutions must take into consideration the complexity or amount of post award data being maintained per grant and the total number of grants in relation to the bandwidth of a single investigator or administrator. In addition, when large numbers of grants are involved, maintaining data integrity and keeping multiple versions up to date can become problematic.
In terms of post award compliance, organizations that are recipients of grant awards from federal agencies require detailed post award requirements. Federal awarding offices monitor grants to identify potential problems and areas where technical assistance might be necessary. This active monitoring is accomplished through review of reports and correspondence from the grantee, audit reports, site visits, and other information available to federal agencies.
The National Institutes of Health and other agencies require grantees to submit a variety of reports that are due at specific times during the life cycle of a grant award. All reports must be accurate, complete, and submitted on time. Selected reports include technical reports, reports related to working with human subjects, financial statements, cash transactions, expenditure data reports, close out and associated audit reports.
These are just a few federal post award mandates. Note that each federal funding agency demands its own set of post award requirements to help track federal funds in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
A New Approach to Post Award Grants Management
Leading research institutions streamline post award administration by using grants management software to handle the post award phase. By automating each step, it’s more efficient to manage the preparation of financial reports mandated by federal agencies, which are due at specific times during the life cycle of a grant award.
Automating the process will help research institutions improve post award management and reporting regulations, including the timing of invoices and archiving of documentation such as financial statements.
Specifically, grants management solutions can assist in:
- Issuing, receiving, paying third-party invoices
- Tracking due dates for financial, technical and other mandated reports
- Tracking communications with subrecipients, if needed.
- Monitoring invoices for unallowable costs
- Tracking documentation in the form of original receipts, copies of payroll records and audits
- Documenting, generating reports regarding internal controls and procedures
- Effort certification to track the percentage of time (effort) that employees devote to federally sponsored projects
This blog post took a high-level view of the “post award” phase of the grants life cycle, offering best practices to improve accounting, documentation, award management, effort certification and other key areas.
Looking for insight into improving your grant life cycle? Contact IT Works today to see how an automated solution lets research organizations work smarter.