Grants management: outsource, or in-house?

I was asked recently whether I would handle grants management as part of my functions as a grants consultant. I have always shied away from taking part in this (essential but distinct) aspect of grants for three reasons. I would like to outline them here for you, and see if you agree with me.

1) THE REPORTING FUNCTION SHOULD BE FOLDED INTO PROGRAM DESIGN. When a program is first developed, there are many factors to build into its design: evaluation, outcome measures, a realistic and all encompassing budget, staff roles, etc. But the missing element is often REPORTING, a metric you establish that SHOULD BE easy to pull, track, and report. Your Logic Model will show you exactly what that metric should be. If you design a program where your metric is being tracked daily (or hourly, weekly – whatever makes the most sense for your program and to meet your funder’s requirements), and can be pulled easily, then you have eliminated the burden of sifting through tons of paper, different reporting software, or (God forbid) paper surveys for the “finger on the pulse” of how effective your program is.

2) THE REPORTING REPRESENTS A STEWARDSHIP OPPORTUNITY. If a milestone is being reached, you are coming up on a key moment in your program’s life cycle, or you’re planning a celebration of some kind (100th client served, groundbreaking, etc.), then this is an opportunity to reach out to your funder. And you don’t want to outsource THAT chance for relationship-building! On the flip side, if you find your program plans are not hitting the mark for some reason (staff turnover, participant no-shows, etc.), and you won’t be reaching the program goals you set and that your funder is expecting, then a different kind of relationship-building opportunity exists – to have that conversation with your funder AHEAD of the final reporting, and strategize an alternative use of funds, if needed.

3) IT’S EXPENSIVE TO OUTSOURCE REPORTING. If you’ve designed easy-to-attain program data collection, and easy-to-interpret program data reporting mechanisms, then grant management is not a burden to your staff, so paying a consultant’s hourly rate to monitor a program and pull data is not a wise use of their time, and your resources. And if you use the monitoring of your program as an occasion to steward your funder’s relationship with you, then outsourcing grants management and reporting becomes a lost opportunity to build trust, and stay top-of-mind.

For those consultants out there that do offer grants management services, I would like to hear from you. What’s your strategy for making the process lean and manageable? If a bare-bones final report form is all that’s called for from a funder, how do you help your client springboard
off that opportunity to serve their relationship?

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