Pre and Post-Award Grant Management in Australia

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Wondering what the difference between pre and post-award grant management is? Whether you’re new to grant administration or a grant management leader reviewing your roles and operations, this article is created to break down what steps occur in the pre-award and post-award stages of the grant lifecycle and give context for the Australian grant landscape.

The Australian Grant Landscape: An Overview

Australia’s grant funding landscape consists of numerous government organisations at federal, state, and local levels disbursing funds across infrastructure, environmental, research-based, and social grant programs.

Key entities on the government side include:

In addition to government grants, large foundations, like the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation, run grant programs to support purpose-driven initiatives.

The Australian grant system has a strong focus on transparency, value for money, and alignment with organisational priorities. The Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs) published in 2017 provide a framework that many Australian organisations follow when administering grants.

The Pre-Award Phase

The pre-award phase is when all the design, planning, program promotion, application promotion, and review happen in your grant program. It’s the first stage of the grant management lifecycle, whether your organisation is a grantmaker or recipient.

Tips for grantmaking organisations in the pre-award phase

  • When designing grant programs, using resources like GrantConnect to research similar programs is a good starting point for ensuring your new grant aligns with broader initiatives.
  • Craft clear, concise guidelines that articulate the grant’s purpose, eligibility criteria, and assessment process. Ensure alignment with relevant regulations and your organisation’s strategic plan for impact.
  • Decide how you will promote, receive applications, review and score applicants, and notify applicants early. Investing in grantmaking software to streamline your execution may be necessary because these steps can be time-consuming, especially if you receive a lot of applications.

Tips for grant recipient organisations in the pre-award phase

  • Check with your team whether your organisation has a grant governance framework. This is a document or guide of some sort that explains what kind of funding your organisation should apply for. Trying to go for any grant that sounds good can get organisations into trouble, especially with some government grants that require co-contributions (which may mean you can’t afford it)!
  • Whenever you are searching for new grant programs, think about re-engineering your search using an existing project. It is often difficult to find funding without having a reason to apply for it. This puts applicants in a position where they must explain why they need it. Having an existing project will make this process more realistic.

“Many businesses and organisations approach grant finding backwards. They first search for grants that vaguely fit their own business goals, then try to shoehorn in a project as an afterthought. My advice as a grant writer and assessor is to design a strong project and then use an online grant finder to seek out funding that’s looking to achieve the outcomes your project provides.”

Tara Whitney, CEO of Whitney Consulting | Grants, Tenders, Business Cases

The Post-Award Phase

The post-award phase occurs after the funding has been awarded to the successful recipient, and there follows the implementation of grant-funded projects, milestone reporting and delivery tracking, acquittal, and closeout. It’s the last stage of the grant management lifecycle.

Tips for grantmaking organisations in the post-award phase

  • Speak to your finance department early on about your plan to track grant allocations, payments, and expenditures. Properly preparing reports that satisfy internal and external requirements (like audits) is very important, so don’t wait until the last minute to think about how these steps will be done.
  • Establish your system for receiving and reporting on milestones that your future recipients will report back on. Will you be receiving milestone reports in email form, PDF, or a spreadsheet? Think about how you will process those so the data and information are easily reported.
  • At the closeout stage of a grant program? If it’s not already part of your grant management process, set time aside to evaluate and report on the impact of the closing program. For grant specialists working in local government, we’ve written a short guide on things to think about regarding impact reporting for Australian LGAs.

Tips for grant recipient organisations in the post-award phase

  • A lot of the work for recipients comes in the post-award phase — don’t forget about your milestone reporting, project delivery, and other obligations that you signed up for in the funding agreement. Make sure you have a repeatable process for meeting reporting deadlines, collecting data to put into those reports, and staying on top of how your projects are tracking.
  • Think about scale or future-proofing your post-award processes. This is where grant management software for recipients will come in handy, especially if your organisation receives high volumes of grant funding each year or deals with multi-year grants.

The Similarities of Pre and Post-Award Phases

While pre and post-award grant management have distinct focuses, several key areas span both phases. Understanding these similarities can help you manage your grant program more effectively from start to finish.

  • Data collection and reporting are crucial: Set up good practices from the beginning, deciding what information to track and how to gather it. This makes it easier to create stakeholder reports and evaluate the effectiveness of the grant funding.
  • Communication makes all the difference: Keep in regular contact with your funder or recipients, colleagues, and other stakeholders. This helps identify and address issues early, demonstrate progress, and allow you to proactively get ahead of raising variations if projects get delayed or start flowing over budget.
  • Never forget about compliance: Stay on top of reporting deadlines, progress tracking, and record-keeping. This ensures you’re following all rules and meeting your organisation’s requirements and any audit requirements, helping you achieve grant management success.

Australian-Specific Considerations in Grant Program Design

Unique regulatory requirements

Grant programs often involve navigating complex policy landscapes. Don’t neglect to check in with your legal and policy teams to make sure any requirements are considered when putting together a new program.

Geographical challenges in program implementation

Australia’s vast geography can present unique challenges for nationwide grant programs. Consider these factors in their program design, potentially incorporating regional quotas or targeted funding streams for remote areas.

Leveraging partnerships

Look for opportunities to collaborate and enhance program outcomes by partnering with another organisation who might bring in fresh perspectives, ideas or audiences. Integrated approaches to addressing complex challenges have seen great success, such as 50 Lives 50 Homes grant program, which was a collaboration between government and community groups.

Best Practices for Australian Grant Program Managers

  • Continuously seeking efficiencies: Develop standardised templates and checklists aligned with relevant requirements. This can help ensure consistency and efficiency in both pre- and post-award processes.
  • Building strong relationships with recipients: Engage proactively with potential and current grantees through information sessions, regular check-ins, and clear communication channels. Building these relationships can enhance program outcomes and facilitate early identification of potential issues.

By understanding the nuances of pre and post-award grant management in the Australian context, grant managers and grant applicants can achieve more effective and compliant grant programs and grant-funded projects.

Remember that effective grant management is not simply grant administration. It is an ongoing process that requires attention to detail, strong communication, and adaptability. By implementing the tips we outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the Australian grant landscape and maximise the impact of your grant operations.

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