Why Invest In Centralised Grant Management?

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For regional councils that are reliant on grant funding, every dollar counts. But these LGAs risk jeopardising millions in revenue due to subpar grant management. 

An organisation’s approach to grant management can make or break its funding stability and impact potential. That’s why there’s simply no replacement for an effective centralised grant management system. 

Here’s why you need to treat grant management as a dedicated, centralised function – and why neglecting this approach places regional councils at risk of losing up to $6 million in grant funding.

What is centralised grant management?

In many organisations, grant management is often relegated to a part-time task spread across various departments. This typically involves juggling complex spreadsheets, printed documents and lengthy email chains. While these methods may still work in certain scenarios, they are generally inefficient and prone to errors. 

Centralised grant management takes a more strategic approach. By giving clear ownership of the grant management function to a dedicated team or individual, organisations can operate cohesively as a single team, streamlining workflows and collaboration throughout the entire grant process.

Dan Pritchard, CEO of SurePact, says organisations should treat grant management as a centrally dedicated function to maintain a unified view of their grant portfolio.

“In a centralised system, all processes are synced and participants work together as one cohesive unit, which significantly improves an organisation’s workflow,” Dan explains. 

Dan is emphatic that grant management shouldn’t be anyone’s part-time job – it should be a specialised, full-time commitment, supported by software and frameworks that centralise and streamline the function.

“This ensures that a specific group is responsible for achieving and delivering the strategic objectives tied to these grants. 

“That’s hugely beneficial for organisations that rely on continuous grant funding for their survival.”

The benefits of centralised grant management

Centralised grant management offers several advantages for organisations looking to maximise their funding potential. 

1. A single source of truth

A key advantage of centralised grant management lies in the utilisation of grant management software, which provides a centralised platform for allocating tasks, logging activities and decisions, and facilitating communication among various stakeholders involved in different grant programs and projects.

SurePact’s grant management software offers a purpose-built solution tailored to the specific needs of local governments, enabling the establishment of many-to-many relationships between different grant programs and projects. This capability is particularly challenging to achieve using traditional spreadsheets, which are prone to versioning issues and particularly susceptible to user error.

“A single source of truth, in the form of a repository of all documentation, ensures that everyone is working off the same information,” Dan says.

This uniformity not only improves consistency and accuracy in project execution, but also streamlines communication and coordination among team members. According to Gartner’s 2020 Study on Grant Management Software Benefits, organisations using centralised grant management software experience 22% fewer errors and achieve 21% savings in administrative efforts and costs. 

Dan also points out a specific challenge addressed by centralised grant management:

“We’ve seen instances where councils have unknowingly submitted multiple applications for the same grant without realising it.” 

By utilising a centralised platform, organisations can effectively manage applications and avoid duplications, ensuring more efficient and effective use of grant resources.

2. Risk management and mitigation

Centralised grant management not only streamlines processes, but also helps organisations identify and address potential risks before they escalate.

“One of the key benefits of centralised grant management is the ability to proactively manage pre-award risks,” Dan says.

For instance, centralised systems can help organisations identify the risk of applying for grants with co-funding obligations that they may not be able to meet due to individual teams hunting for new grants without collaboration.

Having pre-award governance in place means teams need a centralised process, framework, or system within which they collaborate on all outgoing grant applications, rather than working in silos. This also allows the team to put a review process in place, to ensure the right people have checked off all applications before they’re submitted, and LGAs don’t run the risk of being unaware they’re committed to breaking ground on infrastructure projects before they’re ready, for instance.

A unique benefit of using grant management software is that it mitigates key person risk by providing contextualised data specific to grants and logs all related activity as it’s used, ensuring continuity even when staff members transition out of the organisation. In contrast, relying solely on documents and spreadsheets leaves organisations disrupted during staff changes, and makes it difficult to onboard and handover to new team members.

“There are huge risks associated with information management and security, as well as the potential loss of critical data,” Dan says. 

“If the information is only stored in spreadsheets, it becomes challenging to report on. Without reporting, we cannot perform analysis, and without analysis, we cannot fully understand the status of our grant portfolio. This lack of understanding leads to unmanaged risks of material blowout costs, project overspends, and unmanaged variations.” 

By centralising their grant management processes, organisations can not only prevent costly financial setbacks, but also ensure that grants align with strategic objectives. 

“Early identification of these risks allows us to take proactive measures to mitigate their impact,” Dan explains.

3. More ambitious goals

Transitioning from a decentralised approach presents an opportunity to reevaluate and streamline grant management practices. By adopting a centralised model, organisations can operate more efficiently and effectively – and grow in their capacity to manage more grant funding than they previously could.

“Think big,” Dan says. “Organisations often limit themselves to the funding they think is adequate for their goals. But there’s a real opportunity to design grant programs that aim for much larger outcomes and attract greater levels of funding.

“Don’t underestimate what your organisation is capable of.”

Why aren’t organisations doing this already?

Despite the clear benefits, many organisations have yet to adopt a centralised approach to grant management. 

The answer often lies in cultural inertia. This tends to stem from a resistance to change among management, and a lack of awareness of the benefits and capabilities of a centralised approach. 

“Good grant management takes time,” Dan says. “It’s not just about the initial thrill of receiving funding; it’s a continuous process that needs to be refined and optimised. It requires a commitment to understanding the value and purpose of grants and integrating them into the organisation’s broader goals.”

To move forward on the grant management journey, organisations must be able to recognise and address this cultural inertia when it seeps in. But, Dan adds, this is something that requires strong leadership to change.

“Leaders must actively engage with and support their teams to realise the full potential of grant management,” he says. “The process isn’t quick – it demands perseverance and active involvement from leadership to overcome resistance and achieve significant, lasting success.”

The financial impact of decentralisation

Organisations that forgo a centralised grant management approach – particularly rural and regional councils in Australia – expose themselves to huge financial risks. These are risks that can translate into actual losses and affect the organisation’s bottom line.

Statistics reveal that for every $100 million spent on projects, about $21 million in unforeseen expenses arise, representing a 21% discrepancy from planned budgets. 

“We took a sample of 9 or 10 rural and regional councils, and it was found that their collective income totalled around $300 million,” Dan says. “We know that on average, about 60% of this income is grant-related, giving us an average per council of around $16 million. They could be potentially managing 60% of this income on spreadsheets.”

This approach can lead to mismanagement of funds, with potential errors in grant management costing a typical rural or regional council as much as $6 million. 

“We’re talking about a substantial amount of money here,” Dan emphasises. Unlike LGAs overseeing major urban centres like Brisbane City or the City of Melbourne, which bring in substantially more revenue from rates and other sources, rural and regional councils depend significantly on grants, making effective grant management crucial for their financial health.

Getting started: Where should you allocate resources? 

1. Gap analysis

If you’re considering upgrading your grant management practices, Dan suggests starting with a thorough gap analysis. This involves evaluating your current practices against industry best practices to identify areas in need of improvement.

“Every organisation has blind spots, and without a gap analysis, these remain unaddressed,” he explains. “Whether you’re seasoned in handling grants or new to the field, start with an external view on what constitutes best practice and how it measures up to your internal operations.”

Following the gap analysis, the key investment areas to focus on may include:

2. People and training

Organisations should provide ongoing training to keep their team updated on the latest grant management practices and technologies. As well, professional development opportunities for staff go a long way towards improving their skills in grant writing, financial administration, project management and business strategy. 

“These steps are vital for developing a team capable of executing a robust grant management strategy,” Dan says.

3. Software systems

Organisations should consider adopting advanced, integrated software systems that provide extensive functionalities for grant tracking, reporting and management. When choosing a software provider, look for those that offer post-award processes, and incorporate features like real-time reporting and workflow automation.

“Investing in both personnel and tools is key to improving efficiency and governance,” adds Daniel.

Are you ready to invest in centralised grant management in your organisation?

Streamline your grant management process with SurePact, purpose-built software to bring grant operations into one source of truth for both grantmakers and recipients. SurePact provides a unified solution covering everything from application checks to submission and execution. Connect with us today to learn more.

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