1. Building Trust
In all aspects of grant management, problems can be avoided with clear and regular communications with grants officers. Put everything in writing!
2. Observe project start and end dates for spending
Don’t make payments or enter into commitments before the agreed contract start date. All invoices must be dated between the official start and end dates. It is OK to spend right up to the of the end of contract date as long as the invoice is dated before the end of the project as the expenses can be accrued. This is one useful method to avoid large under-spends.
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3. Meet project targets within budget
Make sure the activities covered in the project proposal match the activities carried out and the amount of money spent. It is no good putting ten workshops in the proposal, then only carrying out five and the cost is the same as ten.
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Tell beneficiaries and project officers about who the donor is and what their conditions and restrictions are. Hold regular meetings with other staff (e.g. project and administrative staff) to discuss the donor’s conditions, and to review progress compared to the project plans agreed with the donor.
4. Avoid under spending
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This is as much, if not more, of a problem for a donor as over-spending is. Donors have targets to meet too and they really don’t want the hassle of funds being returned to them. If you do not use up all of their allocation, the donors may then lose this money from their next year’s allocation.
5. Monitor donor-by-donor expenditure
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In multiple-donor funded projects, keep an eye on the individual expenditure allocated to each donor to make sure you do not under- or over-spend for each donor. The total expenditure might show you are on target overall but conceal the donor by donor position.
6. Spend Capital expenditure budgets early
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Equipment should be spent in the first part of the programme. Donors do not generally allow this to take place in the closing months or to be the subject of a no-cost extension.
7. Make time to prepare donor reports
Putting a financial report together always takes longer than you think! This is especially true if you need to ask questions from busy programme and project managers. Delayed reporting from the field and poor follow up at head office to chase reporting often leads to under- or over-spending going unnoticed for far too long. It is then too late to rectify.
8. Reports must be complete and accurate
Make sure all expenditure is reported in the correct period. For instance:
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Do not allow working advances to remain unreconciled for longer than necessary.
Do not change previously reported budget or actual figures.
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If a previously reported figure is wrong, do not change the figures. It is better to make an adjustment to the current figures – and use notes to explain what you have done.
9. Keep clear contract files and budget notes
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Put dates and notes on all papers relating to the grant. It will then always be clear to whoever manages the project implementation (often two years after the initial proposal) which is the latest version of the contract and the final budget, and what changes have been requested and agreed by the donor.
10. Donors don’t like surprises
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If you cannot meet reporting deadlines or fulfil other conditions, warn the donor as soon as possible; don’t ignore it. You may be able to negotiate on unrealistic terms and conditions.
For example, reporting deadlines may not be realistic because a lot of spending takes place in remote areas of the field, where there is no internet access so reports have to be physically delivered when field staff return to base. It is better to explain this to donors in advance and they will often respond favourably.
Similarly, if certain budget items are going to cost more than budgeted due to unforeseen changes, give the donor advance notice.