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The Importance of Grant Administration: Why Communities Need Expertise in Managing Funds

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Do you need help navigating the world of grant management? Grant administration can be a complex and time-consuming process, but understanding its essential steps and challenges is crucial for the successful reimbursement of project expenses. In our latest blog post, we dive into the ins and outs of grant administration, exploring why it's essential, the challenges you may face, and how to simplify the process. We also highlight the value of hiring an experienced grant administrator and offer our assistance in managing your grant funds. Don't face grant administration alone – let us help you navigate the documentation and technical reporting requirements to receive reimbursement for eligible project expenses. Whether you're considering applying for a grant, such as a FEMA BRIC grant, or need help managing a grant you have been awarded, we've got you covered. Schedule a chat with us today and take the stress out of grant administration.

In this episode of Urban Hydro, host Shauna Urlacher dives into the world of grant administration and why it is crucial for communities. She shares real-life examples of pitfalls and benefits, revealing the hidden risks and advantages of having an experienced grant administrator. Tune in to discover how grant administration can make or break a project's success!

00:02:47 Matching bid items to the grant saves headaches.

00:03:50 Community staff change, money unused, need help.

What is Grant Administration?

To smoothly navigate the world of grant management, it's vital to understand what "grant administration" means. In basic terms, grant administration is completing paperwork to get a refund for your project expenses. Remember, most grants refund eligible project costs, so the community pays the consultant or contractor for their work and then requests reimbursement from the granting agency.

Grant administration is a lot of dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and doing so with insider knowledge for a smooth process. An experienced grant administrator is crucial as they will complete all the necessary documentation, match pay items with the grant's line items, and track the grant funds during the project. When challenges arise, which are common in construction projects, a skilled grant administrator will work with the granting agency to accommodate unforeseen situations.

What is the Purpose of Grant Administration?

grant administrator for small suburban communities

The key responsibilities in grant administration involve completing paperwork for reimbursement of project expenses. Typically only the expenses identified in the grant application - that begin after the grant is awarded - are eligible for reimbursement. The community will be required to follow the procurement requirements in the grant award when selecting consultants and contractors for the project. To receive reimbursement, the grant administrator will document the quantity and cost for each line item, matching the consultant and contractor’s invoices to the line items in the grant budget. The grant administrator will also submit reimbursement requests monthly and prepare quarterly progress reports to the grant agency.

Documentation required for reimbursement

Grant administration allows reimbursement of project expenses by meticulously documenting the quantity, unit cost, and requested reimbursement for each item. This task is complicated when there are changes during construction, as there often are. Whether it’s the contractors' bids that don’t match the estimated unit costs in the grant application or field changes, there are always changes.

When the project costs exceed the engineer’s estimate, an experienced grant administrator will know if the budget can be amended and how much. They will also have experience documenting project expenses when the consultant’s or contractor’s invoices do not match the budget items in the grant application. When there are changes in the field (such as changes in pricing, quantities, or materials), you will want an experienced grant administrator who will work with the grant agency for prior approval of these changes.

The grant administrator will prepare the paperwork documenting that the community has incurred the costs specified in the grant to the grant agency. The grant agency reviews the documentation submitted, approves the reimbursement request, and issues a reimbursement check.

An experienced grant administrator will closely monitor the budget throughout the project. This includes preventing scenarios in which a community seeks extra funding while having unutilized funds at their disposal.

an overwhelming amount of paperwork added to your job

Quarterly reports and progress updates

Submitting documentation on the project’s progress allows the grant agency to track the progress and milestones achieved during the previous quarter. Quarterly reports will also estimate the progress and expenses expected during the next quarter. These reports demonstrate the project will be completed during the required performance period.

During grant closeout, paperwork must be submitted, which may include final reimbursement requests, a final report, an operation and maintenance manual, and the completion of any additional forms required by the grant agency. These documents provide a comprehensive overview of the project's completion and outcomes.

Risks and Mistakes in Grant Administration

Mistakes in grant administration can put funding at risk. For example, a community that handled its grant administration did not provide sufficient documentation in their reimbursement requests. When a new reviewer discovered the issue, the community was asked to return $5,000,000. Though they resolved the issue, it was a stressful situation that could have been prevented with proper grant administration.

Not designating enough time for grant administration

The complexity and length of a project significantly impact the time required for grant administration. As milestones are reached, and the project progresses, the workload for grant administration increases. For more complex projects or individuals with less experience, it is recommended to set aside a full week each month for grant administration.

Inexperienced staff may face challenges administering a grant. They may make mistakes in completing the paperwork, leading to insufficient documentation and putting your reimbursement of project costs at risk. Additionally, inexperienced staff may struggle to navigate complex reporting requirements and may not prioritize tracking the remaining grant funds.

overwhelmed employees making grant administration mistakes

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Grant Administrator

When securing and managing grant funds, communities often find the technical reporting requirements daunting. Hiring a professional grant administrator can provide numerous benefits.

Discovering unused grant funds through professional assistance

One of the significant advantages of hiring a professional grant administrator is the knowledge and experience they possess to identify unused grant funds that may have been overlooked. In some cases, communities may find themselves in need of additional funding without realizing they already have untapped resources. An experienced grant administrator will track the available funds and help the community receive reimbursement for eligible project expenses. This not only maximizes the utilization of grants but also saves communities from unnecessary efforts of securing additional funding.

Avoiding misunderstandings and mismanagement due to staff changes

Staff changes are normal in any community, but they can often disrupt the smooth progress of grant administration. When inexperienced or new staff members take over the responsibility, misunderstandings, and mismanagement may arise, potentially jeopardizing the reimbursement of eligible project costs.

Hiring a professional grant administrator mitigates this risk by providing a consistent and reliable point of contact throughout the grant management process. An experienced grant administrator will know how to assemble the documentation and complete the required forms. They will provide a seamless and proficient grant administration process. This, in turn, enables the already busy staff to focus on their daily tasks knowing that grant administration is being expertly managed.

administrating FEMA grants with expertise

Potential jeopardy of a grant without a specialized grant administrator

A community without an experienced grant administrator is at a heightened risk of encountering problems. Inexperienced handling of grant administration can result in the loss of funds, as seen in the earlier example where a community was asked to return a substantial amount of money due to insufficient documentation.

Specialized grant administrators bring their knowledge and understanding of the grant agency's requirements, meeting all necessary paperwork and reporting obligations. They act as advocates, actively tracking the grant funds and minimizing the chances of mistakes or oversights that could negatively impact the funding.

Grant administration can be complicated, but you don't have to face it alone. We can help you navigate these complex requirements. It's time to leverage the expertise of a professional in grant administration, especially if you are applying for federal funding, such as a FEMA BRIC grant. Let’s schedule a chat; we’re here to help.


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