Grants are a form of financing that is awarded to organizations or individuals to carry out various projects with no obligation for repayment of the funding. Multiple foundations, non-profit organizations, SMEs, and social entities from around the world compete to secure grants to fund their projects and programs. Young organizations or those requesting grant support for the first time find this process especially difficult. Thus, developing and implementing efficient grant management practices could prove pivotal to their success and overall longevity. In this context, the breakdown of the grant process allows for an easier understanding of what actions to take at all stages/substages of grant management.
What are grants?
Grants are a form of financial assistance that is awarded to one or several beneficiaries that form consortiums to carry out an action or to implement a work program that is funded independently or under dedicated development strategies with no obligation for repayment.
The achieved outcomes usually become the property of the beneficiary. Foundations, non-profit organizations, (local) public authorities, SMEs, social entities (e.g., universities), and natural persons are just some examples of grant beneficiaries.
It is worth mentioning that grant-awarding frameworks follow specific steps and procedures such as the publication of a call for proposals, the drafting of a shortlist, and the signing of contracts. Some donors may adjust the framework on a case-to-case basis. For instance, in the context of the European Union, the calls for proposals are by default restricted which means that only those actors meeting the initial requirements can be shortlisted and further invited to submit a full application.
For more information on the EU grant-awarding procedures take a look at our PRAG 2021 overview
What is a grant process?
The grant process is comprised of all the stages/substages of grant management that starts with project inception and ends with implementation or evaluation. It follows a linear lifecycle along three major stages: pre-award, award, and post-award. Each stage has its unique sets of actions to be followed by the participating actors (e.g., awarding agency, applicant, beneficiary) within a designated timeframe. The duration of the pre-award and award stages usually ranges between 4 and 12 months but can also be up to 24 or even 36 months while the post-award stage could last for up to 5 years. The timing aspects and the associated actions may differ due to unique situational circumstances or participation requirements.
Fig.1. Major stages of a grant process
Source: Grants.gov Program Management Office – The Grant Lifecycle
Grant process breakdown
Awarding agencies and grant seekers always seek to implement efficient grant management practices to improve success rates and the associated development impacts. Thus, breaking the grant process down into stages and substages makes it easier to identify and select the necessary actions that require (additional) resources or incremental improvements. This is a general breakdown of a grant process:
Fig.2. Key stages and actions in the grant process
Source: RBW Strategy – A Breakdown of Each Stage in the Grant Lifecycle