Grant Management Life Cycle

Grant Management Life Cycle

Securing a grant is far more complex than simply requesting and receiving funds. It involves a comprehensive, multi-step process that includes applying for, securing, and managing the funding, all while adhering to contractual terms and accounting regulations until the funds are fully utilized and the grant is officially closed. This intricate process, known as the grant management life cycle, is divided into three distinct phases: pre-award, award, and post-award. Each phase demands specific actions from both the recipient and the awarding agency, with the duration of these phases varying based on the nature and size of the funding and the unique aspects of the project.

Understanding the Grant Management Life Cycle

The grant management life cycle encompasses the entire process of managing grants, from seeking funding opportunities to closing out a grant upon project completion. This life cycle is divided into three stages, each requiring recipients to perform several essential tasks before progressing to the next phase.

  1. Pre-Award: This initial phase involves identifying potential funding sources, preparing and submitting grant applications, and negotiating the terms and conditions of the grant.
  2. Award: Once a grant is secured, this stage focuses on the formal acceptance of the grant, establishing project timelines, budgets, and compliance requirements.
  3. Post-Award: The final phase includes managing the funded project, adhering to reporting requirements, and ensuring proper financial management until the project is completed and the grant is closed.

Meticulous record-keeping and strict adherence to the grant terms and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are critical for successfully navigating the grant management life cycle. This is especially vital for nonprofits, which often rely on multiple grant awards from various sources to fund their operations.

To ensure compliance and efficiency, nonprofits benefit significantly from automated systems, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. These systems help organizations meet deadlines, allocate expenses correctly, and manage reporting requirements promptly and accurately. Some CRM systems are specifically designed for nonprofit needs, often referred to as Constituent Relationship Management systems, further streamlining grant management processes.

In essence, the grant management life cycle is a comprehensive framework that requires careful planning, diligent execution, and continuous monitoring to achieve successful outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Phases of the Grant Management Life Cycle: The grant management life cycle is divided into three critical phases: pre-award, award, and post-award. Each phase encompasses multiple steps that must be diligently completed to ensure the successful closure of a grant.
  2. Importance of Recordkeeping and Compliance: Nonprofits must maintain meticulous records and pay close attention to detail to comply with each grant’s unique terms and conditions, as well as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). This ensures transparency and accountability throughout the grant management process.
  3. Automation for Efficiency: Implementing a software system to automate tracking and reporting is essential for nonprofits managing multiple grants. This automation helps streamline processes, meet deadlines, and allocate expenses accurately, ensuring that all aspects of the grant management life cycle are handled efficiently.
  4. Collaborative Partnerships with Grantors: Nonprofits should view their grantors as collaborative partners. Each step in the grant management life cycle offers an opportunity to strengthen relationships and improve outcomes. By fostering open communication and collaboration, nonprofits can enhance their grant management practices and achieve greater success.

In summary, effective grant management requires a structured approach, meticulous recordkeeping, the use of automation tools, and a collaborative mindset to navigate the complexities of the grant management life cycle successfully.

Grant Management Life Cycle Explained

The grant management life cycle is a comprehensive process that spans from identifying a grant opportunity to concluding the funded project and accounting for all funds. While organizations may have variations in their specific procedures, the typical grant management life cycle includes three main stages:

  1. Pre-Award Phase: This initial stage focuses on researching grant opportunities, planning and preparing proposals, and completing applications. Nonprofits must thoroughly understand the requirements and objectives of potential grants to craft compelling proposals that align with grantor priorities.
  2. Award Phase: Upon acceptance of a grant application, the grantor and grantee finalize any negotiations regarding funding amounts and terms. This phase culminates in the formal awarding of the grant, establishing a contractual agreement between the grantor and the grantee.
  3. Post-Award Phase: This final stage involves the implementation of the funded project. It includes ongoing monitoring, reporting, evaluating progress, and ultimately, the closeout of the grant. Adherence to reporting requirements and proper financial management are critical to ensure compliance and successful project completion.

Both public and private grants are available to support a wide range of activities.

  • Public Grants: Administered by governmental bodies or agencies, these grants are funded through tax revenues or other public funds. They aim to support initiatives that align with government policies or advance specific public objectives.
  • Private Grants: Offered by private organizations, these grants are often funded by wealthy individuals, families, or corporations. They can also be crowdsourced through fundraising efforts by special-interest groups, charities, or other organizations. In 2022, individual Americans donated $499 billion, corporate giving reached $21 billion, and foundation giving rose to $105.21 billion, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Both types of grants provide crucial financial support for educational initiatives, medical research, public works projects, the arts, and other causes. Most grants are competitive, with multiple applicants vying for the available funds. On average, only about one in every ten grant proposals is accepted by grantors.

Understanding and effectively managing the grant management life cycle is essential for organizations seeking to secure and utilize grant funding successfully. Through diligent research, meticulous planning, and robust project management, nonprofits can maximize their chances of obtaining and effectively managing grant resources.

Pre-Award Phase

The pre-award phase of the grant management life cycle is more complex than it may initially appear. Nonprofit organizations that excel in securing funding invest significant effort in researching and planning their projects, ensuring their objectives align closely with those of the grantor.


During the pre-award phase, nonprofit organizations identify potential grant opportunities that align with their mission and goals, develop detailed proposals, and submit their applications to the relevant funding bodies.

Steps Involved

  1. Preliminary Planning: Nonprofits must undertake thorough planning and due diligence to ascertain their fundraising needs and evaluate whether they possess the internal resources to manage grants effectively. Key questions to consider include:
    • Do we have a clear funding objective?
    • Do we know our revenue projections?
    • How many volunteers and staff do we have?
    • Will this funding help us achieve our mission?

    Proper planning prepares nonprofits to seek specific grants that address their revenue gaps.

  2. Research Grant Opportunities: Identifying grants that align with the nonprofit’s mission, goals, and capabilities is critical. Nonprofits should carefully vet opportunities to understand the grantors’ goals, requirements, and criteria, ensuring they do not waste time on ineligible or unsuitable grants. For government grants, starting with the search tool is advisable.
  3. Develop a Proposal: Once an opportunity is identified, the nonprofit creates a grant proposal. This typically involves outlining the proposed project or program, detailing expected outcomes, providing a proposed budget, and demonstrating how the project aligns with the grantor’s requirements and objectives. This process can take weeks. For many government grants, organizations must first register with and meet additional registration requirements specified by the grant-making body, such as on the System for Award Management or eRA Commons websites.If the same project proposal is used for multiple grant applications, it must be modified to meet the specific requirements of each grant. Implementing a system to track required documentation and deadlines is crucial to avoid missing submission dates.
  4. Review and Submit Application: After completing and thoroughly reviewing the proposal, the nonprofit submits it along with the application to the grantor within the specified time frame, either through a website, portal, or email. Applications may include supporting documentation and credentials as required by the grantor.


The pre-award phase is crucial because the quality of the proposal and application largely determines whether a grantor will provide funding. Grantors perform detailed assessments of the project’s feasibility, the organization’s capacity to execute it, and the alignment of the project with their mission and priorities. High-quality proposals that clearly articulate the project’s goals, outcomes, and alignment with the grantor’s objectives significantly increase the chances of securing funding.

Award Phase

The award phase is the briefest of the three grant management life cycle phases, beginning when a grantor notifies a nonprofit organization of a grant award.


The award phase starts when the funding organization reviews applications and informs applicants of their grant status. The grantor then collaborates with the recipients to finalize the legalities of the funding agreement and negotiate any specific terms. Once the grantee accepts the award through a legally binding contract, they receive the funds and can commence the project.

Steps Involved

  1. Notification of Award/Non-Award: After reviewing all applications, the grantor decides which applicants will receive funding and notifies them with a Notice of Award. Applicants who are not selected are also informed and typically provided with feedback to improve future applications.
  2. Review the Grant Offer: Nonprofits should carefully examine grant offers or award letters from funding organizations. These documents detail the grant amount, duration, terms, and any specific conditions or requirements.
  3. Negotiate Details as Necessary: If the proposal is successful, there may be negotiations around the grant terms and conditions. Some grants have fixed terms, while others allow for flexibility. Nonprofits might need to clarify budgetary restrictions, expected outcomes, project milestones, and evaluation criteria. This negotiation is a critical planning opportunity to align project details, timelines, and tracking/reporting mechanisms with the grantor’s expectations.
  4. Accept the Grant: Successful applicants must formally accept the grant, usually by signing an acceptance letter that commits them to fulfilling the funding terms and conditions.
  5. Receive Funds: Funds are disbursed either in full or in stages based on the agreed terms. Nonprofits should avoid depositing all funds into a single account, especially if specific portions are earmarked for particular uses, such as purchasing supplies or paying consultants. Segregating funds into special accounts ensures proper financial management and compliance during audits.


Being awarded a grant is a significant milestone, but the activities in the award phase are equally critical. These activities establish a collaborative partnership between the grantee and grantor, laying the groundwork for project success. This phase sets clear expectations for what will be achieved, the timeline, and the metrics for success, ensuring both parties are aligned for effective project execution.

Post-Award Phase

Winning a grant is an exhilarating moment for any nonprofit, but it marks the beginning of a demanding journey. The post-award phase is where the real work begins, as the organization puts its proposal into action and strives to achieve the desired, measurable outcomes.


The post-award phase starts when a nonprofit begins utilizing its awarded funds to meet the grant’s objectives. During this phase, the organization is responsible for meeting all administrative, financial, and programmatic reporting requirements. Continuous project monitoring is essential, and the phase concludes when all funds are accounted for and closeout activities are completed. Effective administration, transparent communication, strict compliance, and meticulous recordkeeping are crucial throughout this period.

Steps Involved

  1. Implement and Manage:
    • Project Execution: Initiate the project or program as outlined in the proposal, manage the budget, and ensure delivery according to the agreed plan. Regularly refer to the proposal and negotiated terms to stay on track but remain adaptable to changes and new insights. Justify any deviations from the original plan to the grantor’s compliance representative.
  2. Monitor and Report:
    • Regular Updates: Provide periodic updates and progress reports to the grantor, including financial and programmatic reports. Detail progress toward goals, milestones achieved, and budget adherence. Grantors may also conduct on-site visits with project managers and staff.
    • Financial and Programmatic Reports: Compile comprehensive reports covering the project’s financial status and performance. Respond promptly to audit requests. Many nonprofits use automated tools to simplify compliance reporting for leadership, auditors, and accounting teams.
  3. Undergo Evaluations:
    • Project Assessment: At the project’s conclusion, the grantor evaluates its impact and effectiveness. This is an opportunity for nonprofits to gain insights and improve future proposals and projects.
  4. Close Out the Project:
    • Final Steps: Complete all project activities, perform financial reconciliation, and submit final reports to the grantor. Ensure all grant requirements are met. Share final results, challenges, successes, best practices, and other key takeaways with the grantor. Effective tracking and recordkeeping are crucial at this stage.
  5. Follow Up and Maintain Relationships:
    • Ongoing Engagement: After closing out the grant, maintain a strong relationship with the grantor. Provide regular updates on the project’s lasting impact, share media exposure, and publicly acknowledge the grantor’s contribution in press releases and communications. This helps build a foundation for future funding opportunities.


The post-award phase is where the majority of work on a funded project takes place, often spanning several years. Meticulous recordkeeping and reporting enable a nonprofit to demonstrate compliance with the grant’s terms and conditions. Analyzing reports and data during this phase is invaluable for improving the organization’s financial health, operational efficiency, and chances of securing future grants. This phase not only ensures the successful execution of the current project but also strengthens the organization’s overall capacity and credibility.

Manage Your Grant Life Cycle with NetSuite

For nonprofit organizations managing a single grant, it might be feasible to use spreadsheets or charts to manually track expenses, meet deadlines, and generate reports. However, as an organization grows and secures multiple grants, each with its own unique terms and conditions, the need for a more sophisticated solution becomes evident. Implementing software to automate the grant management life cycle is essential.

NetSuite’s Social Impact program offers a comprehensive suite of cloud software designed specifically for nonprofits of all sizes. This program enhances operational efficiency and supports mission growth through a variety of features, including financial management, accounting, reporting, financial segmentation, key performance indicators (KPIs), program tracking, and constituent relationship management (CRM). NetSuite Nonprofit consolidates all relevant grant milestones into a single, unified system, streamlining all three phases of the grant management life cycle and facilitating cross-functional collaboration and visibility.

Managing the grant management life cycle manually—using Excel spreadsheets or paper forms—is both time-consuming and prone to errors. This cycle involves a range of complex tasks, from identifying funding opportunities to tracking expenses, budgets, and compliance with reporting requirements. Specialized software tools like NetSuite can automate and streamline these tasks across all three phases of the grant management life cycle, from initial planning to final closeout. By reducing the manual workload, these tools allow nonprofit management to focus strategically on advancing their mission and achieving their goals.

Key Benefits of Using NetSuite for Grant Management:

  1. Financial Management and Accounting: NetSuite provides robust financial management and accounting features that enable nonprofits to manage their finances efficiently. Automated processes reduce the risk of errors and ensure accurate financial tracking and reporting.
  2. Comprehensive Reporting: With advanced reporting capabilities, NetSuite helps nonprofits generate detailed and customized reports. These reports can be tailored to meet the specific requirements of different grantors, ensuring compliance and transparency.
  3. Financial Segmentation and KPIs: NetSuite allows organizations to segment their financial data and monitor key performance indicators. This segmentation enables better financial analysis and decision-making, helping nonprofits to optimize their resources.
  4. Program Tracking and CRM: Constituent relationship management (CRM) is crucial for nonprofits. NetSuite’s CRM capabilities help manage donor relationships, track program outcomes, and maintain comprehensive records of interactions and engagements.
  5. Unified System for Grant Milestones: By consolidating all grant-related information into a single system, NetSuite ensures that nonprofits have a clear overview of their grant milestones. This unified approach enhances visibility and coordination across the organization.

Streamlining the Grant Management Life Cycle: NetSuite simplifies the grant management life cycle by automating various tasks and providing real-time insights. Nonprofits can efficiently manage the pre-award, award, and post-award phases, ensuring that all deadlines are met, budgets are adhered to, and reporting requirements are fulfilled. This level of automation not only saves time but also reduces the administrative burden, allowing nonprofit leaders to focus on strategic initiatives that drive their mission forward.

In conclusion, as nonprofits grow and handle multiple grants, adopting a specialized software solution like NetSuite becomes indispensable. By automating and streamlining the grant management life cycle, NetSuite empowers nonprofits to operate more efficiently, comply with grant requirements, and ultimately achieve greater impact in their communities.

Grant Management Life Cycle FAQs

What are the critical steps in the grant management process?

The grant management life cycle consists of three primary phases: pre-award, award, and post-award. Each phase encompasses multiple steps. The process begins with a nonprofit examining its needs and researching funding opportunities, continues through the submission and acceptance of grant applications, and concludes with the closeout of the grant after the funded project is complete or the money has been fully utilized.

What are the key components of grant management?

Effective grant life cycle management includes seven key components:

  1. Identifying and Assessing Grant Opportunities: Researching and identifying funding opportunities that align with the organization’s mission and goals.
  2. Developing a Proposal: Crafting a compelling proposal that meets the grantor’s requirements and effectively communicates the project’s objectives and impact.
  3. Performing Contract Management: Managing the legal and financial aspects of the grant agreement.
  4. Managing and Reporting on Finances: Ensuring accurate financial tracking, budgeting, and reporting to maintain transparency and accountability.
  5. Implementing and Monitoring Program Operations: Overseeing the execution of the project to ensure it stays on track and meets the outlined goals.
  6. Ensuring Compliance: Adhering to all grant terms, conditions, and regulatory requirements.
  7. Managing Relationships: Maintaining strong communication and collaboration with the grantor and other stakeholders.

How can technology help with the grant management life cycle?

Leveraging technology can significantly enhance the grant management process by:

  • Automating Administrative Processes: Reducing manual tasks and increasing efficiency.
  • Enhancing Collaboration and Communication: Facilitating better coordination among team members and stakeholders.
  • Improving Financial Management and Compliance: Ensuring accurate tracking of funds, timely reporting, and adherence to budgetary guidelines.
  • Optimizing Grant Management Efforts: Streamlining all phases of the grant life cycle to improve overall effectiveness and impact.

Why is it important to understand the grant management life cycle?

Understanding the grant management life cycle is crucial for nonprofits as it enables them to:

  • Effectively Navigate the Grant Process: From identifying opportunities to project closeout.
  • Develop Strong Proposals: That increase the likelihood of securing funding.
  • Implement Projects in Alignment with Grant Requirements: Ensuring successful execution and compliance.
  • Demonstrate Impact to Grantors: By showcasing measurable outcomes and accountability. This comprehensive understanding maximizes the chances of securing funding, managing grant money efficiently, and demonstrating the value and impact of funded projects.

What are four tips for responsible grant management?

  1. Establish Clear Communication Channels: Maintain regular contact with the grantor throughout the grant period to ensure alignment, address concerns, and provide timely updates.
  2. Develop a Robust System for Financial Tracking and Reporting: Ensure accurate and transparent use of grant funds, timely submission of financial reports, and adherence to budgetary guidelines.
  3. Maintain Meticulous Documentation: Keep detailed records of all grant-related activities, including project milestones, expenses, and outcomes, to support compliance, auditing, and future reporting requirements.
  4. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning and Improvement: Regularly evaluate the grant management process, identify lessons learned, and implement necessary adjustments to enhance future grant seeking and management efforts.

These practices help nonprofits build trust with grantors, ensure compliance, and improve their overall grant management capabilities.

Grant Management Life Cycle
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Grant Management Life Cycle
Explore the critical steps in the grant management life cycle. Improve your nonprofit's funding success and compliance.
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ABJ Cloud Solutions
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