Establishing a Grant Office at a Healthcare Organization
The decision to establish (or restructure) a grant office is one that requires human and capital resources as well as diligence in execution. So, it’s crucial to the ongoing success of your grant office that there’s clarity within the organization around:
- Why you need a grant office
- What responsibilities your grant office should have
- How your grant office should be structured
- Who needs to be involved
- Where the grant office should live within your organization
In this article, I’ll explore each of these five factors and provide you with two models for structuring a grant office.
Why Establish a Grant Office?
Before your organization begins to discuss the structure and activities of your ideal grant office, you need to understand the current and historical reasons for establishing a grant office.
Your organization may be interested in creating a centralized grant office because:
- Grant-seeking is a new organizational endeavor
- Grant funding is becoming a more significant revenue stream
- Preparing proposals has become cumbersome or disjointed across the organization
- Grant management has become overwhelming
- Funders have raised concern over your organization’s ability to perform activities or manage grant funds
Understanding the rationale for establishing a grant office early in the process will help you define the right structure and scope for your office.
Grant Office Responsibilities
Generally, the grant office establishes policies and procedures for all programs within the organization for:
- Application and budget preparation
- Application submission
- Award management
- Financial and programmatic reporting
However, the responsibilities of your grant office will largely depend on the type of funding you’re seeking. For instance, federal funding will have the most requirements largely because of the added layer of transparency and reporting necessary. So, the scope of your office will likely be greater if you plan to apply for multiple federal grants.
Structure: Basic and Full-Service Grant Office Models
As you look at getting your grant office started, you can begin with one person with the caveat that you have a low volume of applications and few awards to manage. By the time you have a large multi-year award or you’re submitting more than four government applications per year, you should have more than a single-person grant office.
The following tables provide two grant office models—basic and full-service—and show where each grant cycle activity could live within an organization.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to grant management. Factors such as the type and purpose of funding you’re applying for as well as your organizational structure play a big role in determining the scope and structure of your grant office. So, consider all the activities in the grant cycle, and determine which of those activities should be handled by the finance, program, or grant office.
Who Needs to be Onboarded: Grant Cycle Roles
Common roles that exist within the grant cycle include:
- Director: Ensures strategic alignment for all opportunities pursued
- Assistant Director or Application and Reporting Manager: Coordinates the proposal and report development with program staff
- Sourcing and Database Coordinator: Identifies funding opportunities and produces reports showing what funds you’ve applied for and what you’ve been awarded
- Grant Analyst: Assists in the interpretation of grant guidance and notice of award to ensure all requirements are met; may also help with budget development and compliance
- Writer: Completes applications, continuations, and narratives for interim progress reports
- Post-Award Project Manager: Handles award and financial grant management
- Accountant: Works with the GM to submit financial reports
- Administrative Assistant: Schedules submissions and completes all standard forms
Depending on the scope and structure of your grant office, some of these roles may live outside of the office, span multiple departments, or be outsourced or contracted.
Grant Office Placement Within an Organization
If you’re in a hospital or health system with a foundation, it may make the most sense for your grant office to live in the foundation. However, I’ve also seen healthcare organizations set up their grant office in the strategic planning office, population health division, and community outreach department.
When deciding where your grant office should live within your organization, make sure to consider the following factors.
- Type of incoming funding: What type of funding are you applying for, and what requirements do you have to meet?
- Responsibilities of the grant office: Will the grant office handle pre- and post-award activities but not accounting, or will they mange the full cycle with their own accountant?
- Communication with organizational leadership: Without the unconditional, unanimous support of organizational leadership, your grant office isn’t going to flourish. Executive buy-in provides a bridge between leadership and the grants office to ensure alignment between the organization’s goals and strategy and your program funding.
- Close relationship with key organizational functions, such as programmatic leadership, finance, human resources, legal and compliance department, and marketing.
- Open dialogue channel: There’s a lot that goes into proposal development, budget development, and post-award project ramp. Open dialogue channels with supportive departments help to ensure you get the right pricing, implement within the appropriate timeframe, and all within budget.