Whitney Gray, GPC

Recently, I conducted a pre-submission peer review on several federal grant proposals from organizations located in rural Kansas. The first question each organization had to respond to was, “Describe your geographical/service area.” Each organization named the counties served in their respective service areas and then went on to describe just how ‘rural’ their area is. While each applicant organization had some aspects of serving rural areas of Kansas in common, they each approached the description differently. Some of the descriptions included the total square mileage contained within their service boundaries; others referenced the state’s definitions that place a county on a continuum of ‘frontier’ to ‘urban’; others pointed out the distance in hours to the nearest major city. Ultimately, each applicant described their geographical service area with the purpose of convincing federal reviewers that Organization XYZ was the only provider of important services for its region.

We live in a world where, as consumers, we can purchase literally anything with a quick search and a few clicks. The rise of online shopping and next-day delivery has made it easier than ever to go on a shopping splurge without seriously weighing the costs and benefits of the newest gadget or the impact it will have on our personal finances. When a grant is awarded to an organization, the program staff may enthusiastically load up their online shopping carts with everything outlined in the grant budget. There is certainly a time and place for efficient procurement of approved supplies and services. In fact, federal law requires grantees minimize the time elapsing between the receipt of grant funds and the payment for allowable expenditures (2 CFR 200.305(b)). It is important for program staff to quickly implement the grant award, and typically, this means doing a little shopping.

During my years as the staff grant writer/developer/manager at a small liberal arts university, I had the privilege of working with exceptionally talented faculty members who were passionate about developing their programs with grant funding. I also had the privilege of working with executive level administrators skilled at driving the strategic plan and maintaining the daily operations of the university. Neither stakeholder group had the time or inclination to wade through the minutia of funder requirements. That was my job. Described below are some of the strategies I found effective for educating key personnel and organization administrators about the “shall” and “shall not” of funder requirements.