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  • Writer's pictureMelody B. Hernandez

Congratulations, you got the grant! Now what?

Getting that grant award letter is one of the best feelings ever.

The days, weeks, months, maybe even years of hard work have paid off and the Benjamins are rolling in. What a rush!

More importantly, the work of your organization can continue, or even grow, as a result of the funding. You might be tempted to quickly sign the grant agreement and start spending that money ASAP.

Before you do, it's important to take some time and think about grant compliance.

The grant money that you receive must be spent in accordance with the specifics within the grant proposal and grant agreement. Failure to do so has some potentially devastating consequences. You could lose your funding, be required to pay back any funds that have already been disbursed, destroy a relationship with the funder, and/or earn your organization a reputation as a "high-risk" grantee.

I have heard a number of stories from clients regarding misspent grant funds and a large number involve an over-eager employee (or even volunteer) who thought that they could reappropriate funds. It is important to be clear with anyone who is tasked with spending grant funds that they must spend the funds as directed. Whether a small, $500 grant meant for buying t-shirts for an after school program, or a $1 million grant towards a new library on a college campus: the funds are expected to be spent how your organization promised.

You cannot suddenly buy backpacks instead of t-shirts, or build a science lab instead of a library.

It does happen that circumstances change and impact the budget, or otherwise prevent your organization from spending the funds in the anticipated manner. In this case, get permission first to make the necessary changes. For example, if you were granted $500 for new t-shirts and you got a great deal and they only ended up costing your organization $300, ask the funder if you can use the remaining $200 for backpacks. They might say no and ask that you return the funds, but often they will say yes.

Whatever the amount or purpose of the grant, be sure that everyone involved is clear about the parameters of the funding. Depending on the size and scope of you work, you may want to schedule monthly or quarterly team meetings to ensure that everyone understands what grant funds are coming in and where they are earmarked to be spent.

If your organization could use some assistance with grant compliance, you can always schedule a training (with myself or a similar presenter) to breakdown this complex topic in a way that addresses the specifics of your organization, staff, board, and supporters.

To schedule a presentation, or determine if this could be helpful for your nonprofit, email me at

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