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With Emelie Lucas

Creating an airtight post-award process for your climate grant

Once you’ve won a grant and nailed down the details of your contract, the real work begins. Not only will you need to execute the proposed scope of work, but you’ll have to communicate regularly with the awarding agency, follow reporting requirements to the letter, and ensure your bookkeeping is in ship-shape. To balance all of these demands without anything slipping through the cracks, you need to establish efficient and reliable processes right from the start. 

For top-tier insights into post-award management, we talked to Emelie Lucas. Emelie is the Vice President of Grants for Climate Finance Solutions, and has managed over 800 grant applications over the course of her career. 

This is the seventh, and final, piece in a series we're publishing together with Climate Finance Solutions to provide tactical guidance to climate entrepreneurs around winning and managing grants.

1. Register to key systems and keep them current

In order to receive your funding, you’ll need to set yourself up on the relevant post-award platforms. Most of the platforms you’ll need to register with will have been listed in the solicitation guidance you applied to. These platforms will ask you for information like the account you want the funds dropped into, and documentation that proves you are who you say you are. These details need to be consistent with the information you provided in your application, and with what you’ve inputted in For example, if you have a parent company, but applied for the grant with a subsidiary or operating entity, the parent can’t be set up to draw the funds directly.

You might have to use multiple systems, with different expiration timelines, so create reminders for when you need to renew your registration. If you miss the deadline, and your account lapses, it may have implications across the entire web of interrelated systems. Remember, it’s much easier to renew an account when you’re a current user. 

And, as mentioned in a previous conversation with Emelie, you should open a separate bank account to manage your grant funds, which will make things much easier when it comes to reporting and in the event that you’re audited. There are a number of convenient, climate-friendly banks you can use for this purpose.

2. Reporting Timelines – Work backwards from your reporting deadlines

Your reporting requirements won’t always fall on the same timeline - the agency might ask you for a technical report every six months, and a financial report once a year. Being mindful of those deadlines is especially important if there are subcontractors involved in your project. In that case, you should start the reporting process about two months in advance of the due date to give yourself enough time to collect the necessary information from all relevant stakeholders. 

Make sure to create internal reminders for when you should begin collecting and drafting information for the technical and financial reporting deadlines. Additionally, create and send templates outlining what you'll need from your stakeholders well in advance of these deadlines. This proactive approach allows them to set their own internal reminders and adequately prepare the required information.

3. Ask for help  

Your Grant Management Specialist and Program Officer are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask them for clarification, extensions, and to get changes approved. They’re your link to the agency, so building a strong relationship with them will solidify your position when it comes to future solicitations. These key individuals will be identified at the time of the award and are typically listed within the award documentation itself. If you have any uncertainties about the project, feel free to contact them. Their role is not to judge but to provide assistance and approval.

4. Outsource your accounting 

The financial process around grants is complex, and can go wrong very quickly if you don’t set things up correctly from the beginning. Unless your bookkeeping/accounting team has done it before, they won’t be familiar with how financial reporting for government awards works, so you should hire someone with grant expertise to manage this part of the process, or at least help you set up the appropriate work and reporting streams. 

If you’re determined to keep it in-house, send your team the reporting requirements ahead of time to check whether they can handle it. You can also ask the Grant Management Specialist to send you resources for them to review. 

If you’re in the market for this kind of support, Enduring Planet’s new Fractional CFO platform could be for you!

5. Do your reports align? 

Technical and financial reporting are two distinct processes, but they must align. If, for instance, your technical report notes the completion of a significant field operation involving the deployment of several pods of crops, your financial report should correspondingly show expenditures related to personnel involved in the deployment, the purchase of pods, and the equipment used for planting. Any absence of personnel expenditures in the financial report for that period would raise a red flag. If you find that your financial report doesn’t reflect what happened in the technical report, then you’ll need to make the appropriate corrections with justifications. Making corrections to your project financials is possible, but you’ll need to justify the correction - especially if it’s been over 90 days since the expense was accrued. The agency will ask why you didn’t adjust it sooner and how you will prevent this situation from happening again. Corrections within 30 days of the posted expenditure are usually allowable, but may vary depending on the agency’s post-award guidance. 

6. Get your reports in on time

Being punctual with your reporting is not only important for building a good rapport with the federal agency, but it will also ensure that you get paid on time and can effectively manage your cash flow. Plus, with phased projects, like the SBIR, you won’t be able to apply to the next stage until you file your final progress report for the previous one, so make sure you’re on time and thorough.

7. Don’t try to do everything yourself

If you can enlist someone to handle post-award operations for you - whether that means appointing someone internally or bringing in a third party - do it. As a founder, you're spread far too thin to take it on alone, and you’ll end up missing something crucial.  

Emelie Lucas is the Vice President of Grants for Climate Finance Solutions. Emelie is a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) holding a Master's of Science in Research Administration and Compliance from City University of New York, boasts an impressive track record. With over a decade of expertise in grant management within the realm of public higher education, she has adeptly overseen more than 800 grant submissions, successfully securing a remarkable total of over $1 billion in funding from federal, foundation, and industry sources. Ms. Lucas's proficiency spans pre- and post-award grant processes, positioning her as a valuable asset in the grants domain.


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