How I “fell” into grants
Earlier this week I participated in a webinar hosted by a well-known federal grant trainer and she commented that everyone has a “how I fell into grants story.” That statement resonated with me because I have previously contemplated about how I “fell” into grants management when my career was on a completely different path.
Fourteen years ago I decided to work part-time for greater work-life balance. The job I landed was at Jerusalem House, a nonprofit in Atlanta that provides permanent supportive housing for low-income and homeless individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.
I was hired as a part-time, 20 hours per week grants manager. I’d never managed grants before but I was hired because I worked with numbers and was a stickler for detail in my previous marketing job.
It was while I was working at Jerusalem House that I first started connecting the dots on how to manage government grants. Here’s a quick rundown of my job back then:
- preparation of monthly reimbursement requests (all paper with some stacked 3-4 inches thick),
- monthly compilation of reports from the program team,
- management of two databases of client data and running queries for a host of grant reports,
- coordination and submission of grant applications,
- maintenance of all grant files,
- reading and summarizing separate OMB Circulars (A-110, A-122, etc), relevant laws, and grant agreements,
- preparation for site visits, and
- creating and learning how to interpret financial reports from working closely with the director of finance.
A new path
All these years later and I’m still working on grants, except now I help clients navigate their grants.
Over the years, I managed federal, foundation, and corporate grants that provide funding for programs that address homelessness, youth mentoring, global health initiatives, STEM programs, healthy out-of-school time model development, interactive computing research, and youth environmental education.
I went from just “working with the numbers” to becoming a go-to person for a host of grant-related topics. This is obviously not an innate skill. I became a go-to person because I read, interpret and summarize the regulations, guidance and award terms tied to those federal funds. I approach it like an investigation of sorts.
After Jerusalem House, I was the grants compliance officer at The Carter Center. It was my first time working on a non-housing grant. At the time, it was a life-of-project position which means that once that particular funding source ended, so did my position. Many grant-funded staff can relate to this.
Before I started this firm, I was in a senior role at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It was in that position that quite a few more dots were connected on how to efficiently and compliantly manage federal grants.
I certainly don’t know everything about federal grants and, dare I say, no one does. However, I use what I learned to help nonprofits apply for and manage the federal funding needed to expand their programs and services, hire much-needed staff, and jumpstart community development initiatives.