You've had an external funding grant approved, congratulations! Now the hard part begins, delivering what we said you would do.
- Read your offer letter carefully, and understand the requirements the funder has
- Develop sound systems for your project, including appropriate record keeping systems
- Submit timely claims and notify the funder if there are any changes to your project
- Publicise your project whenever you can
- Think about your exit strategy and project evaluation
Shortly after finding out your project has been approved, you will receive a formal offer letter or contract. You need to examine this carefully and make sure you understand what your organisation is signing up to.
You should note the following:
- Finance - Be clear on level and type of expenditure the funder anticipates, including minimum levels of match funding. Offer letters are normally clear on what items are ineligible. Spending will be profiled by quarter/ year, make sure your comfortable with this.
- Milestones, outputs and outcomes - make sure your happy with these, as many funders now pay on results, so make sure they are achievable.
- Other requirements - The funder may have specific requirements on procurement or publicity. Additionally if your sub-contracting or working in partnership, you may need service level agreements or other contracts.
- You should have a named officer at the funding organisation dealing with your project; make a note of this for future use
The first job is to ensure your project fits into your organisational financial systems. If this is a Council project, speak to your relevant finance officer, and arrange for the project to have its own unique cost centre. For Council capital schemes, you will need to complete a CP3 form.
You should continue to develop project systems. As a bare minimum you will need a delivery plan, clarity on roles and responsibilities, a risk register and a project steering group or board. If this is a Council project, you should have a Project Initiation Document and be following the Performing Together systems (hyperlink.) Further information can be found on the intranet, along with relevant templates, guidance and forms.
Investigate the audit and inspection requirements for the funding regime - This will tell you the types of information you would need to produce for an audit, and if your aware of this, you can be collecting information from the start. Best practice is to have a single finance file for the project, including copies of all invoices and supporting financial information for each claim. You may also need to keep tender, publicity or beneficiary records. Your offer letter or contract will tell you how long documents need to be kept, after the project has finished.
Reporting and communication
You will need to submit financial claims or progress reports on a periodic basis. Aim to work back from the claims deadline, allowing time for collating information and completing the claim. Ideally someone who hasn't prepared the claim should check and sign it. For Council projects, your finance officer should verify the claim against TASK, and the Head of Finance or one of the Assistant Heads of Finance should certify the claims.
During delivery, if your project is exceeding or falling behind on outputs or under spending or overspending, you should discuss this with the funder at the earliest opportunity.
You should take every opportunity to promote the work of your project, where necessary ensuring you acknowledge support of funding bodies in any publicity materials.
You should give consideration to your continuation/ exit strategy for the project. Most sources of funding are short term, and in most cases, funders will not provide funding for more of the same. Give consideration to how the project needs to be taken forward at the end of external funding, some options include;
- Ending the project
- Seeking further external funding for some or all of it
- Existing agencies take on some of the delivery with mainstream funding
- Some elements of the project that are new or innovative are spun out into a project of their own, and funding is sought for these options.
It is a good idea to think about exit strategies as soon as possible. One way to help inform this is project evaluation. Evaluating your project will help you know what has worked well, and what hasn't.
For further information
Contact the relevant funding organisation. For council projects contact the relevant finance officers or external funding officers detailed on the intranet.