The grant process is a linear lifecycle that starts at creating the funding opportunity, applying, making award decisions, and successfully awarding the grant.
The specific actions along the lifecycle are grouped into three main phases. Each of the three phases has its own page that provides a more detailed look at the process:
- Pre-Award Phase – Funding Opportunities and Application Review
- Award Phase – Award Decisions and Notifications
- Post Award – Implementation, Reporting, and Closeout
Grant Pre-Award Phase
Application Review Process
Once the application submission deadline passes, the awarding team gets to work reviewing the applications. The specific process for reviewing an application varies based on the type of grant you applied for. The generally applicable steps are as follows:
- Initial screening to ensure application is complete
- Programmatic review and assessment of the substance of the applications
- Financial review of proposed budgets
- Award decision and announcement
Initial Screening of Application
In the initial screening, sometimes called a basic minimum requirements review, the grant team will check each proposal to make sure it includes all the requirements to qualify for the grant. What the specific requirements are will vary for each grant, but common elements are eligibility, whitepaper, stage of development and budget attachment. The key for the initial screening is that the grants team is looking for the presence of the required element, not the quality of the element. If your application does not meet all of these basic requirements, then your application is likely to be rejected.
Programmatic Review and Assessment of Applications
The remaining applications undergo a thorough review and assessment for their technical and programmatic quality and competency. Again, this varies depending on the type of grant you applied for. We plan to open up the review process to the community later and allow for public voting.
A common format is a peer review panel of at least three people, who assess and score each application independently. Then, the peer review panel will convene to discuss the merits of the applications. A series of policies and assurances are in place to maintain a fair, objective process based on material facts in the applications and without conflicts of interest (COI) for the peer reviewers. The expanse grants staff monitor and participate in this review process.
While an application may have technical and programmatic quality, your budget also needs to be well-documented and realistic. The expanse grants team conduct a cost analysis, reviewing each line item and the overall proposed budget to ensure compliance with statutory and financial regulations. Additionally, the financial review also factors in the total budget for the grant program in relation to how much money each application requests.
Grant Award Phase
Once we completes the application review process, the Award Phase begins. The final award decisions rest solely in the hands of the expanse grants staff with fiduciary responsibility and legal authority to enter binding agreements. Expanse Grants staff review and make award recommendations based on the programmatic and financial reviews of the applications. These recommendations are reviewed by a series of levels in the agencies to ensure high-quality, fair, and unbiased decisions.
Notice of Award
Once the final award decisions are made, the awarding agency sends a Notice of Award (NOA) to the entities selected for funding. The NOA is the official, legally binding issuance of the award. When you or your organization accepts the grant (i.e., by signing the grant agreement or by drawing down funds) you become legally obligated to carry out the full terms and conditions of the grant.
Grant Post Award Phase
The post award phase comprises a significant amount of work over the duration of the award dates, which includes implementing the grant, reporting progress, and completing the closeout requirements. The Expanse Grants team that makes the award to you is also there to assist and ensure you or your organization complies with the grant terms and conditions. Your job is to faithfully and diligently carry out the grant program.
The agency monitors your progress and expenditures through various programmatic and financial reporting procedures, as well as using performance metrics per the grant agreement. While the majority of award recipients carry out the grants ethically and efficiently, these monitoring procedures are necessary to maintain transparency and to prevent fraud and abuse.
The awarding team typically has a grants management officer and program officer designated to each grant, both of which you will work with throughout the life of the grant. They are the ones who will review reports and conduct site visits, so we recommend you build an effective line of communication with these staff members. It is better to prevent issues by talking to your grant and program officers to clarify grant terms or expectations than it is to submit a report and wait for problems to be identified and recourse initiated.
The specific reporting requirements, schedules, and systems can vary for each grant, so please check with your grant management officer for the grant terms and conditions carefully for this information.
The closeout step is where the grant process ends. In order to complete a closeout, you, the award recipient, must submit the final financial and programmatic reports. The receipt must submit all financial, performance, and other reports required under the grant within 90 days after the grant award expires or is terminated. The Expanse Grants staff will review these reports to ensure compliance will all the grant terms and conditions as well as to make sure you spent all the funds appropriately.
How do I know when a grant is officially over? The Expanse Grants team will confirm that the recipient has completed all of the required grant work and all the applicable administrative tasks. Until the Expanse Grants team confirms this, you are still responsible for fulfilling all the terms of the grant. The closeout process can take several months if there are financial concerns or questions to reconcile. Also, if you or your organization acquired any property using grant funding, the closeout step is when you must make sure to handle this property exactly as the grant stipulates, which includes completing the appropriate reports on this property. Lastly, you are typically required to retain your grant records for at least three years from the date of the final expenditure report.