Taking Ownership and Building Sustainability into the Post Award Phase

The post-award phase begins when a successful applicant, known as a recipient/grantee, expends awarded funds and starts work on achieving the outcome(s) of the grant. This phase encompasses ongoing monitoring of the funded project.The post-award phase concludes after the period of performance ends and closeout activities are completed and all deliverables and financial reports have been submitted to the grant maker.

While the grant may be ‘closed’ this does not signal the end of the partnership between the grant maker and the grantee. This phase solidifies the joint commitment on an issue by the grant maker and grantee. Moreover, it allows previous lessons learned to influence not only their thinking but future planning on the topic.


Building a sustainability framework

In the grant making sector, sustainability refers to the continued impact that can be expected after a grant ends.   There are a several key principals to ensure sustainability:

  • The most critical principal is the need for a shared vision between a grant maker and a grantee. If a grant is not aligned to a prospective grantee’s overall goals, the conclusion of the grant may equate to the conclusion of the work.   
  • The second principal is about the beneficiary community and their public will. Take the example of a grantee spearheading a vaccination drive during a meningitis outbreak to a rural community that shuns vaccines on religious grounds. If the community does not understand why the vaccine is necessary and how they will benefit, the vaccination drive will not succeed, and subsequent grant makers will not allocate resources to the initiative. Grantees must be able to address the component of public will as part of their proposals. In instances where there is no public will methods need to be identified through which they will bring the community on board.
  • The third principal, cross sector engagement, takes a step back from the community and looks at the individuals and entities in the wider ecosystem that will be critical for long term impact. Generally, this includes bringing in the private sector, which through its corporate social responsibility has significant resources; as well as the public sector which is able to provide man power and formulate policies that can facilitate long term success after a grant comes to an end.
  • Cutting across all three principles is the need for clear success metrics. While improving maternal and child health may be a shared vision, success for the grantee might be increasing the number women that give birth in a health facility while that of the grant maker might be 100% attendance at pre and post-natal visits. Clear success metrics will also ensure that there is one message that is being used to garner public will and messaging used to bring in the public and private sector partners on board and continually engaged long after a grant has ended.

The grant making process can be complex, requiring caution and mindfulness. The cycle which consists of three phases contains each with specific requirements that must be completed by both the grant maker and the potential grantee.

Measuring Impact and Communicating Change

Measuring impact of any program or cause is extremely important. At the most fundamental level, philanthropists want their grantees to be accountable. There are several methods to measuring impact within philanthropic landscape with the most common being evaluation assessments, Return on Investments (ROIs) and systems thinking. 

  • Evaluation: Evaluation is the most established method of assessing results in the development sector as it helps the philanthropist, the organization and other stakeholders gather information on whether or not an intervention has worked and the reason behind the results. Types of evaluations include goals vs. outcomes, process evaluation, experimental design, and cluster evaluation.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): The ROI approach is very appealing to philanthropists who believe that measurement is a critical goal and of the upmost importance. ROI creates an environment for the production of blueprints that can be replicated by many donors and organizations in the development field. However, one disadvantage of this method is that it may not always use a long enough time period when assessing impact. Additionally, many complex issues philanthropy aims to solve simply does not have enough information available to be able to create the equations and formulas that provide reliable and actionable answers. Therefore, ROI calculations often rely on a series of assumptions.
  • Systems Thinking: Systems thinking begins at the broadest level of a multifaceted problem and attempts to identify all the major underlying factors. It then assesses which interventions offer the greatest potential for changing the whole system. Whatever method is adopted when attempting to measure impact, it is vital that philanthropists hinge their expectations on their context in which the interventions are being implementing order to gain realistic and factual results from the evaluation process. The difficulty of measuring effectiveness and impact can be one of the greatest frustrations that many philanthropists face. However, it is critical for sustained philanthropic engagement. “One of the hallmarks of thoughtful philanthropy is the co-development of a generous gift alongside a well-designed assessment plan”.

Within each of these phases, aspects such as criteria definition, analysis, assessment, ranking, selection, communication, monitoring and evaluation, and return measurement have been discussed as fundamental to successful grant making. The Rockefeller Foundation Case Study of Demand Driven Training (DDT) found in the side bar provides a real life example of how grantmaking organizations follow the grant making process in achieving goals and community impact.


The Legal Implication Of Giving

The legal implication of giving is largely tied to tax laws. In the United States, grant makers are often given a tax exemption known as 501 (c) 3 status. This tax exemption comes with stipulations, one of which being that grant making resources cannot be used for lobbying purposes to influence legislation. Similarly, in Canada, under the Income Tax Act, registered charities (grant makers) can only use their resources for their own activities or to registered grantees, which are for the most part exclusively Canadian. For non-Canadian grantees, the funding organization must have direction and control of the resources allocated, failure of

this may lead to a 105% penalty on the amount transferred and/or revoking of charitable status.

Grant making efforts can sometimes be impacted by sanctions and government policies. Grant makers within the European Union for example are required to follow strict regulations where funds are directed to grantees in countries facing sanctions. Similarly, the reverse situation applies in some countries. For example, In Algeria, organizations are not allowed to receive donations from foreign grant makers without prior approval from the government.

Lastly, grant makers must strive to address the topic of governance thoroughly. Given that most grant makers particularly philanthropies are solely accountable to their Board of trustees (versus shareholders, donors, tax payers etc.), strong efforts must be made to ensure that potential conflicts of interest are addressed well in advance of grants being awarded. Conflict of interest can come in the form of a grant makers staff, board members or their relatives benefiting financially from a grant.