Some entrepreneurs live by the adage ‘Start before you are ready’. And I believe in that, too. Very much. Mostly because I learn from doing, so for me getting going is key to getting anywhere. But there are some exceptions where I would recommend being ready before starting instead. For instance, I recommend preparing for your financial report before starting the activities.
Yes, I know it sounds weird. Maybe not even very possible. How can you prepare for a report about something you have not even started doing????
Read your donor contract
Start by reading your donor agreement (including those nice annexes). Do not see this as a formality, or something to do quickly just to check the amount you will get. Make sure you also check carefully what the conditions are for you to actually get that amount. They might not be what you would expect!
For example …
I recently started working in a for me new environment with for me new funders. We got the good news that we got a grant approved. This had been prepared before I joined the team and I had not really read what we had applied for and how. But now of course I had to catch up to make sure I would know the drill with this funder. And I am very happy I did that, because I found out that this funder wants to receive copies of all bills and receipts the grant would cover, and that all these would need to be in the name of the foundation.
… the challenge
This condition rules out supermarket purchases for lunch for the activity, as our supermarket receipts do not show the name of the organization paying for the groceries. Currently, the supermarket is where the team mostly purchases what we need for meals for our participants. Now that I know about this condition, though, I can help the project team find a way to buy lunch that is in line with this requirement of the funder. We also still have time to ask the funder for feedback on a solution if needed. All, before we incur costs that are not documented correctly for approval by this funder. Before we would hear that what we spent would not be reimbursed by the funder after all.
OK, OK, OK is there more?
Looking at the grant agreement can also help you understand how to arrange the admin side of the project in such a way that it will deliver the information for the report as easily as possible. It will help you understand key elements for your funder in the implementation of the project, or in the management of the organization itself. It is useful to understand this before you start off in a certain direction and find out later that this is not exactly what the funder had in mind.
What if …
If the funder wants something you know you cannot provide, you can flag this now, before any harm is done. Maybe they are interested in finding a common approach to handle the issue. Maybe they understand your reasons or concerns why you cannot comply. Or maybe you part ways as respected colleagues, rather than in an angry tiff. That way, you might become partners later with no hard feelings standing in the way of that.
In an ideal world, where funding partners are entitled to having their own specific requests, you would actually know about the quirks of your donor before you apply for a grant. And you would build your proposal and budget in such a way that it would be easy for you to comply. But if you were not there at that time, or did not have that information at that moment, then spelling out the grant agreement and all its annexes is the next best thing to do before you start designing your implementation plan. So that you are preparing for your financial report before starting the activities.
The same applies of course to non-financial matters that impact the way how you can or should implement!