Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Financial Data Collection for RFP’s

Grant writers are seldom afforded the luxury of being able to compile a grant request or complete a final grant report with raw data. Generally, they are given data compiled internally by the organization. Budgets, program fund utilization, populations served, total widgets or services provided, all that data comes from reports such as income (profit and loss) statements, balance sheets, audited financials, annual reports or internal program reports.
If the figures provided are not verifiable or if they are incomplete, the grant application may contain skewed data. For instance, if the program director keeps statistics on say, number of people served (or animals rescued or whatever), that should bear some correlation to the final financial statement.
Say that your organization reports that it cost $100.00 per recipient to deliver a certain service. That should ideally include both direct and indirect costs. Let’s say that you are reporting on funds used for expenses related to adopting a pet.
The program director says the cost of shots, other vet bills, and food for an average animal is $75.00. These are direct costs specifically attributable to each animal. The accountant or bookkeeper says the true cost is $100.00. Why the difference?  Obviously there are general costs, such as rent, transportation, insurance, advertising, utilities, and staff salaries that are attributable to the organization as a whole. These are indirect costs. The financial department is going to take the total cost for these items, add it to the direct cost and divide it by the number of animals adopted, and that figure will be different from those of the program director. Technically, both are correct. So, which one does the grant writer use?
In most cases, they will use the larger cost figure, because the direct expenditures can’t occur unless there is sufficient funding available to pay the indirect costs. If the proposal requests a breakdown, they will show which expenses are general indirect (also called administrative) costs and which ones directly impact the cost of making the animal ready for adoption.  
It can be very important to the success of the grant request to portray the data accurately. Be sure that you at least note the sources of the data for the grant writer. In addition, data that you may make available on your website should match what you are reporting on the grant application, or in the final report. If you applied for funds stating that your cost was $100.00 per animal, and your website says it is $75.00 per animal, that could be a problem unless the discrepancy was explained at the outset.
Grant writers, even full-time employees of the organization, are expected to perform due diligence to verify any statements of fact in a grant application. The better your cost and service statistics are, the easier it is for the grant writer to attest that the facts are true to the best of their belief. Incomplete or conflicting information or “fuzzy math” can result in a grant writer refusing to submit the application, or the donor refusing the application entirely.  

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