Best Practices for Tribal Grants Professionals
By Sabrina Renteria, MPA
FSA Advisory Group

Tribal grant managers are tasked with an array of duties. Not only do they have to be experts in their field- housing, policing, justice systems, social services, language and culture, but they also must have basic knowledge of grants management. From pre-award to post-award, a tribal grants manager should have a grasp on the ability to help draft a grant application, know how to read an award letter, budget development, budget monitoring, the ability to navigate software, rules, and regulations of their grant, and more. This is a larger task than some may believe.

Many factors play a role in why a tribal government is truly successful in the overall scope of grants management. The integrity of a tribe’s grants administration depends upon the knowledge and experience of its grant professionals, who must thoroughly understand their duties and responsibilities. With that, I offer five practical best practices for grants professionals -- I’ve had to do each of these myself-- who work for a tribal government.

1)    Establish grants management policies and procedures. If there are no grants management policies and procedures, advocate for their development. Grants management policy and procedures help formalize the grant proposal-seeking process, proper execution, the management of funds, and close-out processes of the tribe’s grant awards.

2)    Don’t get stuck on your “island.” Set up coffee breaks with fellow grants managers. Get to know the staff in other departments. Find out who is a grants management “champion,” and ask them to take you under their wing. Find out your contacts’ training history, how they learned to manage a grant, what tips they may have for you, and more.

3)    Establish a grants management training plan. Formalized training in grants management is highly effective. This can come from professional organizations, such as NGMA, or higher educational institutes. Take a grant writing course even if you are not responsible for writing grants. This will be very helpful in learning the “behind the scenes” efforts it takes to obtain a grant and providing insight on how to manage it once received. Be the driver of your professional development plan.

4)    Make your project officer your new best friend! Do not hesitate to reach out to your grantors and seek any resources they may have. They are there to help! Your success is their success.

5)    Leverage your resources and promote the skill. If funds are not available for grant-writing professionals, create your own. Your people are your best resources. If at least one person in your organization knows how to write a grant, offer community training to help others gain interest in the profession.

The role of a grants professional is essential in Indian Country. The work you do helps provide families' homes, feed the elderly, provide childcare, teach the youth, promote education and career development, ensure public safety, improve infrastructure, maintain lands, restore languages, and enhance the overall quality of life for many. I hope this information helps you in obtaining the guidance and support you need to succeed in your roles.

Sabrina Renteria is a Relationship Manager at FSA Advisory Group, an American-Indian and women-owned firm that provides financial advisory services in Indian Country.