Get awarded a grant? Great! Congratulations! We’re proud of you!
Now the fun really begins.
After you are awarded a grant, you get to tell the funder exactly how you’re using the money. It’s all part of grants management. The need for follow-up reporting often comes as a surprise to many new recipients. You may not have realized that once you have funding in hand, you have to show how you’re using it.
For governmental grants, time and effort reporting is usually a big component of grants management.
No, it’s not how much blood, sweat and tears you shed trying to pull the proposal together. Rather, time and effort reporting shows how grant-funded employees are spending their time. (Read all about it here.)
Time and Effort Reporting in Practice
If you get a federal grant that includes funding for employee salaries, you must show how employees spent their time. For some grants, the report is due once a month; others only require it a couple times a year. Even so, it can be a nightmare to track if you have multiple employees who perform a variety of different tasks during the workday.
That’s why your time and effort tracking system must have internal controls in place that provide a reasonable assurance the charges are accurate, allowable, and properly allocated to the grant. In other words, you need to show that grant-funded employees spent the right percentage of their time on the right projects.
It can get tedious. Recordkeeping is vitally important to stay in compliance with your grants.
Can Time and Effort Reporting Be Simplified?
Yes. It can. We thought it might be helpful to talk through how we handle our own time and effort records and some tools that make the process virtually painless.
Here’s a case in point.
Over the past couple of years, we've been helping a client streamline their reimbursement process. To that end, we’ve revised their existing timekeeping practices to better support time and effort reporting.
Our client was using a payroll vendor with an online timekeeping system. Employees clock in for the day on a computer. We worked with the vendor to add programming and reporting functionality to their system that allowed us to code time specific to grant funding streams. This change streamlined their time and effort reporting and simplified major portions of their reimbursement formulation process.
This solution works well for our client because all the staff members for whom we are filing for reimbursement are non-exempt, meaning they are hourly workers who are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week.
So what do you do when you have exempt (salaried) employees who need to track their time and effort tracking but aren't clocking in and out on a daily basis?
Tools and Gadgets to the Rescue
At KFA we are all about gadgets, widgets, and all manner of cool technology tools. We’ve found one we like that really helps nonprofits with time and effort reporting.
Our favorite solution is called Harvest. There are plenty of other time-tracking applications out there, but we’ve found this one to be affordable, highly customizable, and effective. We use it internally to track billable hours for our clients and for our exempt employees. There’s a smartphone app, a desktop version and a Google Chrome extension that are both simple to use and sync across whatever devices you're using.
Harvest was designed for freelancers who work on multiple projects for multiple clients. So if you’re using it for grants management purposes, think of “Client” as “Grant.” For each Client, you can create Projects and Tasks. Therefore, it’s extremely simple to track how employees are spending their time.
Harvest lets you run reports, send invoices and just about anything else you need to do manage time and effort reporting. It also integrates with project management platforms like Asana or Basecamp, calendar programs, and accounting software like Quickbooks.
Look, we’re not getting a kick back from Harvest. This isn’t a sponsored post. We just think this is the best tool to help nonprofits create employee time and effort reports.
But we’re certainly open to new ideas. What’s your nonprofit’s solution for time and effort reporting? Let us know at email@example.com. We’d love to check it out.