Time and Effort Reporting: What You Need to Know

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Fun fact: federal grant proposals can take more than 100 hours to write. (Our last big federal grant took 95.5 hours, and we do this a lot.)

But after you get the grant, the fun really begins. Grants management requires intensive effort to ensure your organization complies with the terms of the grant program and your reimbursement process is efficient.

In short, grants management can easily become a full-time job. That’s when having a grant consultant can help free up your employees to do good works instead of analyzing spreadsheets and sending invoices. 

We don't often talk about our grants management work. Nonetheless, our knowledge and expertise does not end when your organization gets a grant award. KFA is also highly effective at helping organizations maintain compliance, carry out reporting and create efficient and effective management practices.

Lately, we've been doing a lot of work on the back end of grant making. We've been walking one client through an intensive virtual compliance monitoring process and helping another with an extensive set of grant management policies and procedures.

Both projects have a common problem area: time and effort reporting.

What is time and effort reporting?

Basically, time and effort reporting substantiates your payroll charges to a grant. If 25 percent of an employee’s salary is charged to a federal grant, you must document that 25 percent of their work was done on activities to support the federal project.

However, you can’t just document a quarter of their work. You’ve got to show everything the employee did within the reporting period. The time period is a month for multiple cost objective federal grant programs; for single cost objectives, it’s semi-annual. Regardless, time and effort reports must be a single document that reflects 100 percent of the employee’s time worked within the period.

What is a ‘cost objective?’

Since we brought it up, we thought we should explain. A cost objective is a function, organizational subdivision, contract, grant, or other activity for which cost data are needed.

In other words, if you seek grant reimbursement for an activity, you have to document data that proves you’re entitled to the reimbursement.

  • A “single cost objective” is a single function or a single grant or a single activity.
  • A “multiple cost objective” involves an employee working on more than one cost objective or activity. For example, an employee who works on a project funded by a federal award and a nonfederal award would be considered multiple cost and require monthly reporting.

In practice, it might look like this:

  • A teacher in a Title I school is paid with local funds to teach first grade in the morning but moves to a supplemental reading recovery class in the afternoon that’s funded by Title I, Part A funds. This is a multiple cost objective situation.
  • If the teacher teaches Title 1-funded reading recovery classes all day long, it’s a single cost objective.

What else should you know about time and effort reporting?

Truth be told, we could write a book about time and effort reporting. There are a lot of variables that come into play and are quite situation specific. Since our intent is to give you a 30,000-foot view, here are some additional facts:

  • Time and effort reporting may also be called personnel activity reports (PAR) or effort certifications (EC).
  • The employee and their supervisor (or program director) must sign each report.
  • Payroll distributions and time and effort reports are different. Payroll distributions are the distribution of an individual’s salary and benefits in the accounting records, while time and effort reports describe the allocation of an individual’s actual time and effort for specific projects, regardless of whether it’s reimbursed by the grant program.
  • Many state grant programs have similar requirements that may or may not mimic federal requirements.

See? It’s labor intensive and can quickly become burdensome for organizations with lots of government grants.

Next week, we’ll tell you about a couple of handy tools we use to track employee hours for time and reporting purposes. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about our grants management services, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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