How to spend your grant money

Generally speaking, spending grant money is similar to spending department budgets, internal awards from the Provost, or other institutional funds. You complete a purchase order, charge something to your LU credit card, pay out of pocket and request reimbursement, or submit an invoice to Accounts Payable. The difference is that you need to make sure to charge expenses to your grant's fund account number.

In most cases, your grant will be assigned a unique fund account number (shown on the Grant Award Memo as the Finance Fund Account #)  to which grant-related expenses should be charged.

Need to revise your budget?

It happens to the best of us: some things cost more than expected, and other things can be accomplished for less money than anticipated. Unforeseen opportunities or obstacles arise. For one reason or another, many grant budgets need to be revised. Some funders make this easy and give you lots of discretion, while other funders require that you ask permission for even the tiniest budget change. Here's what you need to know:

Do...

  • Read your award letter, grant agreement, terms and conditions, or other funder documents about managing your grant. Understand what the funder's rules are about revising budgets or shifting funds among budgeted categories.
  • Ask the grants office (CFSR) for help.
  • Be scrupulous about following the funder's rules, whatever they may be.
  • When in doubt, call your program officer or funder staff to ask for guidance.

Don't...

  • Assume you can spend the grant money in whatever way seems to make sense regardless of the original budget.
  • Assume. Period. That's a pretty good rule of thumb.

Cost share / matching

If your grant proposal and budget contained no cost share, matching, or institutional commitments, you can skip this section. Otherwise, read on.

Cost share, sometimes called matching or institutional commitment, is grant-speak for resources that Lawrence promised in the proposal to devote to your grant project, if the project gets funded. Many times, cost share is required to be in cash—real money that Lawrence must commit through internal grants or additional fund raising. Sometimes cost share is allowed to be in-kind (non-cash), usually meaning the use of university faciltiies for events, use of equipment already owned by the college, and sometimes the time of Lawrence employees (although occasionally funders count this last item as a cash match).

If your budget included cost share, it is a really good idea to touch base with the Provost or other offices that committed to matching resources. Just like you, they may find themselves a little hazy on the details of an agreement they made months ago. It doesn't hurt to remind them of what they promised, and alert them you have received the grant and will need the promised resources.

Also, it is really important that you keep track of the cost share actually committed to the project, over the course of the grant period. Funders have the right to ask Lawrence to prove that we met our cost share obligation. That means you need to keep documentation of cash and in-kind resources that help you carry out the grant project, so that if the funder comes knocking, it is easy to show them that we have lived up to our end of the agreement.

If your cost share is particularly complicated, or you are concerned about how you will keep track of it, ask the grants office (CFSR) or Financial Services for help.

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