The Grant Award Process and Developing an Operational Plan

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This chapter will cover two significant topics of the grant management process: the grant award process and developing an operational plan. The grant award process begins once a funding decision has been made. The Federal awarding agency will issue the applicable award instrument, as specified in the program announcement in the Federal Register and on, which is the online clearinghouse of Federal grant funding opportunities. Award instruments include grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. Your operational plan will be based on information presented in your application narrative and the required reporting schedule detailed in your award package. When you developed your application for funding, you described the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the specific activities that will take place to achieve desired outcomes and project objectives.

This information can be used by organizations that have a grant or a cooperative agreement.

Grants and cooperative agreements are used when the principal purpose of the transaction is to support a public purpose authorized by the awarding agency's Federal statute. Grants are used when a recipient organization is expected to implement and achieve programmatic goals autonomously. Cooperative agreements are used when substantial involvement is expected between the funding agency and the recipient when carrying out the funded activities. Contracts are used when the principal purpose is the acquisition of property or services for the direct benefit or use by the Federal government.

Federal funds are restrictive, meaning they must be used for a specific purpose detailed in the grant or cooperative agreement. The actual terms of the arrangement between your organization and the Federal awarding agency will be specified in the cooperative agreement or grant, which will be mailed to you for negotiation and signature prior to the issuing of an award. If the Federal funding agency requires cost sharing or matching, you may be required to produce those funds before a cooperative agreement is signed and Federal funds are disbursed. Once you have signed and returned your cooperative agreement, an award will be made and funds will be released.

When a funding award is made, the Federal funding agency and the Division of Payment Management (DPM) initiate the process for receiving award payments.

Process for Receiving Award Payments

  • Recipient submits application for grant
  • Awarding agency reviews application and approves
  • Data regarding grant is transmitted to Payment Management System (PMS)
  • PMS updates databases

Information about how to set up your payment accounts is provided in your grant award package, or sometimes directly by DPM. It is also available on the DPM website at DPM serves many agencies, so it is important to note that organizations with multiple grants paid through DPM will have a single account for all of the grants.

Payment to your organization may be tied to reporting schedules, so it is critical to submit completed required reports on time and as specified by the Federal awarding agency. Payments to your organization may be withheld if one of the following situations occurs:

  • Failure to comply with the project objectives, terms, and conditions of the award or Federal reporting requirements.
  • A recipient or subrecipient is delinquent in a debt to the United States as defined in OMB Circular A-129.

Keep in Mind: DPM offers Payment Management System user-training classes for new grant recipient organizations. For information about registering for the training or obtaining a CD of the training, visit

Developing an operational plan begins with goals, objectives, activities, and assigning responsibilities.

A sample operational plan format is provided, and includes space to account for goals, activities, responsible member, and the timeline for implementation.

Using information you provided in your application narrative and reporting requirements specified by the Federal funding agency in your award package, develop a document that relates goals, objectives, and activities to implementation and reporting timelines. This document is called an operational plan or work plan document. Set intervals that are appropriate to your project and reporting requirements. The above table provides a sample operational plan format and allows you to indicate who is responsible for completing each of the activities detailed.

In this sample operational plan format, reporting deadlines can be entered as activities, with due dates indicated in the timeline.

Click to open interactivity Depending on the circumstances, Federal agencies may accept other forms of payment.

Depending on the circumstances, Federal agencies may accept other forms of payment.

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