Managing Your Research Grant
Show you're using your research grant responsibly.
By Kathleen Carmichael, Ph.D.
April 21, 2009
Winning the grant you’ve worked so hard to achieve is one thing. Taking steps to ensure the award will be one of many is something completely different.
Get to Know Your Grant
Sometimes the greatest challenge is figuring out how you are allowed to spend “your” money. A lot of expenses you expect to be covered could be restricted. For example, some grants don’t cover travel expenses; some exclude books. And in most cases, you shouldn’t use the grant for expenses you would incur in any case (e.g., meals).
Also, make sure you understand all the stipulations governing your expenses. With a university-sponsored grant, equipment bought with your grant money often becomes university property at the end of the grant period. It’s important to know what you can count on after the grant so you can plan ahead.
So start by reading the fine print on your grant. If you don’t receive a full information packet from your granting organization, be sure to request one. And get to know your grant administrator. He or she will be able to advise you on the best way to get the most out of your grant.
Account for Yourself
A grant is a big responsibility. You’ve been entrusted with funds and you need to show that you’re using them responsibly. So be prepared to give a full account of how you spend that money.
Do this by keeping careful records and documenting everything you spend. Set up a file for receipts and a notebook to record dates, purchases, amounts spent and the grant source. Review your file often to make sure it’s current and well organized.
Organize your expenditures into categories designated by the grantor. Make sure that your expenditures will seem reasonable to someone who’s not familiar the details of your project. Keep backup records for your major expenditures.
Give Uncle Sam His Due
Figuring out whether (or which part of) your grant is taxable can be tricky. A few calls to the IRS information line (1-800-829-1040) or a visit to the IRS Web site can save you tax trouble—and maybe considerable cash. Look for IRS Publication 970. Also look at FinAid’s guide to the taxability of scholarships. You can also contact your university’s research office or talk to previous grant recipients. Get all the information you can about whether your grant will or will not be taxed.
Send a follow-up report at the end of your grant. Never underestimate the importance showing appreciation for the support you’ve received.
But your follow-up letter should do more. It should tell them what you accomplished with the grant, list helpful purchases and outline your plans for the future. Also, acknowledge the granting organization in any thesis or publication that results from your funded work.
Grants don’t just fund your work. They teach you a valuable lesson: How to manage your funding and research. Learn this lesson now and you’ll be prepared for your future professional successes.