Project Management Tips

The project budget must match the award amount; if awarded amount is different from proposed amount – a revised budget and Scope/Statement of Work is needed
(even if only used internally). Keep in mind that the science proposed cannot be done for a reduced award amount.

The more detailed the budget, the more information it can provide to help keep track of spending (see included Budget Allocation Sheet); however, changes to this detailed budget will need to be tracked by the department; changes to individual account codes are not done in Banner.

In contrast, Significant Rebudgeting (categorical changes of 25% or greater) will need sponsor approval.

At the start of the project, determine who will be working on the project and at what level of effort. With this information, be sure to process all appropriate paperwork with HR, Payroll, and ORAF as necessary. If this new project affects the personnel of other projects, remember to process any change requests.

This information feeds the Effort Certification process so being accurate is essential.  Also – keep in mind that our Effort Certification Reports are generated by Payroll; if any grant personnel are expending effort on a grant project and this effort (or all of the effort) is not being charged to the grant, the effort will need to be tracked manually.

It’s good practice to “mentally subtract” salaries, corresponding fringe benefits and F&A costs for the entire project year and remove these amounts from the award amount – or use a spreadsheet for each grant award which is maintained by the department and/or lab. While, the University’s financial system does encumber salaries, it only does so through the period of performance indicated on the Payroll action form, so an understanding of your payroll obligations are critical.

The resulting balance is the funds available to finance the other costs of the project.

Charge expenses to grant as they occur; if recurring costs need to be allocated to the project budget, do this on a regular basis (at least monthly).

Subaward invoices (if applicable) need to be reviewed and approved for payment. Is the subawardee working towards completing the Scope of Work, are you receiving the required deliverables, etc.

Keep in mind that invoicing or drawdowns are tied to spending.

Use the expenditures to gauge progress: is the project spending too quickly (will you be out of funds before the next increment) or too slowly (will the sponsor think thatlittle/no progress is being made).

Actual expenses should be compared to budgeted expenses at least monthly to ensure:

• Expenditures are reflective of actual work performed and the rate at which funds are being expended (“burn rate”) is appropriate;
• You have not spent more in total funds on the project than was awarded
• Total expenditures for any cost category have not been exceeded if restricted on the notice of grant award

No Cost Extensions (NCEs): while having funds available cannot be the justification for a no-cost extension, the rate of expenditures can provide valuable information regarding the status of the project and be the basis of thinking about the need to request a no-cost extension or the development of an accelerated spending plan.

Points to Consider:

• The Recipient of the award is the University, not the individual
• NU does not directly receive the money at the time of award; we must either invoice or drawdown the funds after we spend
• Only Grant/Contract Officers can approve and/or make changes to an award
• Only Authorized Institutional Officials can request any changes to an award
• The Project Budget should accurately reflect the true costs associated with the research project
• The Project Budget needs to be in line with the goals, objectives, and description of the research project
• The Project Budget should be the basis for managing the project expenditures

Last Modified: April 29th, 2014