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Training a New Grants Program Officer

By Kate Caldecott

The people you hire to administer your grants need to be passionate about the work of your organisation. They also need to be highly trained professionals, skilled at navigating regulations and politics, overseeing projects, managing budgets and meeting deadlines. They will need to effectively network with peers and service providers from the not-for-profit organisations in your community.


How do you prepare a new person for such a broad set of duties? An overview of what new program officer needs to know could be broken down into four areas.

Kate Caldecott Training

Your Organisation

New hires in any business need to be oriented to the organisation and their place in it. In addition to understanding the basics like your mission, leaders and organisational structure, new program officers will benefit from learning about the history of your organisation (why was it founded), the sources of your funding, and any changes to your mission that have happened over time.


New program officers should also be encouraged to spend time with their peers, members of the team they’ll be working with and beyond. Even in organisations with the best attention to documentation, a lot of important information can only be accessed through informal information sharing from people with experience.


Your Service Area

A comprehensive understanding of your service area will provide context for evaluating proposed grant projects and delivery systems. If you’ve hired a local person, already steeped in the work not-for-profits in your community, they’ll be familiar with this information. However, a person who is new to your area or to government or philanthropic work will need more time to develop an understanding of how the work of your organisation fits in with the greater community.


An understanding of the service area should include:


Best Practices for Grantmaking and Grants Management

If you’re hiring someone who is new to grantmaking and grants management, they will need to learn about best practices. Refer to resources such as AIGM’s resources  such as their easy-to-understand helpsheets. The Australia National Audit Office’s Implementing Better Grants Administration is also an excellent resource. You might want to have an experienced grants administrator mentor your new program officer or shadow them on certain projects.


Your Systems

Having achieved an understanding of the big picture and how the work of your organisation fits in, you can now focus on the details – like the systems your new grants officer will be using. If you’re using SmartyGrants, send your new staff members to one or two of the SmartyGrants trainings. If there’s no training scheduled in your area, plan on investing some time to allow the new program officer to learn the system. They will learn a lot of the details by doing, but in order for that to happen, they need to have a good understanding of the SmartyGrant’s capacity. Shadowing one of their peers for a few days is an excellent way to get started.


Their Projects

Finally, your new program officer will need to become familiar with the projects they are inheriting. They can review the details of open grants in SmartyGrants, as well as any file notes about those not-for-profit organisations. More importantly, your new Program Officer should make the rounds and meet the project leads of these grants. There’s no substitute for meeting face to face. Grantees and program officers will feel more comfortable contacting each other with questions/concerns once they know each other.


If you would like support in creating a job description, recruiting, interviewing or training, a program officer, grants manager or grants administrator, please contact me at Kate@katecaldecott.com.au or 0447 227 598.


See how your grant program stacks up. Together we'll review your grant program, how SmartyGrants can benefit your organisation, and how your program is performing.



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  • Kate Caldecott worked with me on Australia Post’s Our Neighbourhood Community Grants program. She assisted with the grant process design and SmartyGrants grant management implementation.

    In working with Kate, I would describe her as being: passionate, knowledgeable, dedicated to community with a willingness to going the extra mile, above and beyond. It is always a pleasure to work with Kate.

    - Erin McKenzie, Community Events and Partnerships Advisor, Community Relations Australia Post
  • This is the perfect opportunity for me to thank you, in particular, ….. for the outstanding customer service you have all provided. You have not only helped us use SG effectively, but kept the panic at bay. There is lots more to learn about what SG can do and I’m sure we will be in regular contact …….

    Thanks to you all – you are fabulous!

    - Debra Slater-Lee, Programs Manager State NRM Office (WA)
  • Being a complete newbie on all aspects of Smartygrants I was daunted by the task of being completely responsible for the outcome of a major grant funding round at the Shire. I did the training and it still did not make much sense to me until I had my first session with Kate. The way in which Kate was able to clarify, explain and help me understand the rationale and functions of the system was brilliant, her manner always patient and professional, and her willingness to transfer knowledge and information commendable. Thanks to Kate I am now a confident user of Smartygrants

    - Marilyn A Gippsland VIC
  • Kate’s involvement in the final stages of the major review of two of Sunshine Coast Council’s funding programs added significant value to our work. As well as identifying additional sources of information for analysis, and suggesting enhancements to data presentation, Kate provided a professional critique of the review, validating our analysis of the review findings and the options identified in our report to Council.

    - Margaret Cattanach Team Leader Community Connections Community Services Sunshine Coast Council