Beyond Borders: Managing International Grants Successfully

February 27, 2024

International grantmaking is a complex yet rewarding endeavour, presenting unique challenges and opportunities for funders aiming to make an impact beyond their own jurisdiction.

Funders may decide to branch out to a wider region if the issues they’re focused on aren’t localised. Going international may also be driven by a desire to gain experience from organisations overseas with similar interests, gathering insights based on their methods. In other cases, crisis situations might trigger the need to operate abroad. 

Success in international grantmaking requires not only a keen understanding of financial management and regulatory compliance, but a deep appreciation of cultural nuances and effective communication strategies. This article explores both aspects and gives some tips for excelling on all fronts.

The Importance of Local Collaboration

Relationship building is crucial when managing grants overseas, so it’s important to form strong relationships with local organisations that have similar missions. These local organisations have first-hand knowledge of the community’s needs, cultural dynamics, and the local regulatory environment. They can provide critical insights that can shape the direction and execution of projects, ensuring that they are culturally relevant and impactful.

In addition, it’s worthwhile to seek out organisations that have experience with international grantmaking; they will understand the challenges your organisation faces and help you navigate the situation.

Local collaborators can also act as intermediaries, facilitating smoother interactions with beneficiaries and other stakeholders. Their involvement can enhance the legitimacy and acceptance of the project within the community, leading to more successful outcomes.

Overall, each country requires a unique approach; instead of trying to replicate the approach used in your organisation’s own country, consider each jurisdiction’s projects as individual, based on the local needs and culture.

Navigating Cultural Differences in International Grant Management

Of course, it’s important to be mindful of cultural sensitivity when managing grants internationally. Cultural differences can affect various aspects of grant management, from the implementation of projects to local communication styles.

What is considered a standard practice in one country might be inappropriate or ineffective in another. For instance, the way feedback is given and received can vary significantly between cultures. In some societies, direct criticism is common and expected, while in others, more indirect methods are preferred.

In some countries, more in-person communication may be expected while others may be satisfied with much of the communication being done over video calls. Likewise, the value placed on quantitative vs. qualitative measures of impact in the local context will vary. In some scenarios, capacity building will be more important than others, such as when administering international development grants. 

Also be mindful of the differences regarding gender inequalities. While some regions are still developing in this area, it’s considered best practise not to impose any ideas, but to encourage the challenging of biases. 

Understanding these nuances can prevent misunderstandings and build stronger relationships with local partners and beneficiaries. Always do thorough research instead of making assumptions based on previous work with neighbouring countries.

Ensuring Clear Communication

Clear and effective communication is vital in any international operation. Language barriers and differing communication styles can lead to misinterpretations, potentially derailing projects. To mitigate these risks, organisations should consider employing bilingual staff.

However, it’s not just about language; understanding non-verbal cues and local business etiquette is equally important. As such, regular training for staff on cultural competencies and effective cross-cultural communication can enhance interactions and project outcomes.

The added efficiency of having streamlined communications isn’t just about making life easier; it’s also about catering to international applicants and awardees in order to give them the best experience possible.

Understanding Regulatory Differences

One of the most challenging aspects of managing international grants is navigating the diverse regulatory landscapes, as the laws and regulations governing grants can vary widely across jurisdictions.

Some key variations pertain to reporting requirements and compliance standards, data protection and sovereignty, security, anti-money laundering checks and other vetting requirements for awardees.

For example, when operating in the US, grantmakers need to be aware of Executive Order 13324, which freezes the assets of anyone named as terrorists on government lists. As such, funders have to make sure their grantees are not on any of these lists. There’s also the USA Patriot Act which can make organisations liable if their funds end up supporting terrorist activities.

In terms of financial reporting, US law requires charities with annual gross incomes of more than $250,000 to hire an independent certified public accounting firm to act as an auditor and issue an annual audited financial statement, made available for public inspection.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and just for one country. Staying informed and compliant when operating in multiple countries requires diligent research and often the assistance of local legal experts.

Leveraging Technology for Efficiency

Technology aids in overcoming some of the most significant barriers in international grantmaking, such as communication hurdles and financial management complexities.

The use of advanced grant management software for financial tracking allows for more transparent and efficient handling of funds across different currencies and accounting standards. This is made easier when the software integrates with major accounting platforms.

Other benefits include:

  • Centralised data management: Having a centralised platform for storing and accessing all grant-related information is particularly useful for international grantmaking, where managing data and documents across different countries and projects can be challenging. The software ensures that all information, including applications, evaluations, and reports, is organised and easily accessible.
  • Streamlined application processes: Our software allows for the creation of standardised yet customisable application forms, which can be crucial when dealing with different countries that may have varying requirements.
  • Scalability: As organisations grow and expand their international efforts, grant management software can scale to accommodate increased volume and complexity.


Managing international grants requires a careful blend of cultural sensitivity, regulatory awareness, and local collaboration. The goal is to create a balance where different cultures, regulations, and practices come together to achieve a common purpose.

The key to success lies in adapting strategies to local contexts, building strong relationships with local organisations, and leveraging advanced technologies to streamline processes. These elements ensure that international grantmaking becomes not just a means of providing financial support, but a powerful tool for fostering global cooperation and sustainable impact.

Cloud based grant management software such as Flexigrant is instrumental in managing the complexity of international grantmaking. To book a demo, contact us today.

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