Key Actions by:

Standard 3: Accurate and cost-efficient proposal budgeting.

Develop an accurate and cost-efficient proposal budget including a budget narrative based on project activities and timeline, and in accordance with CRS policies and donor requirements.

Decide on partner sub-awards, including the award type, based on the donor’s regulations and the partners’ capacity and proposed project responsibilities.

  • Why

    Most CRS projects involve partners as part of the project management and implementation structure. Whether local organizations with which CRS is partnering for the first time, longstanding local partners, or international NGOs, once the project is approved, CRS must sign an award with each project partner. During project design, CRS must determine award amounts for partners, and the most appropriate award type (e.g., a contract, or a sub-recipient award), based on the partner’s role and responsibilities in the project. Deciding on the most appropriate award type at design phase:

    • Clarifies institutional expectations and arrangements between CRS and partners, which will facilitate project implementation.
    • Protects CRS from potential liability.
    • Helps CRS optimize the project management structure by choosing the mechanism with the most appropriate partner assessment, oversight and fund distribution provisions.
  • When
    • As early as possible in the proposal development process.
  • How

    This key action builds on Standard 1, key action 2 (making partnering decisions based on partner capacity). It should occur before or in conjunction with Standard 3, key action 4, on developing partner budgets.

    Follow these steps to decide on the appropriate partner award type:

    1. The proposal decision-maker, in consultation with the proposal development team or SMT members as needed, reviews the donor requirements around sub-awards as well as CRS guidance for Contractor/(Sub)recipient Determination to identify the most appropriate award type for each partner.
    • Remember that the type of partner award can have significant project design and budgeting implications, especially around CRS oversight of the partner, the timing of advances and liquidations, and steps needed to finalize the partner award during project start-up.
    • If the funding opportunity is from the U.S. government (USG), the options are to make an award to the partner either as a contractor (paid to deliver a project activity or service) or a sub-recipient (typically distinguished by the fact that the partner has responsibility for programmatic decision‑making, and/or has its performance measured against whether the objectives of the Federal program are met). For more details, see U.S. Government Regulation 2 CFR 200.300, Subrecipient and Contractor Determinations.
    • Consider using contracts, not sub-recipient agreements, when deliverables can be clearly defined and measured. With contracts, CRS only pays when deliverables are produced, which reduces the costs associated with CRS’ oversight.
    • If the funding opportunity is from a non-USG source or CRS discretionary resources, refer to the Contractor/(Sub)recipient Determination Tool to consider options.
    • Keep in mind that many donors will require that they approve all sub-recipient agreements, to ensure that key terms will be observed by all implementing parties.
    1. The proposal decision-maker, with support from the CR if the CR is not the decision-maker, discusses with the partner the appropriate partner award type for the project, based on the partner’s capacity, the work to be undertaken, partner and CRS policies and procedures, and donor requirements.
    • This can be a sensitive conversation with local partners (see the Partnership section below). Emphasize that the type of award is specific to the project and will not be the de facto arrangement for future projects with the partner.
    • Ensure the partner understands that in a sub-recipient award arrangement, the donor agreement will bind the partner to all the main regulatory terms and conditions to which CRS is bound. For many donors, these can be quite complex.
    • Discuss also the timing of financial disbursement and reporting, and requirements associated with the award arrangement selected.
    1. The proposal decision-maker shares with the proposal team the information about the award type selected for each partner and its impact on financial disbursement and reporting, to factor into project staffing and activity plans and budgets.
    2. For partners where analysis indicates that a sub‑recipient award is the most appropriate arrangement, the proposal decision-maker works with the HoOps to determine the partner’s level of risk. This helps CRS gauge how best to manage any risk associated with partner capacity and how to support the partner. See ProPack I, page 111 for more detail.
    • Per CRS Subrecipient Financial Management Policy, no re-assessment is required for sub-recipients assessed prior to October 1, 2017, unless the country program or sub-region find it prudent or helpful. However, all partners not assessed prior to October 1, 2017 require an assessment.​
    1. For existing partners not assessed prior to October 1, 2017 or for which a new sub-recipient financial management assessment is deemed necessary, CRS program and finance staff work with partners to conduct the management assessment and develop an internal control improvement plan (see Standard 1, key action 2 guidance on partner assessment). If this is not feasible during proposal development, it should be done as soon thereafter as convenient.
    • Use the assessment and any partner past performance references (for new partners) to determine what CRS oversight and capacity strengthening support may be required, and develop project management and staffing plans accordingly.

    TIP: For proposals with a high win probability, if a sub-recipient financial management capacity assessment is needed but it is not possible to conduct it during the project design phase, plan to conduct the assessment shortly after proposal submission. 

    1. For U.S. government awards, any organization receiving USG funding is required to have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number. The HoOps works with partners who do not have a UEI number to obtain one before donor approval, regardless of whether their award will be structured as a contract or a sub-recipient agreement.
  • Partnership
    • The decision about the type of award CRS will make to a partner – whether a vendor contract or sub-recipient agreement – has many implications:
      • It affects the partner’s level of involvement in the project.
      • It affects the partner’s financial management and reporting.
      • It also can be taken as an expression of the relationship, and partners, especially long-term partners, may find “contract” terminology inconsistent with their understanding of their relationship with CRS.
      • Emphasize that the type of award is specific to the project and does not mean that it will be the arrangement for all future projects with the partner.
    • With longstanding partners (e.g. Church partners), it may be helpful to explain any donor rules and regulations or project management considerations that impact award type, and to emphasize that the CRS-partner relationship extends beyond project-specific collaborations.
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • Follow the same process when CRS is a sub-recipient, unless the prime has established conditions around award types.
  • Emergency projects
    • During emergencies, a country program may decide that a sub-recipient award with a new partner is the most appropriate award type. It may not be feasible to assess the partner’s financial management capacity, but CRS can proceed with planning a sub-recipient award for the new partner without undertaking an assessment by categorizing the sub-recipient as high-risk (having inadequate internal controls).
    • See the Subrecipient Financial Management Policy, Section 2.3 for further guidance.