Government contracts and grants constitute the largest funding source for the majority of nonprofit organizations. Contracts for complex services, such as those involved in delivering human services, pose substantial challenges for public and nonprofit managers. In this context, concerns have been raised about contract management capacity, including challenges related to proposal and contract development, implementation, and performance reporting, as well as the impact of contract monitoring tools on contractor performance. Relatively few studies have provided a cross-sectoral perspective on the concrete managerial skill sets needed to engage in the interpersonal and technical processes involved in effective contract management. This study reports qualitative findings from a survey of county and nonprofit human service managers regarding approaches to managing challenges that arise in contractual relationships. The results identify the important role played by communication in the relationships between contract managers, illustrate the content of formal and informal exchanges, and identify common perspectives on the characteristics of effective communications, including transparency, a balance of flexibility and consistency, and timeliness. Practice implications for contract management relate to enhancing communication strategies in order to promote stronger contract relationships.
October 10, 2018