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The Future of Grants - A Recap of Two Meetings in Washington, DC

Earlier this year, I was privileged to be invited to two meetings in Washington, DC that focused on the future of grants. The first meeting was The Grant Innovation Forum co-hosted by The DATA Foundation and MorganFranklin held at the Aspen Institute. The second meeting was with representatives of several organizations and staff at the US Department of Health and Human Services to receive an update on the Reinvent Grants Management project.


The Grant Innovation Forum
I was invited to participate in this meeting as I was one of the people interviewed for a position paper published by the DATA Foundation titled Transforming Grant Reporting ( This paper reviews several challenges for those who manage grants in an era of changing demands for quality improvement in federal government grant programs.
The report presented key findings from their interviews and research that included: Grant reporting is duplicative with over half of data elements matching another form, and 15 forms are entirely duplicative (source: OMB); Grant Reporting can be changed through policy reforms, both the White House and Congress are working on ways to standardize data to reduce reporting costs and deliver transparency; Better data means better compliance; and federal grant leaders are ready for improvements.
Although there is interest in making the process better, the report also highlighted areas of technical challenges and cultural challenges faced by grant managers in moving forward. One of the technical challenges is the fact that there are some common data elements across the federal grant landscape, each program also includes its own unique elements, some of which are required by the authorizing legislation. The report recommends starting with the common elements and working toward standardization of them to ease the burden on grantees. The report also presented cultural challenges which included a reference to the limited resources that most smaller organizations have to devote major changes to grant reporting requirements. It recommends maintaining a focus on streamlining the format of the reporting, not changing the requirements for the content that programs are used to reporting.
In addition to the conversations on overcoming technical and cultural challenges to improving grant reporting, we received an update on the President's Management Agenda Cross-Agency Priority Goal #8 “Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants” (CAP Goal 8). This initiative across the federal government is aimed to improve transparency and accountability for federal grant programs.
Reinvent Grants Management - Health and Human Services
I was invited to a meeting at the offices of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) along with representatives from the National Grants Management Association (NGMA), the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), the DATA Coalition, and the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) which is for federally sponsored research. The purpose of this meeting was to update industry partners on the work of HHS on the Reimagine Grants Management (RGM) Project and to get feedback on the direction of the project elements.

The Reinvent Grants Management (RGM) project came out of the work that HHS has done within their department to look at how grant reporting was done across all HHS agencies and feedback from the Section 5 Pilot Program mandated in the DATA Act. Some of you may remember participating in this pilot program at the GPA Annual Conference in Atlanta. The overall vision of RGM is to: I. Create a Single User Experience (Single sign-on, SF-425, NOA Coversheet); II. Improve Grants Management Administration; and III. Enhance Grants Performance measurement to enhance efficiency and eliminate duplication.
Since HHS manages nearly $700 billion in grant funds for the federal government, their leadership in this area to develop a standardized notice of award, to improve performance management within the department, and to create training and tools to improve grants will set the standard for how grants are managed throughout the federal government. As HHS continues to develop this program, they will be engaging the organizations invited to this meeting to provide feedback on their work. This included GPA providing information to HHS on the GPC competencies to help them be more informed about the work of grant professionals in the field when creating training and tools.
The HHS team also mentioned their role as the primary department in leading the way for CAP Goal 8 and its objectives. The two objectives that HHS is working on are 1. Clearly articulate the goals of grant programs and the results of Federal funding; and 2. Reduce recipient and agency time spent on administrative compliance and shift this effort into achieving and reporting on program results.
As we continue on the new path set forth by the GPA Strategic Plan, we will strive to maintain and market the value of GPA to establish GPA as the Authority and Go-To organization for the grants profession, media, and public. These two meetings demonstrate the work that continues to be done by GPA and its members to move us forward to that goal.