Trachtenberg School Hosts Grants Management Breakfast Forums

February Breakfast Highlights Annual Survey of Government Grants Management

April 12, 2019

In November 2018, more than 5,000 professionals in grant management and related fields were invited by the George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration to take their 3rd annual survey of government grants management. The survey was designed by the Trachtenberg School, REI Systems and the National Grants Management Association. Four hundred forty people who are grant makers, grant recipients and a combination of the two completed the survey.

In February 2019, more than 200 professionals in grant management attended or watched a livestream of the presentation of this year's survey results. During that presentation, a panel of experts discussed the results and addressed questions from the audience. Both Government Executive and highlighted the conversation during the breakfast forum and the overall survey results.

Key takeaways from the panel discussion included:

  • Grant managers spend more time monitoring compliance than any other activity and this increased in 2018. Panelist Jennifer Colton, Director of the Maryland Governor's Office of Grants, notes that while grants managers appreciate government-wide grants frameworks such as the Uniform Grants Guidance, they inevitably compel grants managers to spend increased time ensuring compliance to the regulations and new information. Panelist Ryan Smith, National Technical Assistance Coordinator at the Economic Development Administration, said that the pre-award process could be streamlined if there were a single system or website that holds all the data needed to check against award documents.
  • 43% of federal respondents can’t measure performance or don’t know if performance improved in 2018 (while 55% of state, local & NGO respondents say performance did improve).
  • Grant managers want data sharing and automation of federal-state interactions, more than any other priority. The interest in information sharing between federal and state increased between this year and last year, though the intention and method, and responsibility for such coordination are unclear.
  • Grant managers aren’t happy with access to technology and costs of software needed to report to the fed government. The most dissatisfaction found in this year’s survey was with the ability of grantees and sub-grantees to cover the costs of the software needed to report into federal grant making agencies. This might be easier and more affordable for grant recipients if coordination across federal agencies were stronger.
  • Grants directives are well-received, though not all are well-understood, and they may not solve the problems that concern grant managers. Survey respondents rated OMB’s Uniform Grants Guidance most positively amongst all federal grants guidance. 

The Trachtenberg School and REI Systems have been hosting the Grants Management Breakfast Forum for more than three years. During each breakfast forum, professionals from government (federal, state, and local) as well as non-government organizations gather to share their perspective and learn from experts in the field. The GMB Forum brings together professionals from academia, government and industry to discuss challenges, strategies and keys to success in grants management. This Forum is intended particularly to strengthen the community of grant-makers. At each event, a government speaker or panel describes their grants management practices, results, and lessons-learned. Audience members engage with the speaker and each other, gathering ideas for ways to address current challenges within their agency and forming networks to help them solve problems in the future as well. Each GMB Forum is free and open to anyone interested to attend.