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October 2010

af.pngImagine being a small community in need of a grant that could prove extremely beneficial to your residents, yet you are unable to apply for the grant because you lack the human and technology resources to meet the reporting requirements. Such a scenario is occurring far too frequently. 

Many small local governments and nonprofit organizations are struggling to distribute American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, while others have shunned participating at all, because of the increased reporting and management requirements. And, since Recovery Act reporting requirements are expected to continue for traditional grants in the future, along with new grantee reporting requirements under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, the burden will only magnify. 

Small communities and nonprofits often lack trained staff, cost-effective systems and easy-to-use processes to meet all of the reporting requirements. “Some grantees have gone from submitting about 12 to 15 reports to about 60 reports on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis,” Jesse Buggs, director of the office of grant development and administration for the city of Bowie, Md., and president of American Association of Grants Professionals for the National Capital Area, told the Federal Grants Management Handbook. “The impact of the reporting requirements has been one of data collection – the time to get the data, prepare it and send it. The skill sets for manipulating the data and preparing the data and having the IT skills to do this are nonexistent in a lot of small municipalities, so they cannot receive
the funds.”

To help address these shortcomings, the AAGP, the National Grants Partnership and several other organizations are working together on a Streamlining Grants Management Pilot Project, which aims to reduce the grant reporting burden facing small communities and nonprofit organizations. The project would develop a set of methods and procedures to enable local governments and nonprofits to systematically gather information, file reports with all requisite agencies, and manage
procurement and record keeping in a manner consistent with the requirements of established accounting rules and federal
reporting standards.

Meeting With Feds

As part of the project, the groups plan to meet with the Office of Management and Budget and Grants Policy Committee to assess each federal agency’s reporting systems and requirements. Buggs, the pilot project director, said that each agency has different requirements for grants management reporting. “Training is needed for nonprofits so that they know what each agency requires,” he added. “Some streamlining is needed at the federal level to use common data elements across agencies as opposed to multiple requirements.”

The reporting burden also affects state grantees, Buggs said. For example, a state may receive federal funds for housing counseling and foreclosure assistance, which it would pass down to nonprofit organizations within the state as subgrants. However, knowing that some smaller nonprofits do not have the resources to meet the reporting requirements, the state has to be careful how it distributes the funds. “This is happening on a widespread scale, so we need other approaches, especially now that many governments and nonprofits are operating on bare-bones budgets in the first place,” Buggs added. 

The groups had hoped to launch the pilot project on Oct. 1 to run for a year, Buggs explained. They are working with software firms to develop systems that can better input required information in standardized forms more easily. The pilot sponsors seek to standardize certain concepts, such as terms and definitions, data elements, forms, performance measures, reporting periods, report formats, hardware and software systems, procurement regulations, labor rules (i.e., Davis-Bacon Act requirements) and Recovery Act requirements.

Other project participants include the City of Bowie, Md., the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development; and the United Communities Against Poverty of Prince George’s County (Md.). Systems development partners involved in the pilot project are Streamlink Software, Blackbaud Inc., SAGE North America and Accenture.

For More Information
More information is available from the NGP at http://

Reprinted with the permission of Thompson Publishing
Group, Inc. Federal Grants Management Handbook.

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