Setting Standards to Achieve Compliance
By Adam Roth on April 28, 2021
Setting standard processes is critical to maintaining compliance. After the passage of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, (DATA Act) in 2014, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG), and the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019, all organizations receiving Federal funds are required to report their spending data using government-wide data standards.
When it comes to compliance, UGG requires standard reporting to ensure good controls are in place during an audit; however, what those standard reporting processes must entail is not very prescriptive, so your organization will have to answer questions when deciding what these processes can, or should, look like. Such as:
- How can you create standard processes that drive best practices?
- How can you help maintain your organization's existing effective workflows, or create new workflows?
- How can you maintain compliance?
The processes that your organization may choose to implement, or already follow, can include additional steps that are not specifically required by any key legislation, and may include the addition of departmental specifics, people, and additional data collection practices. This blog post aims to provide some best practices for both grant seekers and grant makers that you can implement in your organization to drive best practices, maintain compliance, and maximize your outcomes.
Data Management & Systemization
According to paragraph 4(c)(2) of the DATA Act, organizations must, to the extent that it is reasonable and practical, “incorporate widely accepted common data elements,” and/or “incorporate a widely accepted, nonproprietary, searchable, platform-independent computer-readable format.” A common interpretation of this language is your processes should revolve around the standardization and systemization of data. Collecting key data in a systematized manner will also allow for multiple form completions and can help expand the capacity of your resources. A grant management software can assist you with centralization and standardization.
Personnel Identification and Sign-Off Procedures
To drive best practices as a grant seeker or grant maker, you must identify the key personnel that will need to sign-off on the pursuit of, awarding of, or monitoring of funds. While the personnel involved from award to award may change, the implementation of a specific level or role of sign-off will help maintain compliance and minimize audit struggles. A process that requires internal sign-off further ensures agreement across key programs and departments. In addition, standard operating procedures regarding authorization will further increase transparency, which will provide financial visibility into the status and health of various programs or awards.
Creating a standard process for tracking the grants you apply for holds both your team members and your organization accountable for the success of your grant portfolio. Maintaining these application records in a centralized location will help ensure that your team members will not apply to competing, or the same, funding opportunities as their colleagues, as well as be able to track your success rate.
Standardizing your grant application will ensure a fair and equal application process for all applicants. By creating a standard application, you can effectively evaluate which programs are best suited for your organization’s mission using the same criteria, which will help you distribute funds in an inclusive and equitable way. By creating a concise application that is accessible online, or through an applicant portal in your grant management software, you can further ensure that the application process will be both accessible and standardized for your applicants.
Application scoring is a critical internal function of making awards; and standardizing a review and scoring process ensures that each application is reviewed in the same way by the correct reviewers at the appropriate time. Creating a review process and workflow for application scoring creates internal visibility into the status of the overall applicant portfolio for your organization. It can also help you begin to determine what kinds of monitoring may be required for your pool of recipients.
Establishing standard reporting structures once a grant is awarded will provide financial oversight and can help your organization adhere to a timeline with milestones that can be used for benchmarking. While you may already have a specific form in use for different funding streams, you can create a process that keeps the structure of reporting similar from award to award to provide consistency in reporting within your organization.
In order to monitor the performance of your recipients, you’ll want to create a process that requires standard reporting structures at regular intervals. Your process for reporting should drive standard reporting structures that include benchmarking milestones to a timeline, so you can gain insight into your recipient’s project performance. While there might be specific data elements in use for different funding streams, the structure of the reporting process itself can be similar.
Due to the importance of creating standard processes, the need for centralization, and to drive the creation of accurate, systematized reports, your organization may choose to implement a grants management system (GMS) to help maintain compliance, implement effective and efficient processes, and drive accountability.
Whether you are a grant seeker, a grant maker, or both, the creation of processes to collect standard data is critical for maintaining compliance.
There is a great deal of leeway provided to organizations when it comes to creating those standard processes, however. While this means that it is possible to integrate and maintain each organization’s own processes and workflows that are currently working for them, it also creates the potential for processes that may not be as effective. By keeping the goal of standardization in mind, your organization can begin to set standard processes to achieve compliance.
A configurable grant management system can help your organization create and maintain standard processes and workflows. Check out our blog on how you can further help standardize your grant portfolio management.