Data are the cold, hard facts in grant management of budget, performance and outcomes. But data can and should also tell the story of your grant program and help to improve data quality. As a start, when properly executed these five components of data, will result in high-quality data:
Completeness: Ensuring there are no gaps in the data from what was supposed to be collected and what was actually collected.
Consistency: The types of data must align with the expected versions of the data being collected.
Accuracy: Data collected is correct, relevant and accurately represents what it should.
Validity: Validity is derived from the process instead of the final result.
Timeliness: The data should be received at the expected time in order for the information to be utilized efficiently.
This is especially critical in light of a new federal grant reporting structure being implemented this year: The Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act, or the GREAT Act. Even before the Act was passed in 2019, the non-profit Washington, D.C. think tank The Data Foundation stated: “Grant reporting requires specialized skills and experience, further contributing to the costs of compliance for grantees.”
The GREAT Act changes how grant management reports back to federal agencies awarding grants. And, here at Boost Midwest, we can apply our experience and reporting skills to relieve concerns over compliance with these new federal standards in grants management.
-- -- --
The GREAT Act was approved at the federal level in 2019 to increase efficiency and transparency in federal grants. The Act:
Establishes governmentwide data standards that define how grantees report progress and cost information back to the agencies.
Directs federal agencies to apply these standards to their grant reporting systems.
Requires publication of grantee-reported data to a single governmentwide website.
Provides a two-year window for federal grantor agencies and grantees to implement the new requirements.
Basically, the Act set standards for data elements in order to improve the interoperability and quality of grants management data for federal grants.
Once implemented, data standardization will deliver two major benefits:
Grantees can automate their reporting processes, reducing compliance costs and allowing them to focus on the missions the grants were intended to serve; and
The federal government can collect information reported by grantees in new ways, agency-wide and even government-wide, enabling better oversight for program managers and transparency for all citizens.
To accomplish this major change in federal grant requirements and reporting, the White House Office of Management and Budget is establishing a government-wide data structure that standardizes the data fields used to communicate details on grantees’ receipt and use of grant funds.
Every federal agency awarding grants will be required to adhere to that data structure in collecting information from its grantees.
This new government-wide data structure will govern the format of all information reported by federal grantees to grantor agencies. However, it does provide agencies with some autonomy to custom-design some content, to accommodate the unique requirements of governing legislation and program needs.
While these new standards are not required for non-governmental grants programs, they may still be implemented, at least in part, for private grants. This way, grantees awarded both federal and private grants will not be faced with using two different reporting systems, even though the specific reporting requirements may differ.
Three Benefits in Standardizing Data Quality:
Concerns that Act will only increase already burdensome reporting requirements may be offset by three main benefits to the grantee:
Efficiency: Grants management efficiency will be measurable and subject to benchmarking and therefore easier to manage as federal stakeholders want to minimize money spent administering grants and maximize the proportion that goes to the program purpose.
Return on investment: Data standards initiated by the GREAT Act will allow for accurate comparisons of the performance of programs funded by grants in relation to dollars granted. The GREAT Act enables this calculation and analysis by setting standards for defining, classifying and recording uses of grant program funding.
Ability to detect waste, fraud and abuse: Grant managers will be able to identify trends that may point to waste, fraud and abuse. Over time, these comparisons and trends will allow grant managers to see where a grant program has veered away from an established trend and find out why.
Two potential problems from the GREAT Act:
Mismatched program and financial data. Most of the GREAT Act’s data standardization relates to financial data. Agencies will need to consider current uses of their data and determine whether definitions, formats and sources of program data need revision to ensure their data and date-combination outputs meet the quality and reporting standards under the Act.
Publicizing financial data may hurt programs. As financial grant data is publicized under the GREAT Act, other types of data, such as quality of outcomes and grantee/beneficiary satisfaction, may receive less attention, with negative results. One such result may be that the work performed to improve the financial picture occurs at the cost of quality, outcome or satisfaction.
Here’s where Boost Midwest can help. We can create a data capturing strategy that aligns with the GREAT Act and streamlines reporting to the federal agencies awarding grants. At the same time, Boost Midwest can ensure that all data is awarded equal attention, not just financials.
This is especially critical in light of the numerous COVID-19-related /federal grants available across numerous sectors of business, health and general welfare. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in fiscal year 2020, the government-wide grant funding increased from $750 billion to over $2 trillion through supplemental funding, in addition to other federal financial assistance payments and loans.
So, at a time when many grantee agencies are deep in managing COVID-19-related grants, they should also be working to implement new standards under the GREAT Act. Boost Midwest can help!
Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize grant management and project operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.