Improving Access to Federal Grant Funding

At the 2024 National Grants Management Association Annual Grants Training, GrantSolutions Federal lead Yuliana Bruister sat down with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Agriculture (USDA) to discuss how their programs are improving access to Federal grant funding.

Many of the grant accessibility strategies implemented within these agencies focus on simplifying language, standardizing data, and prioritizing outreach to underserved populations.

User-Friendly Interfaces and Easy-to-Understand Opportunities

For example, Renee Cooper at HHS highlighted the initiative to re-design the workspace into a user-friendly resources hub with helpful imagery and plain language. Renee also mentioned that HHS is working to simplify its Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs). “This means reducing the number of pages in a NOFO, reducing the number of words, and clarifying the information. We’re doing this with the goal of ensuring applications are value-based around a program and the needs of a community, “ Renee shared. According to Renee, HHS has already piloted four NOFOs that incorporate this approach to their content.

Advantages of Common Data Standards

Panelists agreed that common data standards improve how grants management systems operate, reduce administrative burden on applicants, and increase transparency around how programs are doing and how tax dollars are used. Renee stated: “If we get to a place where Federal agencies use common data standards, we can better tell the stories of how investments are working in our states and local jurisdictions.” On top of that, she indicated how standardized data allows for an easier recipient experience as they navigate across different grants management systems and Federal agencies.

Engaging Diverse Applicants

Based on the discussion, Federal agencies see engaging diverse grant applicants as a key priority as they work towards serving populations with the highest need. One example mentioned was USDA’s national agriculture survey that provided demographics of farmers across the country and resulted in the agency setting aside a percentage of awards for veterans and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Chelsea Cole from USDA also shared that the agency has invested just under $4 billion in broadband access for rural areas. “This example shows how we are actually connecting people to be able to access something,” Chelsea said.

Notably, DOL stated that 30% of its grant recipients last year were new and had never received funding from DOL before. This was attributed to outreach efforts that utilized data to illustrate where programs and services would have the greatest impact.

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