Looking into Your Grants Performance Measurement Portfolio
The grants management community has been dealing with the challenges of performance measurement for a long time. While the desire for accountability on how organizations spend Federal dollars is not a recent development, the new Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200) seeks to enhance the answers to questions such as:
- Was that project worth funding?
- Did the project achieve the stated policy goal?
Management Concepts Shane Jernigan explored these issues while the Uniform Guidance was in its proposal stage in “Grants Management in the Era of Accountability.” This whitepaper, along with our Accountability for Federal Grants course, provides a good starting point for your understanding of performance measurement.
Perhaps you have a good sense of what you need to do for a single program or award. But have you stepped back to look at all the performance measurement activities in your organization’s grants portfolio? You might identify potential investments to help you work smarter, not harder.
Here are some suggested steps to help you start the necessary conversations needed to look at your portfolio of grants and programs. The experience will vary based on your organization’s structure and function as well as whether you are a grantor, recipient, pass-through entity, or a mix of all three.
- Be inclusive. Many individuals, offices, and responsibilities may touch your grants portfolio – ranging from your workers in the field to the person filing your financial reports on time. Each is likely to have their own insights on the challenges of performance measurement and compliance with the Uniform Guidance that you may not experience in your day-to-day work.
- Take inventory of existing, required, and desired performance measures, objectives, goals, and mandates in your organization’s grant portfolio. This inventory will help you understand your organization’s data collection and reporting requirements. As you take the inventory, you should also note if your organization is meeting these requirements as well as collecting and reporting processes. The information will inform the conversations you and your colleagues need to have to improve your organization’s performance measurement and reporting capabilities.
- Identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Once you have your inventory, you may be able to lay everything side-by-side and determine whether you are doing things right. You might find that you are collecting metrics on grant-funded purchases that do not match up to all the goals and objectives. That’s fine. This information should inform how and what you and your team will do to invest in improvements in the efficiency and accuracy of your collection methods and processes.
- Recognize the costs associated with performance measurement within your organization. In a recent report on implementing a performance-based approach for Department of Transportation programs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) included a finding on how implementation costs could vary and be a significant challenge for some states and non-Federal entities. Keeping in mind that the requirements are not going away, organizations need to ensure that the costs of performance measurement are factored into budgets. This applies not only to recipients and sub-recipients, but also to the Federal agencies charged with collecting and analyzing data.
These suggestions are geared toward ensuring your organization’s adherence to the accountability, transparency, and risk management requirements of the Uniform Guidance. You’ve got to do it. But these requirements are not just busywork: keep in mind that demonstrating how well your organization uses its Federal funds allows you to do more than just generate those reports. This data will help you tell the stories — to all of your stakeholders —about how you’re meeting your organization’s mission and goals.
Now that’s a worthwhile outcome.