Introductions Are Definitely In Order

November 9, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Time to get out the “Hello, my name is ____________” stickers and prep the meeting room. There’s a new council in town that has some important work ahead of it, and the sooner the members can get acquainted, the better.

This week I asked former Grants Policy Committee Co-Chairman Tom Cooley what specific advice he would pass on to the new Council on Financial Assistance Reform, which is replacing the GPC and the Grants Executive Board. His response: Make the time to get to know one another right away.

“Once they come together and find some common ground, it will be easy for them to identify an agenda,” Cooley said. “In the past when I’ve served on groups that met for the first time to do some agenda-setting, we would take three or four hours and write four quadrants on a whiteboard labeled ‘easy,’ ‘hard,’ ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’, then fill various topics in each section. We would then make some decisions as a result of that.”

The Office of Management and Budget states that the council will be composed of “senior policy officials” from nine key federal grantmaking agencies, and one other official representing the other federal grantor agencies. Cooley, director of audit and enterprise risk services with Deloitte and vice-president of the National Grants Management Association, expressed some concerns as to which officials are chosen to serve on the council.

“My fear is that if all of these members are chief financial officers, not all of them will actually be responsible for grants or grants policy,” he said. “How much knowledge will they have to bring to the table about what the real issues are, and how will they reach into their organization to get work done if they don’t have direct responsibility to grants?”

These are some critical points to ponder from someone who has headed interagency efforts to improve and streamline grants management. Each member of this new council must get past his or her agency’s particular way of doing business and think about easing the burdens on the grantee community as a whole.

Do you have any advice of your own for this new council? Let us know what burdens you face that it can address. A full article on my interview with Tom Cooley will be included in the December issue of the Federal Grants Management Handbook.

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