How Is Grants Administration Like a Funnel?

November 16, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

During my recent one-on-one interview with former Grants Policy Committee co-chairman Tom Cooley, which will be featured in a two-part article in upcoming issues of the Federal Grants Management Handbook, he brought up a critical point that makes each grant unique, yet complicates attempts to make them more uniform.

Cooley said that one of the greatest obstacles facing the GPC was that grantor agencies have a “cultural divide” and hold fast to their differences. For example, some U.S. Department of Agriculture grant programs have been around for several decades and the program managers are pretty set in their way of doing things. Realizing this, one can only imagine how hard it must have been for the GPC to reach the common ground that it actually did, such as working to develop a standardized federal financial form and drive the creation of Grants.gov.

Still the differences among federal agencies and individual grant programs still exist. To explain this better to people I know who don’t cover grants, I’ve always explained grant administration as a huge funnel with multiple spouts, where most of the uniform grant policies and requirements are in the large section of the funnel, and the spouts represents each particular grant program’s individual requirements. The Federal Grants Management Handbook does an excellent job covering the main portion of the funnel. If only grant programs were more uniform, perhaps we wouldn’t have so many spouts.

Hopefully the new Council on Financial Assistance Reform can continue the good work of the GPC and the Grants Executive Board, and maybe reshape the look of the grants funnel over time.

How do you like my analogy? What areas do you think are more ripe for uniformity? We’d like to hear your ideas.

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