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In its many guises, “accountability” is a modern-day watchword, one bursting with consequences. And in grant stewardship, an organization’s accountability for results – among both grant makers and grant recipients – has become compulsory and universal.

 

Background:

These days, every applicant should expect to submit an evaluation report of some kind for every grant it wins – no matter its source, amount, or duration. The reports often will discuss both a grant-funded program and its finances. Some evaluation reports may be simple and short, possibly even perfunctory; others may be complex and long, and absolutely critical to future funding.

 

Many evaluation reports will be standard-format and template-based, even those from small foundations. Use of templates and other predetermined formats will make it easier to aggregate and analyze data across cohorts of grant recipients. Such practices also will let a grant maker gauge the impacts of its grant awards and to report its findings to its core constituencies.

 

Government Performance and Results:

Federal grant programs may set the tone for current trends in accountability.

 

In preparing grant proposals as well as for subsequent evaluation reports, recipients of grants from Federal agencies need particularly to be aware of the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRMA). Every Federal grant program has its own performance indicators, subsequent both to this Act and its decades-old predecessor, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993.

 

The GPRMA’s Title 31 [Subtitle II, Chapter 11, Section 1115(b)(6)-(8)] includes instructions to federal agencies to “establish a balanced set of performance indicators to be used in measuring or assessing progress toward each performance goal, including as appropriate, customer service, efficiency, outcome, and output indicators; provide a basis for comparing actual program results with the established performance goals; and a description of how the agency will ensure the accuracy and reliability of data used to measure progress towards its performance goals…”

 

As is commonplace in Federal legislation, the GPRMA also includes helpful statutory definitions of several key terms, among which are:

  1. Outcome measure
  2. Output measure
  3. Performance goal
  4. Performance indicator
  5. Program activity
  6. Program evaluation

 

Consistent with the GPRMA, Federal agencies must establish “agency priority goals,” post them on their websites, report progress toward their performance goals on a quarterly basis, and compare actual results to desired performance levels on a quarterly basis as well. The GPRMA also requires that all agencies “for agency priority goals at greatest risk of not meeting the planned level of performance, identify prospects and strategies for performance improvement, including any needed changes to agency program activities, regulations, policies, and other activities.”

 

Later posts will explore what such comprehensive legislation means for winning and keeping grants from the 26 grant-making federal agencies during the 2010s.

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