Tell a visual story of your grant performance

Bert Nuehring, Tommy Abeyta, Jim Ansberry
Tell a visual story of your grant performance

Federal grants make an enormous difference in many states and communities. Public sector agencies want to manage federal grants effectively, and one aspect of that management is measuring and communicating grant performance. Four strategies can help public sector agencies align overall strategy, continually improve, build trust with constituents, and provide both the details and the big picture.

Public sector, federal dollars

Each year the federal government distributes billions of dollars in grant aid to state and local governments. In 2022, the federal government distributed $1.2 trillion in aid to state, local, tribal and territorial governments. For 2023, the estimate for grant aid is $1 trillion – a decrease of 16% from 2022.

Grants-in-aid allow governments to fund ideas and projects to provide public services and stimulate the economy. Government agencies and public organizations of all sizes use grant dollars to fund anything from daily operations to special programming.

In recent years, likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, awards of federal grant dollars have increased dramatically. For example, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provided $350 billion in emergency funding for eligible state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to respond to the pandemic. These grant dollars have supported a public health response, recovery, and preparation for future pandemics.

With such high stakes, it’s critical that funds are managed, measured, and communicated properly for these grants to be used to their fullest potential. Additionally, given the costs of responding to the pandemic, constituents might pay more attention than ever to how grant dollars are being spent.

The trouble is that in the public sector, measuring the performance and results of grants and then communicating that information can be challenging. Since the focus is generally – and correctly – on grant compliance, measuring and communicating grant performance is often an afterthought. Especially with grants that have a long lag time between spending and outcomes, measuring and communicating their performance can be tricky.

Challenging or not, it is critical for grant professionals to measure and communicate performance to improve grant outcomes and build constituent trust.

Crowe public sector consultants are helping government organizations take their grant management processes to the next level.

4 strategies for measuring and communicating grant performance and results

1. Align with overall strategy

Measuring grant performance and results informs the focus of a grant, such as a grant’s goals or objectives, the reason it was chosen, the population the program is serving, and how the funding is used. This information helps organizations manage the grant in a manner that is true to its intended purpose and in alignment with the organization’s mission, vision, and goals.

2. Continually improve

Measuring grant performance and results also helps organizations improve grant outcomes (such as positive outliers and causal factors) as well as operational quality (such as process quality, cost-effectiveness, fairness, and equity). Additionally, measuring grant performance data helps fine-tune grant management best practices. Data can guide increased use of beneficial practices and reduced use of less helpful ones.

3. Build trust

Communicating critical information can lead to improved transparency, accountability, understanding, and trust between the grantees and the public, including government officials and constituents. Examples of information organizations might communicate include goals, strategies, intended outcomes, progress, problems encountered, lessons learned, and next steps.

4. Provide both the details and the big picture

By using data to enhance decision-making and communication, grant professionals can strengthen the public’s understanding of outcomes and impacts resulting from grant funds. Organizations can show that they have performed due diligence to manage grants and meet grant objectives, which helps interested constituents know that their tax dollars are receiving a good return on investment.

The importance of visually representing measured data

Sharing measurement and grant performance data with the public isn’t enough. It must be shared in a way that is easily understandable. The goal should be to make it easy for staff and interested stakeholders to share and access the information.

Highly visual grant dashboards provide the opportunity to tell a compelling story about the impact of grants in a way that is easy to process while also providing data points for those interested in diving deeper into the details. Crowe public sector consultants can help organizations create grant dashboards that present visuals backed by data.

How the City of Sacramento implemented an ARP community investment dashboard

How the City of Sacramento implemented an ARP community investment dashboard
Visit the American Rescue Plan Community Impact Hub to see the entire dashboard.

After the City of Sacramento became eligible for $112.2 million of ARPA funds, it implemented an ARPA framework to prioritize its community investments into five key areas: small business and commercial corridor revitalization; homelessness and housing; youth services, workforce training, and gang prevention; arts and the creative economy; and valuing city employees and addressing organizational needs.

The city wanted a concerted strategy for administering and monitoring ARPA funds to maintain compliance with federal guidelines, support coordination between departments, and publicly report its investment decisions to increase transparency.

In 2022, Crowe used Microsoft Power BI™, a solution that allows users to integrate, transform, and visualize data, to help the City of Sacramento develop interactive reports and visuals on its ARPA funding priorities. Now the city has an active dashboard that presents its community investments and project statuses in real time on the city’s website.

By working with Crowe, the city has been able to accurately and succinctly communicate its ARPA community investments – which report on a large amount of data – and effectively communicate to targeted populations affected by the investments. The city also aims to increase constituent trust by highlighting its ARPA investments and related grant performance with the new dashboard.

American Rescue Plan Community Impact Hub

Tell your story, increase your impact

Grant dollars can positively affect communities, and improved grant management leads to enhanced community impact. By measuring grant performance and then visually representing the resulting data, public sector organizations can serve their communities with confidence and earn their trust along the way.

Crowe public sector consultants have been helping federal, state, and local government organizations streamline and improve their grant management processes for years. We look forward to helping your team as well.

Contact us

Bert Nuehring
Bert Nuehring
Partner, Public Sector Consulting
Tommy Abeyta
Tommy Abeyta
Public Sector Consulting
Jim Ansberry
Jim Ansberry
Public Sector Consulting

Microsoft and Power BI are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.