New Report Presents Opportunity to Fix Federal Grant Reporting

December 20, 2017

The government continues to rely on outdated, burdensome document-based forms to track $662.7 billion in annual grant dollars - but open data could transform the system.

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Data Foundation, StreamLink Software, and Workiva released a new report, Transforming Federal Grant Reporting: Open the Data, Reduce Compliance Costs, and Deliver Transparency. The paper describes the flaws with the federal government’s current document-based grant reporting system and envisions an open data future for the way grants are tracked and managed.

The report explains that the grant reporting system is broken in two distinct ways: first, it does a poor job of delivering transparency to agencies, Congress, and taxpayers; and second, grantees sustain unacceptable costs of compliance. Replacing documents with data could address both problems.

In 2017, the federal government awarded over $662 billion to grantees. “Grant reporting is overly complex and riddled with flaws,” said Hudson Hollister, Executive Director of the Data Foundation. “But adopting a government-wide open data structure for all the information grantees report would alleviate compliance burdens for the grantee community, provide instant insights for grantor agencies and Congress, and enable easy access to data for oversight, analytics, and program evaluation.”

Report takeaways:

  • Federal grant reporting is outdated when compared with other areas of government reporting.
  • Grantees often receive grants from multiple sources, each with its own administrative requirements, creating overlapping reporting requirements.
  • Compliance burdens shouldered by grantees and transparency challenges faced by grantors share one ubiquitous common cause: all roads lead back to disorganized data.
  • A government-wide open data structure for grant reporting could resolve these challenges. Such a structure should be specific, mandatory, comprehensive, and governed for the long term.

  • The report draws on existing successful data standardization projects in government. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Common Data Element Repository (CDER) Library represents the government's first conscious attempt at a comprehensive open data structure for grants, and the DATA Act Section 5 pilot program results show that the attempt was successful. The results of a pilot program conducted by the EPA separately from OMB’s and HHS’ Section 5 activities show this, as well. The CDER Library is not the only possible foundation for the necessary open data structure, but it is the best-developed available today.

    “For far too long, grant reporting has been complex and burdensome for the grant community,” said Adam Roth, CEO of StreamLink Software. “StreamLink Software aims to simplify the complexities of grant management. Our AmpliFund solution creates a comprehensive hub where grantors and grantees alike can efficiently oversee the entire grant lifecycle. As a result, nonprofits and public entities can drive additional revenue and capacity through more streamlined processes, and easily ensure regulatory compliance with advanced reporting functionality.”

    “If the federal government adopted an open-data structure for grant reporting, technology, such as our Wdesk platform, could truly transform processes for grantees and agencies,” said Matt Rizai, Chairman and CEO of Workiva. “Our customers use Wdesk to collaborate in a single, trusted version and have complete confidence in the accuracy of their data. Wdesk enables teams to link their narrative with their numbers with a full audit trail, saving them time and money when creating and managing complex reports for the government."

    Read the report here.

    About the Data Foundation:

    The Data Foundation is the nation’s first industry-focused open data research organization. We seek to define an open future for our data, for a better government and a better society, through research, education, and programming. For more information, visit

    About StreamLink Software:

    Founded in 2008, StreamLink Software designs, develops and markets leading-edge grant management technology for nonprofit and public sector institutions. The company’s grant management solution, AmpliFund, captures grant information as data and automates hundreds of complex activities throughout the grant lifecycle. It is a high-value solution designed to help nonprofit and public sector entities maintain compliance, generate revenue and build capacity.

    About Workiva:

    Workiva (NYSE:WK) delivers Wdesk, an intuitive cloud platform that modernizes how people work within thousands of organizations, including over 70 percent of the FORTUNE 500®. Wdesk is built upon a data management engine, offering controlled collaboration, data connections, granular permissions and a full audit trail. Wdesk helps mitigate risk, improves productivity and gives users confidence in their data-driven decisions. Workiva employs more than 1,200 people with offices in 16 cities. The company is headquartered in Ames, Iowa.

    For the latest information and news, visit The Workiva Newsroom.

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