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Call for Government Partners: Understanding the Barriers Small Communities Face in Accessing Federal Grants

U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response
3 min readFeb 24


U.S. Digital Response (USDR) is launching a call for government partners to participate in a research project about discovering, applying for, and reporting on federal grants.
By: The Grants Tools team at USDR

Over the past two years, USDR has deployed tools to help government agencies identify and report on federal grants. In that time, the federal government has rolled out grants for recovery, infrastructure, and services, increasing grants to states by 93% from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2020, often intending to reach smaller municipalities and local governments.

However, our experience with countless governments is that smaller governments need more support in effectively accessing these grants. Understanding these barriers makes it possible to reshape or simplify the granting process and open the opportunity for smaller communities to participate. For example:

  • Many grant managers we work with dream of a world where they can identify federal grants with pinpoint accuracy, apply for them with the click of a button, and automatically produce quarterly reports in exactly the format required by the funder.
  • Grant management offices are operating under a backlog of applications, overdue reports, and other demands. Job boards are overloaded with open positions for people with grant administration experience.
  • Some grants managers have been told to increase the number of grants their locality is applying for, and they don’t know where to find the best opportunities.

Because of this, USDR wants to better understand the experience of smaller government entities in managing the recent tidal wave of federal assistance. Through our research, we believe that opportunities will emerge for reform, simplification, and new ways for government needs to be met at scale.

We have already learned much from our partners about how they experience the grants process. But open questions remain that policymakers must address to lower the burden on public servants at all levels of government. For example:

  • The data collection process for grant reporting has become increasingly complex and difficult. Are there ways to simplify this burden for local governments that still meet the needs of granting agencies in demonstrating effectiveness?
  • As the sprawling Federal grants process continues to grow in importance, many smaller, less well-connected communities will continue to miss out on grants opportunities. How might small governments equip themselves to navigate the federal grant process better?
  • The advent of new technologies to collect, store, transform, combine, and derive meaning from data can transform the struggle for grant performance. What role might technology play in this transformation?

Get involved! We will better understand how to tame the administrative dragon by listening to the very people who are trying to navigate the complex federal grants process. Sign up to participate in our research if you are a civil servant or grants manager managing grants in a small community. We’ll contact you with next steps!

U.S. Digital Response has a team of pro bono professionals ready to help governments and NGOs respond to the critical needs of their communities. Need help? Fill out this brief intake form to connect with USDR, and we’ll be in touch quickly.



U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response

Connecting governments and nonprofits with pro bono technologists and assistance to quickly respond to the critical needs of the public.