Streamlining Grant Applications for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Tell me about your role as a digital leader?
I am John Enggren, Director of Grants.gov. I lead a staff that operates and maintains the website that serves as the central repository for information on more than 1,000 federal, state and local grant programs. Grants.gov is an E-Government initiative established in 2002 and managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What is the Grants.gov mission?
Grants.gov is a secure, reliable, interactive website used by teams at 26 government agencies and organizations to make it faster, easier and more cost-effective for grant applicants to electronically interact with these agencies that annually award more than $500 billion in grants.
Specifically, how does Grants.gov make it easier for end-users to apply for federal grants?
Grants.gov streamlines the federal grants process by eliminating the need for applicants to navigate complex and time-consuming journeys to find and apply for federal grants. The website is a one-stop resource characterized by ease-of-use thanks to features such as downloadable and fillable forms, auto-populated data, error checks and email notifications. Dedicated customer support teams help applicants complete and submit applications, as necessary. There’s even a “Grants 101” navigation page that defines how grants work and illustrates the grant life cycle. Our goal is for every applicant, from a mom- and-pop shop to a large university, to focus on what is ultimately most important- clearly and effectively communicating their personal narrative to the decision-makers that award government grants.
What has DMI’s role been in the history of Grants.gov?
In 2011, DMI was awarded a contract to operate Grants.gov. The partnership includes website management, operations, hosting and service. It’s been a close collaboration that’s taken Grants.gov to the next level with zero downtime. DMI has implemented innovative enhancements including a Workspace functionality that allows applicants to work collaboratively on an application package and allows organizations to tailor their application workflow to meet their needs.
What are some other enhancements?
Importantly, in 2018, we launched the Grants.gov mobile app, (available for Android and iOS). The app makes it easy to identify federal grant opportunities, add grant deadlines to a calendar and subscribe to be notified when changes are made to a grant listing. Following launch, we hosted dozens of training sessions, presented at conferences and built out supporting online communications to train users on how to use the app via YouTube, Twitter and blogs, all of which can be found on the Grants.gov website. The app was nominated for FedScoop’s Innovation of the Year in 2018 and reviews from the user base have been extremely positive.
How do you measure Grants.gov’s success?
We measure our success through quantifiable metrics. Grants.gov has over 600,000 active registered users. We’re getting about one million users to the website and 10,000 calls to the help desk each month. In one year, the Grants.gov mobile app garnered approximately 140,000 installs. We take our responsibility to be an outstanding steward of dedicated Grants.gov federal funding seriously and actively monitor these metrics to gauge overall customer experience.
What has been your experience collaborating with DMI team?
The DMI team is outstanding. They are a group of dedicated professionals who are just as loyal to our program as they are to DMI. They care. They speak up instead of just doing what they’re told. Senior leadership is extremely accessible and steps in when needed. Recently, DMI senior leadership even joined us at our Innovation Day. Now that’s going the extra mile for your customer!
What’s next for Grants.gov?
We just did an extensive outreach survey within the grants community that garnered over 6,000 responses to inform requirements and support prudent decision-making. As we look ahead, there’s been talk about how we can leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning, conversational interfaces, chat bots and block chain to continue to further personalize the overall Grants.gov customer service experience.