Insights

Zelos recruits for expertise with both depth and breadth. Our evaluation team includes individuals with years of experience carrying out evaluations for a variety of clients. This article summarizes one aspect of an evaluation carried out by two of our staff members before they joined Zelos.

This perspective is brought to you by Keith Fultz and Nacy Fultz

FEDERAL GRANTS COME WITH STRINGS

The federal government funds a broad range of services—including health care, education, social services, infrastructure, and public safety—through grants to state and local governments. How can grantees demonstrate that they are spending federal funds effectively and efficiently? By being SMART—that is, by setting goals and objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-limited.

GRANT RECIPIENTS MUST BE ATTENTIVE TO ONGOING EVALUATION AND REPORTING

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needed to know whether states receiving Homeland Security Grant Program grants were spending funds effectively and efficiently and in compliance with applicable federal laws and regulations. DHS also needed to know whether the grants were achieving the program’s goal of enhancing states’ abilities to prevent, prepare for, protect against, and respond to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other manmade disasters.
Our evaluation team determined that, in many cases, states had developed written procedures for program administration, generally spent the awards in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and complied with Federal financial reporting requirements. However, the team also identified areas in which states could improve the management and oversight of grant funds and more effectively demonstrate to DHS that the funds were being spent in a way that achieved program goals. The team recommended that the states: 1) identify homeland security strategies with specific, time-limited goals objectives; and 2) develop a process for measuring and evaluating the progress toward attaining those goals and objectives. In other words, the states needed to get SMART.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The team provided state agency officials with the SMART framework and specific guidance to enable them to specify goals, objectives, and baselines that could be easily measured and reported. By establishing SMART goals and objectives, the states would be able to demonstrate the extent to which funds were being spent…intelligently. The Zelos Team can help you identify the right framework and guidance for your ongoing evaluation and monitoring, too.

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