No Front Door: Improving Federal Grant Application Processes

Since the COVID 19 pandemic, various Federal agencies have unveiled a host of new programs to support pandemic recovery and community development more generally.  Funding levels for economic development programs are near their highest levels in recent history.  While this is good news, recent experience also suggests that many communities lack the capacity to effectively compete for funds.  Often this is due to limited staff capacity or other constraints, but it’s also due to the unnecessary complexity involved in competing for and winning federal grants.

A new study from US Digital Response, a non-profit focused on improving government use of technology breaks down the problem and offers some solutions.  No Front Door:  Barriers to Access for Small Communities Seeking Federal Grants provides a snapshot of the grant application process, and it’s not a pretty picture.  Many pain points emerge.  Government websites, such as and, are wonky and difficult to use.  Finding appropriate grant opportunities is challenging, and each agency requires different metrics and application processes.  These factors, and many other obstacles, lead many smaller communities to give up on potential funding opportunities. While the report does not offer tailored recommendations for specific agencies or communities, it does offer lots of useful ideas for making the current process less painful. These include ideas such as common application forms, centralization of grants reporting, and development of specialized processes for smaller communities.   These are all useful ideas that can help strapped communities access grant funds that they need and deserve.