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State Agency Stands Up Clearinghouse for Grant Funding

“From the beginning, we envisioned a user-centered and agile approach,” California State Library portal project manager Shivani Bose-Varela told Techwire. “We knew we had less than a year from receiving funding in the state budget to being able to meet the statutory deadline and that this project would never succeed without an incredible amount of feedback and buy-in from stakeholders.”

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A version of this article first appeared in Government Technology, a sister publication of Techwire

The California State Library has built and launched a new grants portal that gives users a centralized location to find state grant and loan opportunities.

“It’s important to note that most of this information never existed as data before,” said Shivani Bose-Varela, manager of the library’s portal project. “We weren’t just building a new home for information, but the first home for all of it.”

The California Grants Portal features more than 100 grants that total more than $17 billion in potential funding. The platform for the new portal is also an intuitive one that allows users to search by applicant type, grant category and timeframe for application deadlines. The categories of grants on the portal include environment and water; disadvantaged communities; education; health and human services; housing, community, and economic development; libraries, parks, recreation and arts; disaster prevention and relief; and science, technology and research and development. 

There is also a feed on the page that lists recently added grants, as well as a statistical tracker. For example, that tracker currently notes that 50 grants were added in the past week, there are 111 current grant opportunities, and $17.6 billion is available in total funding. 

In the press release announcing the creation of the portal this week, developers noted that it was built with input from both grant seekers and state agencies. This research spanned 14 months and included collecting input from more than 1,000 grant-seekers and 120 state staffers. The creation of the portal was spurred by legislative action in California, specifically the Grant Information Act of 2018, which required the creation of a centralized location for grant info by the state library before July of this year.

“From the beginning, we envisioned a user-centered and agile approach,” Bose-Varela told Techwire via email. “We knew we had less than a year from receiving funding in the state budget to being able to meet the statutory deadline and that this project would never succeed without an incredible amount of feedback and buy-in from stakeholders.”

She noted that Web developer 10up and civic engagement firm CivicMakers were involved in the project.

“The site is built on WordPress and is managed by us as of today,” Bose-Varela said. “We’re working through more bug fixes and then plan to make the code available on the State Library’s GitHub site. 10up worked with us to accomplish our vision in an agile manner, particularly meeting our vision of a clean, lightweight user design. We surveyed nearly 1,000 grant-seekers,” she said, and held two virtual discussions with grant seekers, individual meetings with several dozen grant-making state agencies as well as two interagency meetings with nearly 100 representatives from various agencies to identify challenges and opportunities.

Techwire contributed to this report.

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology magazine. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas.