Federal Grant Application Process

With the decline in funding from foundations, corporations and individuals during the recent economic downturn, your organization may consider applying for federal or government grant funds for the first time as a way to diversify its revenue. While some organizations may be too small to benefit from federal or government funds, or may have purposes that do not make them appropriate grant recipients, many organizations that could apply for these grants do not do so because they think it is too complicated or confusing.

While it is true that applying for government funding, especially federal funds, has always been highly competitive and more time intensive than a foundation grant, the payoff can be great. Government grants, particularly those from the federal government, are usually very large. However, government funding is usually for a very specific project and has many conditions attached. It should not be viewed as a strategy for meeting your organization’s core expenses. If your organization finds an appropriate opportunity and has determined that it will apply, you must be prepared to manage the grant should your organization receive an award. Your organization may need to consider adding additional accounting or financial management capacity, building a comprehensive evaluation program and shifting resources to accommodate a substantial, yet time-limited infusion of resources.

Applying for a federal grant is very different from applying for support from a foundation or corporation. While a fairly typical foundation grant can be completed in a couple of days, the advice to those preparing a federal grant is to allow around 100 hours of staff time for the process. There are many steps in the process and some that need to be completed before you begin filling out an actual application.

Pre-Application Steps

Tips for Preparing the Grant Application

Act quickly
Once your organization has identified an appropriate opportunity, it is typically important to be prepared to act quickly, which is why it is important to do all of the pre-application work. Many government agencies have email lists and they will automatically send you grant announcements. Many RFP’s have very short turnaround times of six to eight weeks.

Divide up tasks
Most government grant applications have multiple parts to complete, require research and for the most part will be all original writing – there is very little if anything that can be cut and pasted from other proposals. For these reasons, it is critical to form a team that will take responsibility for completing different sections of the proposal, including writing sections of the proposal, working on the budget and preparing the attachments and certifications.

Manage the process
It is also helpful to assign a project manager to ensure that the process proceeds in a timely manner and is on track to submit the proposal ahead of the deadline. This person might also be the person who is assigned as the main contact for the program officers in the department. Choose this person wisely. It is critical that the program officers can easily reach someone in your organization. Decisions are often made quickly and parts of your proposal might need to be adjusted.

The Request for Proposal
Government grants are generally announced in the form of a request for proposal (RFP). The RFP will include a lot of information and it is important to take the time to carefully read through all of the details. There is often both a summary and a full RFP.

The following is a summary of an RFP from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Document Type: Grants Notice

Funding Opportunity Number: 2010NEA01ARTV

Opportunity Category: Discretionary

Posted Date: Jun 10, 2010

Creation Date: Jun 10, 2010

Original Closing Date for Applications: Sep 02, 2010 Applicants are required to submit their applications electronically through Grants.gov, the federal government’s online application system. The Grants.gov system must receive your application no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on September 2, 2010. We strongly recommend that you submit at least 10 days in advance of the deadline to give yourself ample time to resolve any problems that you might encounter. The Arts Endowment will not accept late applications. The Grants.gov Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Current Closing Date for Applications: Sep 02, 2010 Applicants are required to submit their applications electronically through Grants.gov, the federal government’s online application system. The Grants.gov system must receive your application no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on September 2, 2010. We strongly recommend that you submit at least 10 days in advance of the deadline to give yourself ample time to resolve any problems that you might encounter. The Arts Endowment will not accept late applications. The Grants.gov Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Archive Date: Oct 02, 2010

Funding Instrument Type: Grant

Category of Funding Activity: Arts (see "Cultural Affairs" in CFDA)

Category Explanation:

Expected Number of Awards:

Estimated Total Program Funding:

Award Ceiling: $200,000

Award Floor: $10,000

CFDA Number(s): 45.024
-- Promotion of the Arts_Grants to Organizations and Individuals

In this RFP, information is provided to help guide a potential applicant through the process. It is helpful to know that the award ceiling is $200,000, but an applicant would need to access the full proposal to see most common award amounts for different types of work proposed. It is also interesting to note that there is no expected number of awards to be made or the total amount of program funding available. This absence of information likely indicates that this is an ongoing program with a regular funding stream. If this RFP had listed that the program had a total of $1 million to make grants up to $200,000 it would be clear that this was a very competitive process.

 
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