Becoming Grant-Ready: Federal Grants
Being prepared in advance is one of the best ways to enhance your competitiveness for federal grants. This is if you already apply for federal grants or want to enter this arena.
According to PhilanTech's State of Grantseeking spring 2013 report, for organizations whose annual budgets exceed $1 million, federal grants comprise the largest source of grant funding (no doubt because the individual grant amounts can be quite large).
Since you often only have 30 days from the date a competition is announced until the submission deadline, anything you can do to pre-position your organization before-hand will save time. Not being frantic right before the deadline decreases the chance of errors and increases the quality of your writing.
Take these steps to be ready to move quickly when an opportunity presents itself:
- Get registered on Grants.gov - This actually requires at least three different registrations and can take time. It's a one-time registration (update annually). Very clear instructions are offered on the Grants.gov website (or in our book - see article below).
- Pre-sign Certifications and Assurances - Sandard Certifications and Assurances are available at Grants.gov, or download an open application package and obtain the documents. Your legal counsel should review and approvet them. Then get a signature by the CEO or Board Chair, and keep a signed copy in your office.
- Learn Federal Budgeting - Get familiar with federal budget categories and spending rules. (E.g. - some things you may call "equipment" are likely considered "supplies" by the feds.) You can even set up a budget template in a spreadsheet (samples of these are provided in the workbook to accompany our federal grants book - see below).
- Gather Attachments - Have ready to go a scanned copy of your organization's IRS 501(c)(3) letter. You should also have on hand a current organizational chart suitable for upload, the most current organizational budget, and last year's audit. Ask your auditors to send you a PDF version.
- Obtain Previous RFA - Read carefully the guidelines from the most recent competition held for the program to which you want to apply. Usually, you can begin planning your program and even writing portions of the narrative based on these as long as you remember to scour the new RFA for changes as soon as it is released.
- Talk to Previous Grantees - Most grantees can't share their previous proposals with you, but you can ask for general advice. If you have been unable to find a copy of the most recent RFA online, ask if they will send that to you. Find out about what reviewers like and don't like in applications.
Doing as much work as possible before the RFA comes out will help you be more competitive.
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