Searching for Federal Grant Opportunities

This year, The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance describes over 500 grant programs that award hundreds of billions of dollars. To begin developing a grant application, you first must learn how to search for government grants in your area of interest.

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (, or CFDA, is a great place to get an overview of every grant program administered by the federal government.  Once you find the grant programs that interest you, you can begin tracking them in the Federal Register and Grants.Gov.

The CFDA provides a full listing of 2,110 federal programs available to state and local governments, Indian tribal governments, territories and possessions of the United States, nonprofit organizations, and individuals.  The top five grant programs by agencies are:

  • Department of Health and Human Services (417).
  • Department of Agriculture (229).
  • Department of the Interior (217).
  • Department of Education (170).
  • Department of Justice (125).

On the CFDA Web site, you can use the search engine to identify grant programs by agency or by general topic.  Grant programs in the CFDA are classified as either formula grants or project grants.  A formula grant is federal money distributed by a state agency based on some kind of formula.  A project grant comes directly from a federal agency.

The Federal Register ( is a major resource for specific information about available grants.  Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Federal Register is a daily publication of the rules, proposed rules, and notices about grant programs of federal agencies.  In print, the annual Federal Register is many thousands of pages long.  You can search this URL by date of announcement or by topic.

Although the Federal Register is very wordy, there is a very good reason to use it.  You can receive advanced notice about federal grant opportunities, which will enable you to begin preparing your grant application before the official notice appears.

Perhaps the handiest way to find grant opportunities is through Grants.Gov (  This URL lists all current and upcoming grant opportunities by agency, number, and by topic.  Once you have identified an opportunity, clicking on it leads you to the grant guidelines and other important information, such as deadlines, eligible applicants, the amount of money available, and the estimated number of grant to be awarded.

For example, searching Grants.Gov under “family planning” yields over 100 federal grant and contract opportunities in the area of contraception, family planning services, HIV/AIDS, and STIs.

Once you have identified federal grant programs of interest to you, you should begin tracking them in the Federal Register or Grants.Gov.  Monitoring these programs on a daily basis is the only way you will know when grant funds become available.  To develop a successful application, you must be ready to pounce on grant opportunities as early as possible.

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