Should You Apply for a Federal Grant?

Once you have identified a promising federal grant opportunity, you should determine if this federal opportunity is for you…or someone else.

Once you have carefully studied the grant guidelines, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Are you eligible?  Look in the section on “Eligible Applicants” and make sure that you can apply.  Some federal grant programs are restricted to certain states or certain kinds of organizations.
  2. What is the deadline?  Look in the section on “Deadline for Transmittal of Applications” to determine if you have enough time to develop a great application.  You will need at least a month to develop a highly competitive application.
  3. What is the award size?  Look in the section on “Estimated Average Award Size.”  You should know your total project cost and compare that number to the size of the grant award.  Some federal grants may be very small — $30,000 – while others may provide up to several million dollars.  There is an economy of scale in developing federal proposals.  Requesting a small amount of grant funds may be almost as time-consuming as requesting 10 times that amount.
  4. What are your chances of receiving an award?  Look in the section at the “Estimated Number of Awards.”  If the federal program is only going to award a few grants, you probably should not apply because the competition is going to be very fierce.  Consider applying to federal grant programs where the mathematical odds are more in your favor.
  5. Is my project directly related to the grant guidelines?  Look at the description of the grant program.  Does your organization have the same mission as the grant program?  Will you be able to submit a grant application that directly addresses the goals and objectives of the grant program?  If the answer to both questions is yes, than this grant program may be for you.

If you do your homework well, you will uncover many potential federal grant opportunities.  However, you should not indiscriminately apply to all of them.  If you have developed a good process for reviewing grant opportunities, you will decide not to bid on most federal opportunities.  Carefully assess your chances of being awarded a grant before you decide to spend the time, money, and resources to apply.

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