Understanding Federal Government Grant Announcements

Once you begin tracking federal grant opportunities through the Federal Register (www.gpoaccess.gov/fr) and Grants.Gov (www.grants.gov), you probably will start finding grant opportunities.  To take advantage of these opportunities, you first must understand what you are reading.

Doing a basic search is straightforward.   At both these sites, you can use the “Basic Search” option to search by keyword, funding opportunity number, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number, agency, or grant category.

To do a general search, you can type in a key word such as “Ethiopia” or secondary school safety programs.”  The search engine will quickly provide you with a listing of all federal grant opportunities that have these words in them.  If you know the funding opportunity number or the CFDA number, you can narrow your search for a particular grant opportunity.  If you are looking for grant opportunities in a specific federal agency, you can browse by name of agency.

You can browse by grant category, such as “energy.”  However, browsing by category may result in hundreds of  listings.  If you are doing a general search for grants, this will help you understand the kinds of programs and agencies involved in federal energy grant programs. 

The federal government has its own language and regulations about government grants and thus you will need to familiarize yourself with the language and format of federal grant listings.  Here are the key components of grant listings:

  • Posted date.
  • Closing date for applications.  This tells you when the application is due.
  • Expected number of awards.  This tells you how many grant awards will be made through this grant program.
  • Estimated total program funding.  This tells you how much many is available through this grant competition.
  • Award ceiling and floor.  This tells you the lowest and highest grant budgets you can submit.
  • Cost sharing or matching.  This tells you whether or not you must contribute a certain percentage of cash or in-kind resources to your federally-funded project.
  • Description.  This is a short summary of the grant program.
  • Link to the full announcement.  The URL will link you to the entire grant package.

Now that you have this information, you can match up your program needs with a specific federal grant competition.  But before you apply, you must assess your organization’s readiness to apply and your chances of winning a grant.

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