Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Seek Federal Funding?

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Want to apply for a federal grant? Take our advice and get prepared now.

Federal grants are notoriously cumbersome, and most people need more time to complete the application package than anticipated.

That’s why we recommend getting organized well before the funding opportunity presents itself. With the low-hanging fruit picked, you’ll be free to focus on the “meatier” sections of your application.

Here are some things to do while you wait for a funding opportunity to open.

Get registration numbers

If you’re considering applying for grants, we assume you’ve already received an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) for your agency. You should also have a 501( c)3 determination letter.

If you don’t have this documentation, start now as the process can take months. Check out the IRS website for info.

Applying for federal grants requires two additional registrations: a DUNS number and SAM registration. Even if you don’t have a grant in mind, go ahead and secure these registrations. It’s helpful to understand the full process before getting started.

Here’s the basic process:

  • Call 1-866-705-5711 for a DUNS number. This process will take between 1 and 2 business days.
  • Register for System Award Management (SAM) at gov. You’ll need your EIN number, your organization’s authorizing officer and 7 to 10 business days and possibly longer to get registered.

Pro Tip: Some granting agencies, like the National Science Foundation or Department of Education, require registration with additional platforms. Read the details listed with the funding opportunity so you don’t miss a crucial step.

Gather documentation

Every federal grant requires documentation about your agency and your project. Many of these boilerplate pieces don’t change more than once a year. Make a folder on a shared drive where you or your staff can easily locate these items.

  • Operating budget
  • Organizational chart or list of staff with responsibilities
  • 501c3 letter
  • List of board members with contact and demographic information, including gender identity and race
  • Audited financial statements
  • Strategic plan
  • Mission, vision and values statements

You’ll also need information about the project or program for which you’re seeking funding. You’ll need things like

  • Program budget
  • Logic model with inputs and outputs
  • Staffing plan
  • Data on past programs to highlight your success and experience
  • Rationale for the project including community or population data

Create outcomes measures

Granting agencies will ask you how you plan to prove you’ve made a difference. That is, if you are awarded funding, how will measure your success? This is a vital piece of all grant applications. If you don’t include a way to measure outcomes, it’s probably not worth your time to apply at all.

As you’re formulating your project, make sure you determine how to evaluate the impact and results of your work. Having this information at the ready will make the federal grant writing process go much quicker.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

To the uninitiated, federal grants are intimidating and confusing. If you need help getting grant ready or writing a federal grant application, reach out. We can customize a package that offers the level of help you need.

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