Some initial words of advice: government grants are far more complicated, demanding, and expensive to pursue than foundation grants. If you want to pursue one you must be sure that you have lots of support available to fulfill the extensive administrative requirements of this endeavor. This task often requires that you hire dedicated staff – well before you know if you have any chance of being funded – to handle the workload. This expense will not be included in or repaid by any funds awarded.
Tips for Seeking Government Grants
- Not surprisingly, the awarding of government grants can be political. One of your first steps should be to procure support from any possible elected officials.
- Government grantmaking agencies will often hold training seminars for those who wish to apply. It is very important that a responsible member of your staff attend these workshops. Doing so may incur travel expenses, but the workshops will provide important details about necessary guidelines and provide insight about proposals get evaluated and scored.
- Know upfront that a government grant may be provided only for a single year, with subsequent years dependent on your performance and adherence to strict guidelines in the first year. Many organizations assume they will receive funding for several years and factor that into their plans only to find that they do not “pass the test” of the first year.
- The grant announcement and application rules will include a contact who is responsible for handling communications about this award. Take advantage of that information and contact him or her to learn things like what percentage of applicants actually win awards, what future grant cycles are coming up and their deadlines, who will be involved in evaluating proposals, and answers to whatever other questions you may have.
- You can and should also get in touch with organizations who have won similar grants in the past. They may be willing to give you some important tips and inside information (if they are not also applying for the grant you are seeking!).
Examples of Federal Application Complexity
It would be difficult (and rather frightening) to provide actual federal application examples here. And the length would be prohibitive. It is worth your time, however, to at least look at some (or at least one) example.
Fortunately this is easily done by visiting the federal “go-to” site for all government grants: grants.gov. We recommend that you go to that site, follow instructions for doing a search, and look for grants that are relevant to your area of activity. The site will allow you to choose grants of interest and read more detail about them.
This would be an excellent exercise to complete if your organization is considering but uncertain about pursuing a government grant.
Learn from Successful Proposals
If you feel confident that pursuing a government grant is right for you, by all means go for it. But go fully armed. Be sure to start well in advance, know all deadlines, and break the effort into manageable chunks that can be assigned to responsible individuals. Designate a project manager and create a realistic timeline.
It would also be useful to look at successfully funded government grant proposals. The best source for those is the Grantsmanship Center’s Library of Winning Grant Proposals. It includes recent winning proposals in a number of areas and is regularly updated. The proposals included received particularly high marks from government funders so are well worth emulating.
There is a cost but you can look at a single proposal you choose for $29, and additional ones for $20 each. Or get a CD containing multiple proposals for $99.