How to Pursue Federal Government Grants for Your Nonprofit
To pursue government funds for your nonprofit, you want to study a different set of research guides from those that help you with foundations and corporations. The publication that’s most likely to help you is online at Grants.gov.
Grants.gov only covers federal grant programs. If you’re seeking personal financial assistance, follow the links on the For Applicants page of Grants.gov.
The pros and cons of Grants.gov
The bad news about Grants.gov is that it’s written in bureaucratic language, and the site has so much information that it can be overwhelming. But the bad news is far outweighed by the good: Grants.gov is the only source you’ll need for information about all federal grants.
It incorporates more than 1,000 programs representing $500 billion in annual grant awards. After you get past the initial shock of wading through the mass of information, the site is relatively easy to search.
Supplement your search with the CFDA
Federal agencies provide 15 different types of funding, including program grants, insurance, loans, and direct payments for specified use. For information about all 15 types of federal assistance, turn to another federal publication, the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).
If grant support is what you’re seeking, Grants.gov is more tailored to your needs and, perhaps, less cumbersome. However, the CFDA website is a powerful tool that you also may want to explore. The two websites use the same catalog numbering system to identify funding opportunities.
Begin your search with Grants.gov
As you begin your search, pay attention to whether your organization is eligible to apply to a particular program. Some kinds of federal grants are available only to state and local governments, federally recognized Native American tribal governments, and other specified groups — not necessarily nonprofit organizations.
When opening the home page of Grants.gov, you’re invited to search by
Agency (which is useful if you know you’re interested in reviewing the programs offered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Department of Homeland Security, or another specific agency)
Categories (broad subject areas such as environment and health)
When you’re ready to move beyond browsing, select Grants.gov’s Advanced Search page, which allows you to check on coming deadlines, confirm applicant eligibility, and search by funding category. If you happen to know the CFDA number for a specific program, you can enter it and — voilà — the program description will appear.
Grants.gov can tell you which agencies and offices manage the funds for different grant opportunities. After identifying federal programs of interest, experienced grant seekers usually call, write, or e-mail those offices to confirm the information. That’s because even though Grants.gov information is updated frequently, it also goes out of date quickly.
Before you apply for a federal grant, you need to register with Grants.gov. The process involves several steps and can take up to two weeks. Begin this process as soon as you decide to apply for federal funding so delays don’t cause you to miss a critical deadline.