How to Find Grants through Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog - dummies

How to Find Grants through Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog

By Beverly A. Browning

You can find all sorts of information about where the grant money is and what it can be used for in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). The CFDA provides a full listing of all federal programs available to state and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribal governments; territories of the United States; U.S.-based public, quasi-public, and private for-profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals.

When you’re looking for federal programs in the CFDA, zero in on programs that award project grants — the most plentiful category for local, regional, and national grant seekers. A project grant is funding for a specific period of time. These grant funds must be used to deliver the specific services outlined in the grant application narrative.

Project grants include fellowships, scholarships, research grants, training grants, traineeships, service grants (to address needs of specific populations such as the homeless, adolescent parents, and so on), experimental and demonstration grants, evaluation grants, planning grants, technical assistance grants, survey grants, construction grants, and unsolicited contractual agreements.

Also, pay attention to the actual amount of dollars allocated for the most current fiscal year. If the current fiscal year’s allocation is ($0), contact the program officer to find out if this grant will be available in the next fiscal year.

What info the CFDA provides

The CFDA contains detailed program descriptions for 2,206 federal assistance programs administered by 67 federal agencies. Because not all the agencies are grant-making agencies, you will only find the 26 federal grant-making agencies here:

Federal agencies can have numerous grant-making offices within them. Start at each agency’s website home page to find lists or links to each of their grant-making divisions.

  • Agency for International Development

  • Corporation for National and Community Services

  • Delta Regional Authority

  • Department of Agriculture

  • Department of Commerce

  • Department of Defense

  • Department of Education

  • Department of Energy

  • Department of Energy — Office of Science (new breakout agency)

  • Department of Health and Human Services

  • Department of Homeland Security

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Department of the Interior

  • Department of Justice

  • Department of Labor

  • Department of State

  • Department of Transportation

  • Department of Veteran Affairs

  • Environmental Protection Agency

  • Institute of Library and Museum Services

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • National Archives and Records Administration

  • National Endowment for the Arts

  • National Endowment for the Humanities

  • National Science Foundation

  • Small Business Administration

The entry for each federal program in the CFDA includes general information on the

  • Federal agency administering the program

  • Five-digit code that identifies the federal grant-making agency and subagency distributing the grant or cooperative agreement funds

  • Authorization upon which the program is based (the federal legislation that created the program)

  • Objectives and goals of the program

  • Types of assistance offered under a program

  • Uses and restrictions placed upon a program

  • Eligibility requirements (explains applicant eligibility, beneficiary eligibility, and credentials/documentation required)

  • Application and award process (describes requirements for pre-application coordination, application procedures, award procedure, deadlines, range of approval/disapproval time, appeals, and renewals)

  • Assistance considerations (tells you whether there are formula or matching requirements and length/time phasing of assistance)

  • Post assistance requirements (gives you general expectations for grantee reports and audits, and for maintaining financial records)

  • Financial information (tells you the amount of obligations — how much money Congress allocated to this program — for the past, current, and future fiscal years; the federal fiscal year starts October 1 and ends September 30) and estimated average award sizes

  • Program accomplishments (generic history of what this federal program has done recently to fulfill its mission)

  • Regulations, guidelines, and literature relevant to a program

  • Information contacts at the headquarters, regional, and local offices and the federal website address for the grant-making agency

  • Related programs based upon program objectives and uses (helps you find other federal programs that award grants in your project’s area)

  • Examples of funded projects (look for funded projects that sound like the project you’re seeking grant monies for)

  • Criteria for selecting proposals

What info the CDFA leaves out

The CFDA is static (published annually) and is not the go-to source for current grant-funding announcements. After you look through the CFDA to identify grants you’re interested in applying for, you can subscribe to grant announcement alerts, by agency or keyword, published at or an online government grant research database. is where you can view the actual grant opportunity announcement.

Also, note that the CDFA doesn’t give specific deadlines for any grant-making agencies. All specific information, such as grant deadlines, is posted in the grant opportunity announcement.