Federal Grants for Nonprofits: Are They a Fit for Your Organization?

Plus: How to be Submit Competitive Applications

Blog Post by CharityHowTo Expert Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Your organization may have a successful grant seeking strategy. You may have great relationships with foundation and perhaps even state agency grantmakers. You may be managing your funding and reporting requirements well.

But as your Board of Directors or fundraising team look at how to grow the organization further or diversify your revenue, it is likely that the question of federal grant support eventually arises.

So how do you know if federal grants for nonprofits are a good fit for you? And if your organization is prepared to take on the 100+ hour process of applying for an average federal grant?

Some initial federal grant readiness questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Do you have a DUNS number for your organization? (A nine-digit DUNS number is different than your nine-digit EIN number and is updated through dnb.com.)
  2. Do you have an active SAM.gov account for your organization? Or will be a new account or reactivate a lapsed account? (Either of which require you to physically mail in a notarized signature document from your Authorized Organization Representative (AOR))?
  3. Do you have a grants.gov account? With all appropriate members of your grant team (internal/external grant professional, evaluator, etc) able to access your collaborative Workspace?
  4. Do you know what agency you are interested in securing funding through? And if so, what funding opportunity you are waiting to open in the upcoming quarter or upcoming year?

If you are interested in learning more about how to start with registering and applying for your first federal grant for your organization, you can watch the on-demand session of Federal Grants 101 here.

Yet, perhaps you already…

  • Have achieved the basic grant readiness for federal grants as you already successfully navigated the federal grants registration systems of dnb.com, sam.gov, and grants.gov.
  • Know what forecasted federal opportunity you will apply for when it opens and have already reached out and talked with the program manager.
  • Or you have already submitted one, or perhaps five federal grant proposals.

In these cases, your question isn’t just about how to be registered, ready, and apply, but rather how to ensure that you will be competitive in the process.

How to Ensure You Submit a Competitive Federal Grants for Nonprofits Application

Strong writing skills are one element necessary for a successful federal grant application, but not the only as the applications are large multi-element submissions that need to tell a consistent story to the reviewers in order to achieve the maximum score and ultimately, a grant award.

While each application for each federal agency is unique, there are some commonalities that you need to look at for all applications to be competitive in the process of applying for federal grants for nonprofits:

  1. Know how your proposal will be reviewed/scored and create a process for your organization to review your draft against those review guidelines.
  2. Engage your collaborative partners and subcontractors in the application design and drafting process as early as possible to ensure their buy-in as well as the quality of the content included about their contribution for the project.
  3. Work with your financial leadership in your organization to design the budget early on in the application drafting process to ensure that all of the necessary goals and deliverables for the funding opportunity can be met by your organization within the eligible budget framework.
  4. Look at the grant management requirements for your organization assuming you do get the funding and think about how, if at all, that may influence your program design, your budget constraints, and any other grant readiness work your organization should do.

If you have already applied for at least one federal grant for your nonprofit on your own and are looking to feel more confident about your competitiveness in the federal grant seeking process, you can watch the on-demand session of Federal Grants 201 here.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to start with registering and applying for your first federal grant for your organization, you can watch the on-demand session of Federal Grants 101 here.

About the Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, is an experienced and respected grant professional who has provided grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope for more than a decade. In addition, Diane is an in-demand speaker and trainer on the topics of grant readiness, grant writing and grants management and regularly provides her expertise to audiences ranging from national conferences to boards of directors for small, nonprofit organizations.

Check out all of Diane’s CharityHowTo trainings here.

Topics: grants, federal grants