Federal Government Grants: How to Find Them Fast in 2023
Are you feeling overwhelmed or daunted by finding federal grants, keeping track of complicated applications, or determining which grant programs are right for your nonprofit?
Don’t worry! In this article we’ll go over what federal government grants are, why they’re important, and how to find federal government grants fast. Let’s jump in!
What Are Federal Government Grants?
There are many different kinds of grants for nonprofits. Federal government grants are grants distributed to eligible nonprofits or government agencies by the different departments of the U.S. federal government. There are 26 different federal grantmaking agencies, and they administer over 1,000 grantmaking programs.
Federal grants can focus on a number of different things, including:
Specific programmatic goals, i.e. historic preservation or maternal health outcomes.
Specific regions, i.e. state-wide programs or rural areas.
Specific populations, i.e. children or veterans.
Capital projects for specific purposes, such as public health infrastructure.
Federal government grants differ from private or public foundation grants in that the funding areas are selected by a given federal government agency and they are evaluated by multiple levels of federal government staff instead of being reviewed by a board of directors. Federal government grant applications are usually fairly complex, with multiple registrations, strict requirements, and thorough reporting processes.
Even though managing federal government grants can be complicated, federal funding isn’t out of your reach! Keep reading to see how to find the best federal government grants for your nonprofit.
Why Are Federal Government Grants Important?
Federal government grants are key components of many nonprofits’ funding strategies. They’re important for several reasons:
They diversify your funding stream- many nonprofits rely on individual donations, major gifts, and foundation grants. This is great, but it’s important to get money from many sources so that if one source dries up, another can take its place. Federal government grants can help make your nonprofit’s financial future more secure.
They make big grants- the federal government sets aside significant sums for grantmaking in many focus areas. Your nonprofit may be able to secure a federal grant for much more than you could get from a family foundation. For the majority of nonprofits that secured government funding, the federal government was responsible for the largest individual award.
They can provide long-term and multi-year support– It’s common for federal government grants to provide funding for multiple years. It’s also common for federal grantmaking agencies to form long-term relationships with the nonprofits they fund. If you secure one federal government grant, it can lead to others.
They’re consistent– smaller foundations' ability to distribute grants is sometimes affected by their financial performance, the financial state of their other funded projects, or the personal interests of their boards. Federal government grants are made by individual departments that focus on broad areas of interest—you always know that the Department of Education is going to give grants related to education and they’re going to give grants year after year.
It’s worth considering applying for federal government grants if your nonprofit works in an area you know the federal government funds—such as health, social services, the arts, and many more. Large and mid-sized nonprofits are usually the most successful in securing federal government grants because federal grantmaking agencies prioritize scalable projects and large service constituencies.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
Before you dive into applying to and then managing your federal government grant you have to find the right grant opportunity! Here are some of the ways you can go about finding federal government grants:
1. Start with a Google search.
Try search terms such as “federal grants for [insert your nonprofit’s focus],” “open federal government grant opportunities,” or “federal government grants from [insert relevant government department].” Remember to review any opportunities you find thoroughly—Google will turn up lots of search results, and many of them either won’t be government grants at all or won’t be relevant to your organization.
2. Check out Grants.gov.
Grants.gov is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and includes a database of U.S. government grant and contract opportunities. You can also read about federal government grant policies and look at a list of the 26 grantmaking agencies.
The database is searchable—you can look for grants according to award type, eligible organization type, focus areas, or grantmaking agency. The website also provides tutorials and advice for avoiding scams.
The design of the Grants.gov website isn’t always intuitive, with a cluttered list and confusing descriptions of grant opportunities, but it is comprehensive and worth combing through if you’re serious about finding a federal government grant.
Assistance listings are descriptions of federally awarded financial assistance opportunities, which include some grants as well as loans, scholarships, counseling, and insurance. These assistance opportunities aren’t just open to nonprofits, and some opportunities aren’t relevant to nonprofit work. Other entities that might apply for assistance listings include individuals, corporations and companies, state and local governments, and federally recognized Native American tribal governments.
On the Assistance Listings site, you can search by keywords related to your organization or program. Remember to review thoroughly, since nonprofits aren’t eligible for all opportunities!
4. Check out the Federal Register.
The Federal Register is the official journal of the U.S. federal government. They post federal agency rules and regulations, proposed and amended rules, public notices, as well as executive orders, and other presidential documents. Publications relevant to federal government grants include:
Notices of funding
Notices about eligibility
Updates about grant requirements
General grant information from federal grantmaking agencies
You can browse by agency or topic of interest to look for announcements about federal grant opportunities.
5. Look at specific agency websites.
Think about the focus of your nonprofit or the project you’re trying to fund and determine which federal agencies are likely to fund the kind of work your organization is doing. For instance, if you work with at-risk teens you may want to check out the Education Department, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Health and Human Services.
Once you’ve figured out which agencies are most likely to fund your nonprofit, check out their websites for open grant applications. Their sites will lead you to Grants.gov to start the registration process.
6. Narrow it down.
Once you’ve found some open federal government grant opportunities, it’s time to narrow down your list to the ones your organization will actually apply for. Federal government grants are usually competitive, with stringent eligibility requirements. Start by triple-checking your eligibility and reviewing the opportunities for anything that might be difficult for your organization to accomplish.
Most federal government grants are designed to meet very specific needs and/or fund very specific kinds of organizations. Don’t waste your energy applying for federal grants that aren’t a great fit for your nonprofit and its impact.
7. Get your spreadsheets in order.
You’re going to need to carefully track registrations, application requirements, application deadlines, submissions, awards/rejections, reporting requirements, and reporting deadlines. Federal government grants usually have stringent reporting requirements compared to other kinds of grants, so it’s especially important to create documents to track everything.
Create spreadsheets to track each of the necessary elements for your federal government grant applications. These applications usually have multiple steps, and if you aren’t organized, things can slip through the cracks!
8. Create or download a checklist.
Some federal grant opportunities will include a checklist for applicants. If so, download the checklist and make it available to everyone on your team who will be working on the application. If such a checklist isn’t available, draw one up. Review the opportunity with a fine-toothed comb and write down every single step, including required documents and a timeline.
9. Register with System Award Management (SAM).
In order to apply for a federal grant your organization first has to register with SAM, which is the platform through which federal grants are administered and managed. Complete your organization’s registration with SAM to obtain a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) or confirm that your organization already has one. SAM registration takes 7-10 days to be processed and must be completed BEFORE you register with Grants.gov.
10. Register with Grants.gov.
Grants.gov is the platform through which you will submit your application. Register your organization by filling out the required forms, and have all your organization’s basic and tax information easily accessible so that the registration goes quickly and smoothly. Grants.gov registrations are processed the same day that you register.
11. Time to write!
Now is your nonprofit’s time to shine. Review all materials provided about the opportunity and take note of the terms and language the agency uses. When appropriate, use the same language as the grantmaking agency in your proposal. Consider both technical terms (i.e. clients vs. service participants) and adjectives you can reflect back to show how well-aligned you are with the grant’s goals.
Want to get an idea of what grant funders, including government funders, might be wondering about your nonprofit? Check out these common questions funders want answered.
How Instrumentl Can Help You Find Federal Government Grants in 3 Easy Steps
Whew, that’s a lot of steps! Luckily, starting with a Google search isn’t necessarily the best way to find federal government grants. It can be simpler, faster, and easier using Instrumentl!
Instrumentl is a comprehensive grants prospecting and management platform that can help you identify grant opportunities, track your applications, and collaborate with your team. AND Instrumentl keeps you automatically up to date about changes in grant opportunities—particularly useful for complicated federal government grant RFPs.
Lots of grant databases can help you find funding opportunities, but none have as many useful grant management features which are key to successful federal government grant applications.
2. Get matched to government funders.
Once you’ve created your profile you can create saved searches related to your organization’s mission or the project you’re trying to fund. Then Instrumentl will intelligently match you with federal government grant opportunities tailored to your work. You’ll get a curated list of good-fit funders in seconds, instead of wading through confusing government databases.
3. Apply, track, manage, and report all in one place.
You can focus on what matters—writing a compelling grant proposal—because Instrumentl will automatically track your deadlines for you, and it makes it easy to store notes and research so you can effectively collaborate with your team.
When it comes to federal government grants, finding them is only half the battle. That’s why Instrumentl is so perfect for nonprofits seeking government funding– it’s a lot more than a grants finder. Instrumentl will streamline the application, tracking, and reporting process every step of the way so that finding and applying for the best federal government grants is a breeze.
But don’t take our word for it! Instrumentl’s customers rave about the many convenient features and responsive customer service that increases efficiency and reduces stress:
5 Common Federal Government Grants Questions
1. Is the government giving out grants?
The answer to this is always YES. There are always open grant opportunities from the federal government, although not in every focus area. Check regularly to see if there are new opportunities that are a good fit for your nonprofit.
2. Are federal grants public information?
Yes. The federal government is required to publish information on federal spending, including grants. Nonprofits that receive government grants are required to publicly disclose (on your 990) the amount of any federal grants.
3. What are the main kinds of federal government grants?
The main kinds of federal government grants are:
a. Formula grants- these are noncompetitive grants distributed to state and local governments, usually for things like highways and education. Nonprofits are not eligible for formula grants.
b. Project grants- these are competitive grants that fund specific projects or programs that meet policy needs, i.e. a wetland restoration grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Nonprofits are eligible for project grants, and this is the most common grant format for nonprofits.
c. Matching grants– these are grants that require the grantee to match a percentage of the grant, usually through cash or in-kind facilities. Nonprofits are eligible for matching grants.
4. Are federal grants hard to get?
Federal grants are typically very competitive. Most nonprofits have a less than 50% chance of being awarded a federal grant. If a grant opportunity is closely aligned with your project or program, it is still worth applying. Keep in mind, Instrumentl can help you find funders that align well with your project or program.
5. What are the pros and cons of federal grants?
The cons to federal government grants are that they’re highly competitive and have involved application processes and stringent reporting requirements. The pros are that they are often larger than foundation grants, can lead to multi-year funding, and lend prestige and credibility to your organization.
Wrapping Up: How to Find Federal Government Grants Fast in 2023
Now you’re ready to get out there and find the best federal government grants fast! Now you know:
Federal government grants are important sources of income for many nonprofits.
You have multiple options for finding and applying for federal grants—our recommendation is by using Instrumentl’s handy intelligent matching and automatic tracking tools.
It’s extra important to review federal grant opportunities and get your registrations in order BEFORE you start writing.
Federal grants can boost your organization in a big way—as long as you keep organized!
If getting organized is your nonprofit’s priority for the new year, try Instrumentl FREE for the first 14 days and see how Instrumentl can keep you and your team on track as you find and apply for federal government grants.
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