Most grants are awarded to non-profit agencies with 501c3 status from the Internal Revenue Service. These entities include faith-based and community organizations, educational institutions and some hospitals. Grants are specifically designed to meet a need that the granting agency considers to be a priority. The agency that is awarded the grant enters into a contractual agreement to meet that need.
The Path of Grant Funds
Grants originate at the federal department level, and most are then passed on to the state department with which they correspond. For example, federal grant funds from the Department of Justice will pass down to the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The state DJJ will then issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), which is an invitation for community organizations to apply. After community agencies apply, the grants are reviewed and scored competitively and funds are awarded.
Requests for Proposals
The Request for Proposal (RFP) will list the funding opportunity number, the closing date, the total amount to be awarded, the total number of awards, whether or not there is a matching requirement, the award ceiling and who is eligible to apply. It will provide a summary of the program and a link to the full proposal. Check the deadline and the eligibility first to see if your agency has the time to submit a proposal and if you are eligible. The amount and number of awards will tell you how competitive the grant will be. Some grants require matching funds from your organization, which may not be possible for you. The award ceiling is the potential amount your agency can receive if you are chosen.
Register and Get a DUNS Number
Most government grants applications are now prepared and submitted online. Before you attempt to apply for grants, your agency must apply for a DUNS number online. Some agencies also will require you to register as contractors, and the link for registration will be in the introduction to the proposal.
Subscribe to email alerts for RFPs from the state agencies you are most likely to be working with. For example, if you serve youth, you should get on the mailing lists for the Department of Education, Juvenile Justice and Health and Human Services.
Government grants often provide only a month between the announcement and the deadline. Obtain your DUNS number and register your organization in advance. The deadline is absolute, so plan to complete your application with days to spare.