Get Ready to Compete for Federal Grants

An organization doesn’t have to be large to receive a federal grant award. Many small nonprofits benefit from direct federal grants, or from federal funding passed through to them by other, larger organizations. “An organization’s size isn’t the issue. It’s all about the ability to deliver what it promises and to manage the grant competently,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

    Federal application guidelines are explicit and if you’re confident that your organization can fully meet or exceed the program requirements, you might be a good candidate for funding. But if you haven’t applied for a federal grant before, first assess the most basic grant management requirements your organization must meet.

  • Uniform Guidance and Other Rules: One or more staff members on your grants team must have a solid understanding of the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200) from the Office of Management and Budget. Someone must also be versed in specific requirements of the federal funding agencies from which you’ll receive grants, and of laws and rules in your home state that dictate aspects of grant operation.
  • Policies and Procedures: You’ll need written policies and procedures in place for purchasing and other aspects of financial management. These systems must be tightly aligned with federal requirements, and followed consistently. “I strongly recommend that you also put written policies and procedures in place to guide the grants function within your organization,” said Floersch. “It’s important to have a fully articulated plan for who’s responsible for what.”
  • Accounting Competence: Your organization’s financial system should comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
  • History of High Quality Management: Before making an award to your organization, federal agencies will assess your capacity to deliver what you promise and manage the funding in a compliant manner. You’re a good applicant when you have a history of delivering on time, within budget, and within the particular rules that guide the grant award. Federal agencies will be particularly interested in good audit results.

If your organization can meet or exceed the demands of the application guidelines, and if your house is in order management-wise, you’re a good applicant. It’s time to develop a winning grant proposal. © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.