Federal Grants for New or Small Nonprofits
We have considerable experience with federal grants and want you to understand what it will take for you to be successful.
With the amount of federal money available through grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements ever shrinking, nonprofits are finding it hard to compete for this level of funding. We have considerable experience with federal grants and want to share our knowledge with you so that you understand the process and what it will take for you to be successful.
- Federal grants fund programs or projects, not general operating support. Federal departments publishing notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) or other funding instruments want to fund new ideas to fix old problems. Your program or project must address the problem of the target population based on the purpose of the request for proposal (RFP). If you want to pursue a federal grant, let us review the NOFO for you before you begin the application process.
- The application can take 40 to 100 or more hours to complete. Government guidelines and application packages are quite lengthy and require extensive responses. The turnaround time for preparing the application package is usually 45 days after the release of the NOFO. Organizations best suited to pursue federal grants should have experience securing and managing larger foundation or corporate grants.
- Unlike foundation or corporate grants, you will not receive cash if you win a federal grant. All federal and government grants reimburse your organization for the costs associated with the program or project you are proposing. Your organization must have at least three months of cash reserves that will cover the expenditures associated with the program or project before submitting your application.
- Federal grants are very competitive. For every published NOFO, there can be potentially 1,000 or more proposals submitted from across the country. If there are only 10 awards available through the grant and 1,000 applications received, then the chances of winning are 1:100. If there are 100 awards, the ratio decreases to 1:10. Still, if your proposal scores 90 out of a possible 100 points and recommended for funding by the peer reviewers, there is no guarantee that you will receive the amount you requested.
We work with organizations to seek federal funding if they have the following:
- Strategic plan to ensure that your five-year goals align with the purpose of the NOFO
- Fundraising plan to answer the question of sustainability found in every federal NOFO
- Financial audit from the previous fiscal year or two years prior
- Annual diversified funding sources with at least 60% or more from sources other than grants or state contracts
- Personnel who have the time and expertise to file the required progress reports
- Technology such as a specialized management information system to track participant data
All nonprofits seeking federal funding must have a working knowledge of the following:
- Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
- Logic models and outcome benchmarks
- Evaluation methodology including performance measures or indicators
We highly recommend your organization learn all it can about federal grants. One of the best places to start is the federal grants website grants.gov.
We also offer half-, full– and two-day workshop on federal grants. Learn more about the content on our Workshop Description page. Then visit our Workshop Schedule page to check the dates of our upcoming workshops and locations.