What is a Federal Grant, and How Can My Organization Use It?

Government funding, distributed through agencies across the United States, allows local organizations to tap into grants to further their mission. If you have ambitious goals for the new year but not enough funds to get there, federal grant applications should be on your to-do list. If you’re new to the process, here are a couple pointers to help you start:

Does my business qualify for a grant?

There are several grant-making agencies that distribute these funds. This list includes organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of Education (ED)\ or U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The comprehensive list of twenty-six organizations spans across a variety of industries and sectors, so it’s important to review each organization and search for the one that most closely aligns with your business goals.

In order to apply for a grant, you must take the following four mandatory steps:

  • Obtain a DUNS Number (unique nine-character identification number)
  • Register with System for Award Management (SAM)
  • Register with the official grants website
  • Assign an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) in your grant portal

Where do I find grants?

Beyond going directly to the websites of the agencies offering grants, here are four places TacMed Solutions recommends you find your next opportunity:

  • Grants.gov: the largest and most widely known database that contains information about all grant-making agencies and their offerings.
  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance: a database with information for applicants on general funding information.
  • Federal Business Opportunities: a general database with grant information and application instructions.
  • FEMA Grants: grants dedicated to expanding local services and material goods.

How long does this process take?

The general wait time to hear back about federal grant approval varies but typically falls within a three-to-six-month range. For some organizations, it can take up to a year. It’s important to take this into consideration as you manage your budgets; while grants can be a significant contributor to your budget, it’s not quick money. Plan on a minimum wait of six months to ensure that you’re financially prepared to sustain your business in the meantime.

Remember, the grant writing process isn’t always easy. Depending on the specific grant you’re applying for, you will need to plan on creating a comprehensive application package. This often involves creating a cover letter, summary and written proposal, accompanied by supporting graphics, data, images and other helpful visuals. The more time you dedicate to the development and review of these proposals, the more likely you are to stand out above the rest.

Are there grant scams I should worry about?

As long as you are applying directly through one of the grant-makers from the approved list on the government’s website, you should be fine. If you are approached about a grant that seems too good to be true, it likely is! Scammers will often reach out and identify themselves as a representative from the “Federal Grants Association.” This organization doesn’t exist but sounds pretty convincing! This is why it’s always important to double check who is offering the grant, and carefully examine the terms of the offering.

Your Next Grant Application

No matter which grant you apply for, remember that it’s all about highlighting the best of your business! Remember to plan time to create, edit and submit your proposal, along with a buffer for the acceptance time period. If you’re still struggling to find a match, consider engaging a grant specialist or consultant to point you in the right direction.

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