Receiving a federal grant can be a great way to accelerate your impact. There are many positive attributes in applying for and receiving a federal grant. Federal grants tend to be for larger amounts and are often multi-year funding to name a few. However, federal grant applications are complex and not easy to navigate.
We have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. These grants have really helped to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure, expand their reach, and impact more individuals. There are some times, however, that we recommend a client not pursue a federal grant opportunity.
Before you invest the time and energy with a federal grant application, make sure these four elements are in place to determine if your organization is ready for a federal grant:
1. Compelling Need
Federal grants are very competitive. When they are national, you can be competing with hundreds of proposals. Nearly every federal grant application will begin with a “Need Section” where the applicant is asked to explain the need for this grant funding and support. One of the ways to stand out is to make sure your geographical community and target population fit the profile of need. Then you will want to pull from various public data sources, using citations, to make the case. Depending on the proposal, we might also include some relevant research and citations that back up the need and proposed intervention (Check out this blog for our go to data sources!). Treat the writing of this section more like an academic college paper.
2. Program Design
When organizations are ready to apply for a federal grant, they need to have a strong design of their program. Many federal agencies are promoting “research-based” and “evidence-based” programs and services (See this blog for more insight!). If your program does not meet those thresholds, which is not always a requirement, then work to make the case for the program’s rigor and (hopefully) close alignment to evidence-based programs and elements of evidence-based programs.
3. Program Impact
There is an overall trend in grant making where more and more funders are wanting to invest their resources in organizations with sound data and results. They want to see the outcomes and solid data to backup your impact. Make sure your program has outcomes and not just outputs (See this blog for some help with outcomes!). If you are a new program or proposing a new intervention, then it is more difficult since you most likely haven’t proven yourself. This is where having a strong, close alignment to an evidence-based program model is helpful and may serve as a proxy for your impact.
4. Fiscal System and Accounting
Last but certainly not least, your organization needs to have strong fiscal controls in place to account for your federal grant dollars. You never know when the federal government will request an audit of your grant funding, so you want to have good systems in place to be able to account for those specific funds. We had one client go through an audit due to some concerning issues with their federal program officer (not anything they were doing wrong), and it was quite laborious and time consuming since this was their first federal grant. They didn’t have all of the separate accounting systems in place. Make sure you are ready to track, monitor and account for your federal funding.
If your organization can check all four boxes, then it may be time for you to consider a federal grant opportunity that could propel your impact and reach forward. If your organization can’t check all of the boxes yet, then you may need some support to help you get ready. The good news is we can help you in either scenario. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and see how federal grants may be a good fit for your organization!