So you have zeroed in on a federal grant opportunity that is aligned with your organization’s mission using Grants.gov Search. You’ve previewed the grant application’s forms. You’ve taken notes on the range of information you will need to provide in the grant application. Now, you think, “If only I had some guidance, or some resources to help me stay on track.”
The federal grant application process can be daunting, but a lot of folks have been in your shoes and have produced helpful – and free – online resources.
Handouts, slide decks, sample applications, best practices, blog posts, glossaries, and the Grants Learning Center – lots of resources are out there for first-time and inexperienced federal grant applicants. Sometimes, though, a simple Google search won’t turn them up; you will need to dig a little deeper.
Resources from Federal Agencies
The first place you should look for applicant resources is on the website of the agency that is awarding the grant. Of course, we are assuming that you have already consulted the grant synopsis and any specific agency instructions that are provided on the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on Grants.gov. The FOA has specific guidance you need to follow.
Some grant programs are very proactive in developing resources for new grant applicants. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. On their grant application resources page, you will find…
- Tips for writing NCCIH application cover letters
- Sample applications
- Articles about policies and the application review process
- Archived podcasts (several years old) breaking down the grant lifecycle
- Agency contact information for principal investigators
The Department of Education, likewise, offers comprehensive courses – via slide decks and HTML web pages – focused on supporting awardees in their management of a grant.
These courses cover recipient discretionary grants administration, formula grants administration, internal controls, and cash management, among other topics.
The agency has also produced a 60-page white paper that “answers your questions about the discretionary grants process.” The document amounts to an in-depth set of frequently asked questions from applicants.
‘What If I Cannot Find these Resources?’
While it’s always a good idea to start with the grant-making agency’s website (most have pages that outline current grant programs), it may be helpful to also review resources produced by other agencies.
While not as directly relevant, resources from other agencies or sub-agencies will, in many cases, still prove extremely helpful – especially to first-time applicants.
For example, check out the sample applications on NIH’s website. Included in this resource are samples of summary statements, application forms, letters and emails.
Best practices and takeaways from these samples can be applied to many different types of research grant applications – not only those awarded by NIH.
“We are truly indebted to the investigators listed below, who have enabled us to deliver this widely anticipated resource to the research community,” reads a note from the agency. “We selected these applications as sound examples of good grantsmanship… We post new samples periodically.”
First-time or inexperienced federal grant applicants would do well to look for resources like these on the grantor’s website – and then to expand the search to other federal agency websites.
Can you recommend a federal grant applicant resource that has been especially useful to you? Please tell us about it. The second part of this series will focus on where to find free applicant resources on university websites.