As with many projects in life, it is best to begin your planning and writing as early as you can. When applying for federal grants, the OMB Uniform Guidance sets forth a 30 to 60 day range for federal funding opportunities to be open:
“(b) The Federal awarding agency must generally make all funding opportunities available for application for at least 60 calendar days. The Federal awarding agency may make a determination to have a less than 60 calendar day availability period but no funding opportunity should be available for less than 30 calendar days unless exigent circumstances require as determined by the Federal awarding agency head or delegate.” §200.203(b)
A reasonable follow-up question to this is what to do if you would like to begin working on a grant application more than two months in advance.
The first step is to ensure your organization’s mission aligns with those of a particular federal grant program. This means performing research on the different grant-making agencies and their grant programs before focusing on a specific grant.
The challenge then becomes identifying future grants before they are announced. Of course, there is no official way to know until an FOA is posted on Grants.gov, but a little investigation may unlock some additional insight into the timing of future grant opportunities.
1) Search through grant forecasts on Grants.gov
“Forecasted” opportunities are those that a federal agency plans to open, but funds are not yet formally available and are pending budgetary and discretionary spending approvals. More information about grant forecasts can be found here.
2) Search through closed and archived FOAs on Grants.gov
While past performance does not ensure future results, with a quick search you can see which FOAs agencies posted in the past. As you look into this history, pay attention to when FOAs were posted and closed. Can you identify a trend in recent years? That trend could help you map out the timing of the next related grant.
3) Dive into federal award data on USAspending.gov
Reviewing this public spending data shows which organizations received past grants you may be seeking in the future. Among the information available on USAspending.gov is the amount and duration of past funding. This award data, combined with reviewing grant program descriptions, may provide insight on the organizational infrastructure, staffing levels, and potential co-applicants you may need to coordinate with before submitting your grant application.
Can you think of other ways you can prepare for a grant application before the FOA is posted? Let us know on Twitter or in the comment section below!