Let’s say you’re a mayor of a small town in the Midwest, or a newly elected commissioner in a county along the East Coast, or an official who overseas parks in a suburb of a major city.
You’re looking for federal grant funding, but you don’t know where to begin.
The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone.
Grants.gov recently met with several groups of mayors, commissioners, and other local officials at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference during the Federal Agency Round Robin event. Many of these local officials spoke of feeling overwhelmed when searching and applying for federal grants.
Over the course of our conversations with local officials, several key questions surfaced again and again, and in this space we would like to share them – along with our answers – in hope that they will be helpful to others who find themselves in similar positions, with similar needs.
Q: Are there currently any federal grants for which small towns are eligible to apply?
You can look for current federal opportunities open to towns and cities by going to the Grants.gov Search page and marking the Eligibility box next to “City or township governments”. Doing this will automatically narrow results to only opportunities that city or town governments may apply for.
We also recommend further narrowing the search results by using carefully curated keywords (such as “park preservation”), as well as the Category and Agency filters.
For example, narrowing your search to “City or township governments” and using the keywords “park preservation” will return a federal grant from the National Park Service that “makes available funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to help States and local communities acquire and preserve threatened Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War Battlefields.”
Q: What if no federal grants are currently available for my local community’s needs?
This is a good question that is best answered with several pieces of advice:
First, check with your state’s grant office. Some federal grants are first awarded to state governments before then being divided and disbursed to local governments and organizations, according to federal guidelines. We have devoted an entire blog post to this topic that you might find helpful.
Second, even though no federal grants may be currently available on Grants.gov for your local community’s needs, one could be posted at any time. The best way to keep abreast of newly posted opportunities is to create a saved search based on your custom parameters. After you have created a saved search (or several), you will begin receiving emails anytime relevant new federal opportunities are published on Grants.gov. Please note that a Grants.gov account is required in order to create a saved search.
Third, you may want to search through Closed and/or Archived opportunities on Grants.gov. If you find a closed or archived opportunity that aligns with your needs, you might consider contacting the federal agency’s point of contact (the one listed on the opportunity announcement, or the POC listed on the agency’s Grants.gov profile page) to ask whether there are any future plans to fund a similar program. To narrow your search to Closed or Archived opportunities, mark the Opportunity Status box next to “Closed” or “Archived”.
Q: Where can I go to learn how to prepare and write federal grant applications?
We have published a series of blog posts that provide grant writing tips for federal grant applications. These posts are a great place to begin your crash course in federal grant writing.
We also recommend looking at the federal grant applications of past awardees. Some agencies, such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services, post the grant applications – or portions of them – on their website. By studying such applications, you will pick up valuable insights that you can carry into your own federal grant applications.
One final tip: Let the Funding Opportunity Announcement, or FOA, be your ultimate guide for the composition and preparation of your application. Read it carefully (multiple times), and adhere to every requirement so your office is in the best position possible to compete for the funding award.
Q: How can I find a grant writer to assist our office with federal grant applications?
We recommend that you begin by contacting local chapters of organizations that connect experts in the grant community, such as the National Grants Management Association and the Grant Professionals Association. Note: Grants.gov is unable to endorse any specific organization or professional.
Q: Do you have to pay to search for or apply for federal grants on Grants.gov?
No – Grants.gov, the central repository for federal funding announcements, is completely free to use. You and other representatives of your local government offices may create accounts and use Grants.gov to search for funding opportunities and apply for them at no cost, courtesy of the U.S. Federal Government.
Grants.gov also has a free mobile app that makes searching for federal grants more convenient than ever before. The app is available to download on both the Google Play store and on Apple’s App Store.