The What is… Blog Series is designed to serve as a gentle entry point for readers who are new to federal grants, or who might just need a refresher on a particular term. Previous installments have focused mainly on defining types of federal funding. Here, and in several forthcoming series posts, we will explore terminology within the federal grant application itself, beginning with something that is sometimes called the “heart” of the federal grant proposal – the statement of need, or need(s) statement.
Q: What is a Need Statement?
A need statement outlines a public or community need that the federal grant applicant’s proposed project aims to address.
The need statement may be a few sentences, or a few paragraphs, in length. It is typically one part – a very important part – of the larger project narrative that carries the reader from the defined need into discussion of specifically how the applicant aims to address that need.
“The need statement should … tell a story that conveys the applicant’s knowledge and insight, and demonstrate that the organization understands the issue well enough to address the problem,” reads guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In the context of federal grants, the “problem” can be anything from the need to digitize and preserve historically significant photographs to the need to protect a habitat or an endangered species, or the need to investigate a scientific finding that promises health benefits for people with cancer, or the need to support efforts to re-train workers from fading industries.
The need statement, then, conveys that the applicant is both familiar and equipped to address a problem according to the specifics outlined in the federal agency’s funding opportunity announcement published on Grants.gov.
Want to Go Deeper?
We have devoted a separate blog post focused on how to write a good need statement.
Some federal agencies also publish successful proposals on their website. Dig into these and you will find some great examples of need statements. We recommend starting with the Institute of Museum and Library Services application database.
This post was originally published on May 9, 2018 and updated on August 28, 2019.
We expect to hit some turbulence in this blog post, so we have turned on the proverbial fasten seat belt light.
The seemingly simple question, “What is a government contract?”, requires a complex answer. We have divided this blog post into four sections: (1) basic definitions, (2) five differences between grants and contracts, (3) examples of a grant and contract to illustrate these differences, and (4) resources for more information.
Continue reading What Is a Government Contract? And How Does a Contract Differ from a Grant?
Do you enjoy making time in your day for podcasts, whether during a commute, over lunch or after a long day at work? If you’re a grant pro – or if you’re on your way to becoming one – you might want to add the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All About Grants podcast to your listening queue.
While the podcast’s episodes are often geared towards NIH programs and policies, applicants to other federal agencies will still find a good amount of wisdom and insight.
Continue reading Applicant Resource: NIH’s ‘All About Grants’ Podcast
The time is coming to say goodbye to the D-U-N-S® number.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recently published a resource page that outlines upcoming changes to the unique entity identifier used to do business with the government.
Beginning in December 2020, the D-U-N-S® number will be replaced by a “new, non-proprietary identifier” requested in, and assigned by, the System for Award Management (SAM.gov). This new identifier is being called the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), or the Entity ID.
Continue reading GSA Provides Projected Timeline for Implementation of New Unique Entity Identifier Replacing D-U-N-S® Number
This post was originally published on May 1, 2017 and updated on July 23, 2019.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is an Executive Branch office that oversees the implementation of the President of the United States’ vision across government agencies (WhiteHouse.gov – OMB). This relates to the grant programs implemented by federal agencies and affects how they are managed, their budgets, and the forms applicants complete when applying for a grant.
Continue reading What Is the Office of Management and Budget? (And How Does It Relate to Federal Grants?)
Need statements, program narratives, and discussions of impact aren’t the only parts of a federal grant application that require the touch of a good writer. The budget narrative – sometimes called the budget justification or budget detail – can also benefit from a skilled wordsmith.
Here, though, the burden carried by the writer weighs heaviest in the areas of precision, thoroughness and organization – and less so in the areas of color and creativity.
What follows are budget narrative writing tips that have been curated from a wide range of federal agency resources.
Continue reading Grant Writing: How to Build Credibility with Your Budget Narrative
This post was originally published on April 17, 2017 and updated on July 3, 2019.
Federal financial assistance is the transfer of anything of value, most often money, from a federal agency to a non-federal entity.
In the most general sense, federal financial assistance is a tool the government uses to serve public purposes as defined by Congress.
Federal financial assistance is a very broad term, and it can take on a variety of more precise forms.
- One of the most common forms is a grant, which we write about quite often on this blog.
- Other examples of federal financial assistance include cooperative agreements, donations of property, direct appropriations, food commodities, loans, interest subsidies, and insurance.
- Each type of federal financial assistance serves different purposes and has different legal and regulatory frameworks that govern how that specific assistance can be used.
Continue reading What Is Federal Financial Assistance? [Updated]
As federal agencies continue their move towards a more data-centric approach to grants management, areas like grantee risk assessment and performance evaluation are positioned to reap the early benefits of the ongoing data revolution in government.
On June 6, attendees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Grants Management Conference in Shady Grove, MD were given glimpses of how data can be leveraged to help achieve mission objectives more effectively and efficiently.
At HHS, improving efficiency by even a single percentage point can mean billions of dollars saved, said Michael Peckham, who heads up the Reinvent Grants Management initiative at HHS.
In fiscal year 2018, for example, about 67% of all federal grants came from HHS, totaling about $509 billion. Peckham, citing a study by the Federal Demonstration Partnership, said that an estimated 44% of awarded grant funds are spent on grantor and grantee overhead.
“Imagine creating efficiencies and reducing administrative burden by 1% annually” and utilizing those funds for mission objectives, he said.
In fact, a range of data-related reforms are already being rolled out and tested within HHS. These efforts are laying the foundation for the more efficient and effective use of federal grant funds in the coming years.
Continue reading HHS Conference Affords Glimpse Into ‘Reinvention’ of Federal Grants Management
Over the last three years, we have published a wide range of blog articles that explain the ins and outs of federal grants. In some of these posts, as part of our “What Is…” series, we define key terms that applicants might encounter when browsing opportunities from federal grant-making agencies.
In this post, we review the various types of federal funding opportunities and provide a link for readers to want to learn more about a specific type of federal award.
What is an Award?
A federal award is a legal instrument through which you (i.e., an applicant) are awarded a grant agreement or cooperative agreement by a federal grant-making agency (i.e., a grantor). Click here to go deeper.
Continue reading Distinguishing Among Different Types of Federal Awards, Including Block Grants, Cooperative Agreements & More
Every year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) releases an online resource called the NIH Data Book. Its current iteration is the most powerful the resource has ever been at communicating “funding trends on grants and contract awards, success rates, small business programs, peer review, as well as the scientific workforce.”
The Data Book’s new interactive visualizations, added in 2019, make it easy to explore the mountains of data available from NIH-funded projects and programs.
Continue reading Applicant Resource: Gleaning Insights into Funding Trends with the NIH Data Book