What Is a Need Statement?

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.

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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.

What Is a Government Contract? And How Does a Contract Differ from a Grant?

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.

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Continue reading What Is a Government Contract? And How Does a Contract Differ from a Grant?

What Is the Office of Management and Budget? (And How Does It Relate to Federal Grants?)

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.

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Continue reading What Is the Office of Management and Budget? (And How Does It Relate to Federal Grants?)

What Is Federal Financial Assistance? [Updated]

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.

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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 commoditiesloans, 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]

What Is a CFDA Number?

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), an E-Gov initiative managed by the General Services Administration (GSA), is a list of all federal financial assistance and nonfinancial assistance programs available to a variety of applicants.

The CFDA, now called Assistance Listings on beta.SAM.gov, helps users find general information about the assistance, identify program objectives, eligibility requirements, and links to current opportunities on Grants.gov related to a particular assistance listing.

CFDA numbers are the system for identifying and sorting the 2,000+ federal programs. Each CFDA number contains five digits and appears in the following format: ##.### (e.g., 10.001 or 98.102).

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GSA recently moved the CFDA from the now retired CFDA.gov to beta.SAM.gov, and it is now referred to as Assistance Listings.

To search the Assistance Listings, go to beta.SAM.gov, select the “Assistance Listings” option from the search drop-down menu, then type a keyword or number and click the Search button. Here’s a direct link to the Assistance Listings as well.

Continue reading What Is a CFDA Number?

What Is a Subaward and a Subrecipient?

To understand the definitions of “subaward” and “subrecipient”, it helps to think in terms of a grant that has just been won. If you are not sure what an “award” is, start with the What Is an Award? post then come back.

Rather than the grantor (i.e., the grant-making agency) entrusting just one entity with carrying out a federal program, sometimes multiple awardees will shoulder the responsibilities.

In such cases, one entity – the one who submitted the grant application – will serve as a pass-through to the partnering entities, which are called subrecipients.

Continue reading What Is a Subaward and a Subrecipient?

What Is an Award?

When you hear the word “award,” do you envision the federal government conferring funding to you to implement a public-serving project? Some of you grant professionals did, but it is understandable if you thought of this year’s Best Film, the league MVP debate, or your child’s T-ball participation trophy.

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Continue reading What Is an Award?

What Is a Funding Opportunity Announcement?

A Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is the publicly available document that contains all the official information (e.g., goals, deadline, eligibility, reporting) about a federal grant. An FOA is how a federal grant-making agency announces the availability of a grant, and it provides instructions on how to apply for that grant.

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What are some other key elements of an FOA?

Continue reading What Is a Funding Opportunity Announcement?

What Is a Block Grant? [Updated]

A block grant is a specific type of federal financial assistance for a broadly defined function. Before getting into the nuance of block grants, it may be helpful to know what we mean by the terms “federal financial assistance” and “grant.”

Block grants are primarily awarded by the federal government to U.S. state or territory governments, although some block grants are awarded directly to local governments (e.g., Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement Program to cities and counties on a formula basis). The block grant recipients then implement the programs within those broadly defined functions (i.e., the purpose & parameters defined by legislation).

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Continue reading What Is a Block Grant? [Updated]

What Is an Online Form?

In the context of applying for federal grants, “forms” are those seemingly endless documents you must fill out to complete the application process. An “online” form or webform, then, is a digital version of these documents that is accessible and editable in a web browser.

There is nothing revolutionary about this concept, but we at Grants.gov have now made online forms available in Grants.gov Workspace to make the application process a bit easier for you and your team. Continue reading What Is an Online Form?