What is a Grant, and What Happens Before You Can Get One?

Grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and many other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). A grant is a way the government funds your ideas and projects to provide public services and stimulate the economy.

A grant is one of many different forms of federal financial assistance. Federal financial assistance is a broad term to refer to the various ways the U.S. government redistributes resources to eligible recipients.

Funding Opportunity Announcement

The awarding agencies prepare and publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) based on the related legislation and their budget. An FOA includes all the pertinent information and requirements for an applicant to assess their eligibility, competency, and interest in the funding opportunity.

You, a prospective applicant, can use the Search Grants function to navigate through opportunities and settle on the right FOA for you. Once you select on a funding opportunity to apply for, In addition to your own application development processes, to work on there are two high-level steps, before submitting your application in Grants.gov:

Registering to Apply

Registering to apply for grants on Grants.gov includes several steps and types of registration, including DUNS, SAM.gov, and Grants.gov accounts. It's not a highly complex process, but it can take 1 to 3 weeks to complete, so please register as early as you can. Do not allow yourself to miss the application deadline because you waited until the last week to try to register.

Completing Your Application

Before jumping into the process of filling out the application, you as an organization or individual, should spend time analyzing your own capabilities as compared to the specific eligibility and technical requirements detailed in the application instructions. The application planning process is lengthy, but it is critical when considering the importance of carrying out government-related work and the competition you may face for funding. While the specific steps vary widely depending on the type of grant you are applying for, major components of the planning process includes developing your ideas, conducting research, writing your proposal, and completing the application in Grants.gov.

Application Review Process

The specific process for reviewing an application varies based on the type of grant you applied for. Once the deadline for application submission passes, the awarding agencies start reviewing the applications. Generally applicable steps are as follows:

  • Initial screening / basic minimum requirements review
  • to ensure application is complete, the agencies check requirements which include common elements such as eligibility, program narrative, and budget attachment
  • Programmatic review and assessment of the applications
  • remaining applications undergo a thorough review and assessment for their quality and competency. This varies depending on the type of grant you applied for. A peer review panel of at least three people, assess and score each application independently. Then, following a series of policies and assurances, the peer review panel will convene to discuss the merits of the applications.
  • Financial review of proposed budgets
  • While an application may have technical quality, your budget also needs to be well-documented and reflect the requirements of the grant program. The federal agencies conduct a cost analysis, reviewing each line item, and the overall proposed budget to ensure compliance with statutory and financial regulations. Additionally, the financial review also factors in the total budget for the grant program in relation to how much money each application requests.
  • Award decision and announcement
  • After all the screening, then the last step will be waiting if you qualified for the grant.