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Grants.gov: A Centralized Approach to Finding Government Funding


Grant seekers can now research, access, and apply for federal grants via one consolidated Web site, Grants.gov, the sole Web portal where federal government agencies post funding opportunities. This strategic alliance creates a much faster, more efficient, and greatly simplified electronic and paperless process for community and faith-based nonprofit organizations, universities, colleges, and libraries that seek federal financial support.

Many government agencies have transformed their grantmaking activities from decentralized, paper-based processes to an electronic one that drives federal Internet traffic to the Grants.gov Web site. In fact, most agencies no longer accept paper applications at all.

One example of this change can be found at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Web site. An agency of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), HRSA spearheaded the E-Government (E-Gov) project and has explicitly announced that it will no longer accept paper applications. "For guidances released/posted on or after January 1, 2006," the HRSA Web site advises, "HRSA will no longer accept applications for grant opportunities on paper. Applicants submitting New and Competing continuations and a selected number of non-competing continuation applications will be required to submit electronically through Grants.gov." This notice precedes the release of the agency's annual announcement of Competitive Funding Opportunities. The HRSA guidance continues, "As soon as you read this, whether you plan on applying for a HRSA grant later this month or later this year, it is incumbent on your organization to immediately register at Grants.gov and become familiar with the Grants.gov site application process."

Visitors to Grants.gov can access information about all available federal grant moneys, approximately $400 billion in total. Grant seekers are offered two paths: "Find Grant Opportunities" and "Apply for Grants." It is strongly recommended that grant seekers prepare to apply for grants by registering to submit applications and establishing a Grants.gov account.

Every nonprofit applying for a federal grant must first obtain a nine-digit DUNS, or Data Universal Numbering System, number. Supplied by the popular business information company Dun and Bradstreet, the DUNS number functions as an identification number in the federal application process. In fact, obtaining the DUNS number is the most involved step in the Grants.gov registration progression.

Grants.gov lists four steps that an organization must take to register:

  • Request a DUNS Number
  • Register with Central Contractor Registry (CCR)
  • Authorize your Organization's Representatives
  • Log in as an E-Business Point of Contact
Once organizations have completed the registration process, they can take full advantage of the site's other key features, including the ability to sign up for e-mail alerts about grant opportunities (select "Receive Grant Opportunity Emails"). In the "Tips and Tools" section, visitors can utilize, install, or download such programs and applications as PureEdge, Adobe Reader, and Word Viewer. Also under this section is a useful article entitled "Developing Grant Proposals."

In the past, applicants had to search each agency's Web site to find grant opportunities. They then had to follow a different application process for each of the 26 federal agencies that provide grants. The incorporation of a unified on-line approach for grant applications and awards ultimately saves citizens valued money and time. Smaller nonprofits and organizations, which tend to have limited resources and often lack development staff, probably will benefit most from Grants.gov.

Grants.gov was developed after Public Law 106-107 (P.L. 106-107), otherwise known as the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999, was enacted in November 1999. According to Grants.gov, "The purposes of the Act are to (1) improve the effectiveness and performance of Federal financial assistance programs, (2) simplify Federal financial assistance application and reporting requirements, (3) improve the delivery of services to the public, and (4) facilitate greater coordination among those responsible for delivering services."

Increasingly, this interagency coordination has led federal agencies to adapt to information-age technology and become more accommodating to a larger base of potential recipients.

Grants.gov attempts to serve all audiences, from large organizations to smaller nonprofits. Its efforts to "streamline citizen-to-government communications" have certainly resonated with a wide audience; the site received the Federal Leadership Council's Showcase of Excellence (FOSE) Award in 2004 and again in 2005.

Grants.gov is a valuable resource that provides a comprehensive listing of federal funding opportunities. If you are a grant seeker, follow the advice of the site's tagline: "FIND.APPLY.SUCCEEDSM" at www.grants.gov.

Muriel Watkins, January 2006
© 2006, MW Financial, Inc.

Muriel Watkins is president of MW Financial, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in supporting innovative funding strategies. MW Financial attended meetings of the federal Inter-Agency Electronic Grants Committee (IAEGC) during the planning to meet the Federal Grants Streamlining Program requirements leading to the launch of Grants.gov.
Topics: Fundraising