What to Know Before Applying for Emergency Federal Grants, Part 2
During times of uncertainty like the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is more critical than ever that nonprofit organizations continue to seek funding from all sources, including emergency federal grants.
This article is part two of a two-part series on applying for emergency funding. Click here to read part one.
Applying for Emergency Federal Grants
Once you’ve decided your organization is a fit for emergency federal grants, it is time to get competition-ready. Use these steps to make sure your organization is ready to start the application process when the announcements are released.
1. Is Your Agency Registered?
Your organization cannot apply for any federal grants if you are not registered, and the process can be complicated with multiple steps and a waiting period. On top of this, your registration must also be renewed annually. With the fast turnaround of these emergency federal grants, we recommend you register your organization today, so you do not lose any time in the process — especially since it can take up to six weeks to be completed. In order to register, you must complete the following steps. The links will provide additional information.
- DUNS Number: Your organization must register for a Data Universal Number System number, which is a number unique to your organization. Securing one is the first step in the federal grant registration process.
- SAM.gov: In order to do federal business, your organization’s registration with the System for Award Management must be current.
- Grants.gov: This system is where you can “fund, apply and succeed” in applying for federal grant opportunities. Make sure your organization is registered.
- Agency-Specific Requirements: Several agencies (including SAMHSA) require registration in the eRA Commons system. Make sure the agency you are applying to does not have any additional registrations that are required for your application.
2. Do You Have Your Application Materials?
As you prepare to apply, make sure your core documents that are standard federal grant attachments are ready including:
- Audited financial statements
- Organizational budget
- Detailed compensation information (salary, benefits, expenses, etc., for key staff members)
- Program and/or project budgets
- Bios, resumes, job descriptions for key organizational leaders and program staff
Be prepared to discuss your COVID-related expenses — both those that have already been incurred and those that are anticipated. Make sure your records are clear and current with what has been spent and what you anticipate for the future. Since each agency requires its own financial information and additional materials, be prepared by getting the documents above ready, so you are ahead of the game when the guidelines are released.
3. Convey Your Relevance During the Pandemic
It is the job of grant reviewers to compare your emergency federal grant application against others applying for the same pool of funding. Their ultimate goal is to distribute funding in a way that maximizes impact while creating a lasting difference. Your application must be compelling and robust in order to be prioritized above others.
That means you must do more than just describe your organization’s need. That need must be placed in context, so ask yourself (or your leadership): Why is your organization important to your community; what good do you do for your community; and why will an investment now make a lasting and substantial change in the sector in which you operate, your community and society as a whole?
Though you might not have all the information before the guidelines are released, you can begin to construct your case and work on showing why your organization is even more relevant now and will be more so in the future. Think of your application as a persuasive story that guides your reviewer to understand why your organization is both relevant and significant in the context of the current crisis and in the future. You want the reviewer to award you funding both for your organization’s future, but also for the betterment of your community.
To craft this vision, begin with assessing your organization’s reality. Before you start writing, your staff should evaluate how the pandemic is affecting your organization now and what you anticipate the impacts will be in the future. Your leadership and key program staff should discuss:
- How has the pandemic impacted our ability to fulfill our mission? Think about how staff, operations, services, programs and clients have been affected.
- Has the pandemic exposed any organizational vulnerabilities, or does it put our services and skills on display and emphasize our priorities and mission?
- Will the pandemic change our founding principles as an organization? Have our clients changed? Will they change? Will adjustments be lasting? If so, how and why?
Though no organization has a crystal ball that can predict what will happen in the coming months and years, it is important that your reviewers can see that you have thought through what will keep your organization relevant in the future. If you want to make your case competitive, you must share what makes your organization essential now, and moving forward.
4. Find Emergency Federal Grant Opportunities
Begin searching opportunities for emergency federal grants by checking out the websites of agencies you’ve either applied to or received funding from. Often you can sign up for funding announcements via email — check the agency websites for specifics.
Grants.gov is the best resource for searching for all federal opportunities including emergency federal grants due to their central search system. Click on “Search Grants” at the top of the page, and it will populate with the most recently released opportunities. Narrow the focus from there by category, agency and other criteria.
Federal agencies are continuing to post funding opportunity announcements for planned initiatives, and Grants Plus encourages organizations to continue to monitor grants.gov for opportunities aligned with your work.
Some emergency funding and even some regular opportunities may not be listed in the grants.gov search. For example, The Federal Communications Commission announced a $200 million initiative on the FCC website for COVID-related telehealth services, but it was not announced on grants.gov.
The team at Grants Plus has been regularly tracking and updating funding announcements for emergency federal grants as they are released. Our emergency federal funding page is updated often with new opportunities for your organization.
Kerry Klein is a federal grant seeking expert and engagement specialist at Grants Plus, the most trusted and experienced professional grant seeking firm in the country. Prior to joining Grants Plus, Kerry was director of communications and foundation relations at OhioGuidestone, where she raised millions of dollars from foundations and government agencies. She has extensive experience researching, developing, and writing award-winning proposals and responses to RFPs, including multiple contracts from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Kerry holds an MA in Nonprofit Administration from John Carroll University.