Federal grants are financial assistance that comes from the general federal revenue and is distributed by federal agencies. Most people are aware of the existence of these grants; but only few know how they truly work and whom they truly benefit.
Individuals and Families
Many individuals and families thought that government grants are only intended for non-profit, community-based, and faith-based organizations; government entities; and businesses. What they do not understand is that that these organizations, which received funding through federal grants, should have projects that directly benefit them. Some of these projects are home renovation, modification, and acquisition (down payment assistance); medical assistance; social integration; and scholarships; early childhood education and development; and health and human services, among others. The types of individuals they benefit are students, low-income earners, women, minorities, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, former convicts, and others.
Therefore, organizations, whether non-profit or for-profit, only serve as a third party between them and the federal government. The government opted to offer grants rather than provide direct assistance to individuals and families because these organizations have specific expertise and focus; hence, allowing the government funding to effectively reach people with various needs. Now, for individuals and families to obtain financial assistance they must submit their grant applications or proposals with these organizations and not with any federal agency.
For-Profit Organizations or Businesses
Even for-profit organizations or businesses have wrong notions about the projects that are being supported by federal grants. Yes, there are government grants available to them. But these comprise specific requirements. Therefore, not all businesses are qualified to apply for grants. For-profit organizations that propose technology, research, innovation, and invention are basically eligible to apply for funding. Projects that aim to provide positive social change in the community (such as affordable housing and homeless shelters), particularly for those in the economically disadvantaged areas, are also qualified to apply for federal grants.
However, eligibility to apply for funding does not necessarily mean obtaining the grant. Federal grants offer a limited number of applicants that it can fund. It also offers specific budget size, which means not all grant applicants may be able to get the whole amount they need or they may not be funded at all. Federal grants, similar to private foundation grants, are competitive. One needs a highly-feasible, wide-reaching, and economically- and socially-positive project.
For-profit organizations must also realize that some funding opportunities available to them do not provide for all their financial needs. Some funding institutions such as federal government agencies require cost matching. Some offer assistance in the form of loans.
The Process of Federal Grants
If eligible for funding and committed in applying for federal grants, applicants must strictly follow the Notice of Funding Announcement (NOFA) guidelines. It contains stringent rules and regulations when it comes to the content; number of pages; use of margin, spaces, font size, and font type; deadline; budget size and budget period; process of submission; and others. In fact, they can reject a grant proposal only because of incorrect margin. Such a small mistake, but for the funding agency it reflects the ability of the applicant to understand and follow instructions. So, even if you have the best project in the world (as you believe it is), it will not be considered even for review if you do not follow all the instructions provided.
Moreover, after carefully reading the NOFA, make sure that you already have your Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number; you are already registered with the Central Contractor Registry (CCR); and you still have four to five weeks (or 21 days) before the submission deadline or else all your hard work will be put to waste. Online submission requires these processes.
If you are not familiar with online submission via grants.gov, check the funding announcement mentioned about accepting paper submission. If not, you can learn how to do online submission using tutorials available on the Internet.