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Members of Congress receive frequent requests from grant seekers needing funds for projects in districts and states. The congressional office should first determine its priorities regarding the appropriate assistance to give constituents, from providing information on grants programs to active advocacy of projects. Congressional grants staff can best help grant seekers by first themselves gaining some understanding of the grants process.
Each office handles grants requests in its own way, depending upon the Member's legislative agenda and overall organization and workload. There may be a full-time grants specialist or several staff members under the supervision of a grants coordinator working solely in the area of grants and projects. In some offices, all grants requests are handled in the district or state office; in others, they are answered by the Washington, DC, staff.
To assist grant seekers applying for federal funds, congressional offices can develop working relationships with grants officers in federal and state departments and agencies. Because more than 80% of federal funds go to state and local governments that, in turn, manage federal grants and sub-award to applicants in their state, congressional staff need to identify their own state administering offices.
To educate constituents, a congressional office may provide selected grant seekers information on funding programs or may sometimes sponsor workshops on federal and private assistance. Because most funding resources are on the Internet, Member home pages can also link to grants sources such as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and Grants.gov so that constituents themselves can search for grants programs and funding opportunities. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) web page, Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance, by
Merete F. Gerli (see sample at http://www.crs.gov/resources/MEMBER-GRANTS-PAGE), can be added to a Member's home page upon request and is updated automatically on House and Senate servers. Another CRS web page, Grants and Federal Assistance, by Maria Kreiser and [author name scrubbed], at http://www.crs.gov/resources/GRANTS, covers key CRS products.
Congressional staff can use CRS reports to learn about grants work and to provide information on government and private funding. In addition to the current report, these include CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies, by [author name scrubbed]; CRS Report RL34012, Resources for Grantseekers, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed] and CRS Report
RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal , by Merete F. Gerli. CRS also offers reports on block grants and the appropriations process; federal assistance for homeland security and terrorism preparedness; and federal programs on specific subjects and for specific groups, such as state and local governments, police and fire departments, libraries and museums, nonprofit organizations, small business, and other topics.
An internal grants manual outlining office policies and procedures, including perhaps templates for letters of support, might be developed to help grants staff. With reductions in federal programs, and with most government grants requiring matching funds, grants staff should also become familiar with other funding, such as private or corporate foundations, as alternatives or supplements to federal grants.
This report will be updated at the beginning of each Congress and as needed.
Members of Congress receive numerous requests from grant seekers, including state and local governments, nonprofit social service and community action organizations, private research groups, small businesses, and individuals, for information and help in obtaining funds for projects. Both government and private foundation funding may be appropriate.
Federal grants are not benefits or entitlements to individuals. Most federal grants funding
goes to state and local governments, which in turn sub-award to local entities such as nonprofit organizations. Grants may be available for projects serving communities and needs. For example, government assistance may be available for nonprofit organizations, including faith-based groups, for initiatives such as establishing soup kitchens or after-school programs benefitting entire communities; and local governments seeking funds for community services, infrastructure, and economic revitalization may be most eligible for state and federal funds.
Congressional offices may often need to direct constituents seeking government aid to funding options other than grants. Community fund-raising may be most suitable for school enrichment activities such as field trips or for band or sports uniforms. Local business or private foundation funding might be more appropriate for supporting projects such as construction of local memorials or commemorative programs. For others, such as for starting or expanding a small business or for students, loans may be available.
To respond to constituents who have seen ads promising federal grants for personal expenses, refer them to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert Government Grant Scams at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0113-government-grant-scams.
Given the competition for federal funds, the success rate in obtaining federal assistance is limited. A grants staff's effectiveness often depends
on both an understanding of the grants process and on the relations it establishes with federal departments and agencies, with state grants administering agencies (SAAs), private and local foundations, and other contacts.
This report does not constitute a blueprint for every office involved in grants and projects activity, nor does it present in-depth information about all aspects of staff activity in this area. The discussion describes some basics about the grants process and some of the approaches and techniques used by congressional offices in dealing with this type of constituent service.
Senate and House offices allocate staff and other resources to grants work
in order to assist the constituents with projects of potential benefit to their districts, cities, or states. Each congressional office handles grants requests in its own way, depending upon such factors as the Member's philosophy on federal support for local projects, the relation of certain proposals to his or her legislative activity, or the Member's particular interest in specific locations or types of projects. Other factors may include the degree of economic distress in any given locality and the current level of federal assistance it receives.
Grants activities in any congressional office depend very much upon the overall organization, staff, and workload of the office.
The grants person in the congressional office can serve constituents not only as a source of information but also as a facilitator with agencies and foundations and, in some cases, even as an advocate. The congressional office is seen by constituents as a potential source of assistance, which includes
The congressional office should first determine the priorities of its particular office:
Congressional grants staff can help their constituents best when they thoroughly understand the entire grants process:
To assure continuity, particularly in cases of staff turnover and shifting responsibilities, and to monitor the progress of the grants and projects operation, several resources can be developed.
An internal grants manual is a valuable tool for grants staff to develop. It can outline office policies and procedures and ensure continuity when staff changes. Among the items that might be included in such a manual are
Whether electronic or paper, a congressional office may wish to maintain detailed, cross-referenced files such as agency files, constituent files by county, and tracking records.
Constituent Files by County
A weekly grants and projects report or letter is one way to keep both the Member and other staff fully informed of significant developments. This is particularly important for offices organized by functional responsibility.
If a proposal or serious inquiry is submitted to a congressional office, an assessment of the stated problem should be made. First, this benefits the grant seeker, since any application for assistance will require that the problem be clearly stated and that the proposed solution provide some remedy. Secondly, this initial assessment can provide staff with a sense of direction: Are there other projects currently
underway that address the problem? Is there already an appropriate federal or state program that is designed for such a project, or is the issue better addressed through local, state, or private organizations, or through legislation? Will the sought-after aid produce other problems for the community? What are its chances for success?
The initial review of the request should also involve an assessment of the applicant. A formal grant proposal will require an applicant to establish credibility. Individuals connected with a proposal might mention education, training, and professional credentials. Credibility for an organization may be established by giving its history, goals, activities, and primary accomplishments, as well as by letters of support, including by local governments. By reviewing such information, an office may avoid the hazard of offering support for a questionable applicant and may be in a better position to make decisions about support when several communities or organizations are applying for the same program—will all be treated equally or will support be given to selected applicants?
A written request from a constituent should always be acknowledged. If the request is a fairly common one, the office may be able to respond with a prepared packet of materials on available programs.
For large grants-in-aid projects, the congressional office may wish to contact the federal or state agency congressional liaison and ask to speak to a grants specialist for a particular program or funding need. This procedure is generally more time consuming for a congressional staffer than a simple referral, but it is often more informative. The agency may provide facts about budget levels, authorizations and appropriations, the amount of money available for the program, the total amount requested in applications on file, the number of applications received, and the number likely to be approved, agency priorities, categories of competition or targets by region, key dates and deadlines, and information on who makes recommendations and decisions.
If your constituent decides to submit a formal grant application for a particular program, the congressional office may recommend or arrange a meeting with agency offices in the district or state. Another way to get input from the agency early in the process is a pre-review of the application. Some agencies provide procedural review of proposals one or two months before the application deadline. Such a review, while not dealing with the substance of the proposal, allows an agency to inform the applicant of any technical problems or omissions to be corrected before the proposal is formally submitted.
When a constituent notifies the congressional office that a proposal has been submitted, the office can send a letter to the agency expressing the Member's interest in being kept informed of developments relating to the application. In addition, the letter may also request a list of all applicants for the particular grant from the Member's state or district. This enables the office to consider initiating letters of support from the Member to those applicants in his or her state or district who did not approach the office prior to submission of their application. Whether the Member chooses to support an applicant or extends support to all applicants from the state or district, the office should maintain contact with all interested parties as it is notified of progress reports from agency contacts.
Cutbacks in federal programs mean many projects are made possible only through a combination of funding sources—federal and state government grants as well as private or corporate foundation grants should be considered. Grant seekers should know that most federal funding goes to states in the form of formula or block grants. For many programs, application for federal funds must be made through state administering agencies (SAAs). Whatever the funding source, it is important to emphasize that once a project has been clearly defined, constituents can improve their likelihood of success by doing preliminary research to find potential funding sources whose goals are most nearly consistent with their own.
Because the state, local, or private groups needing assistance may be unaware of available funding, or uncertain how to go about obtaining it, congressional offices can help identify sources. Congressional grants staff can also serve as liaison between grant seekers and government executive offices, including their own state offices that administer federal grants.
To assist Members in their representational duties, and to help congressional offices respond to grants questions, CRS has developed two Grants web pages:
CRS also has a number of publications to help both congressional staff and grant seekers. Sources described cover key Internet sources and publications about federal and private funding. Constituents may search Internet sites from home computers or in local libraries and can consult many of the published sources at public or university libraries or in government depository libraries in every state. Key useful CRS reports (in addition to the current report) to assist staff undertaking grants work include
Some congressional offices may wish to help grant seekers by forwarding to them descriptions and contact information on federal grants programs for particular projects. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is available full text on the Internet. The site https://www.cfda.gov offers keyword searching, broad subject and recipient indexes, and listings by department, agency, and program title. The CFDA program descriptions also link to related websites, such as federal department and agency home pages and Office of Management and Budget grants management circulars. Grant seekers themselves can then track notices of actual federal funding opportunities under CFDA programs at websites such as Grants.gov at http://www.grants.gov and FedConnect at https://www.fedconnect.net.
Congressional offices can also prepare their own information packets on federal grants programs, which are requested most frequently. Such packets could include program descriptions, brochures, the latest rules and regulations, changes in agency policy, application forms, and so on. For example, Members of rural states can become familiar with Department of Agriculture Rural Development programs; Members with urban constituencies and projects may want to consider Department of Housing and Urban Development programs.
Newsletters (print or
A congressional office may occasionally choose to communicate with selected audiences through targeted mailings to inform constituents of the possible impact of new legislative or executive actions that might revise existing programs, create new ones, or alter funding levels; important dates and deadlines; and the advantages and limitations of various programs. This is especially important as new programs are created and receive congressional appropriations: for example, a newly funded economic development program may be announced on Grants.gov with a short application deadline, of which constituents should be made aware.
Another way to get information to interested constituents is for a congressional office to coordinate seminars on federal and private assistance at state and district locations. An office can sponsor programs bringing together federal, state, and local officials, as well as foundation, academic, and corporate specialists, experienced volunteers, and constituents who share common concerns. Many agencies, foundations, and corporations are willing to provide speakers for district seminars arranged by congressional offices and also to provide materials such as brochures, sample proposals, and lists of information contacts. For telephone numbers to contact speakers from federal departments and agencies, congressional staff can use the CRS Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies, http://www.crs.gov/resources/LiaisonOffices, or use their own state contacts for government speakers. For constituent orientation and group seminars, Members may consider use of CRS products as handouts and presentation materials.
Although well-planned, balanced programs tailored to a particular audience can create good will, coordinating and following through on such seminars takes a great deal of staff work and time. Such programs may also result in additional requests and demands on the sponsoring office.
Although congressional staff do not write grant proposals, they are frequently approached by inexperienced constituents seeking guidance on what makes a good proposal. Offices aiding such constituents may find helpful CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal, by
Merete F. Gerli, which discusses preliminary information gathering and preparation, developing ideas for the proposal, gathering community support, identifying funding resources, and seeking preliminary review of the proposal and support of relevant administrative officials. It also covers all aspects of writing the proposal, from outlining of project goals, stating the purpose and objectives of the proposal, explaining the program methods to solve the stated problem, and how the results of the project will be evaluated, to long-term project planning, and developing the proposal budget. The last section of the report lists free grants writing websites.
The Foundation Center and other organizations also publish guides to writing proposals; the Foundation Center offers a "Proposal Writing Short Course" on its website at http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/shortcourse/ and includes versions in Spanish, French, and other foreign languages. Constituents may also be advised that computer software templates can be found by searching the Internet under terms such as grant proposal AND template.
Congressional offices may wish to pass on the following suggestions:
Constituents seeking funds for projects frequently ask congressional offices to write letters to federal departments and agencies on their behalf. CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies, by [author name scrubbed], provides some guidance. Some grants, such as for firefighters and other funding for homeland security, are determined by formula to states and jurisdictions and letters may not be needed.
Explain to constituents that the federal grants process is competitive and that your office can consider writing a letter to the department or agency once they submit a fully developed grant proposal. For most requests, use neutral language expressing the Member's "interest" in a proposal, rather than "support." Lending "support" to a proposal that might not be funded under the competitive process (and when there are competing applications from several constituents) might lead to disappointment and reflect negatively on the Member.
For most constituent requests, write a letter only when the grantseeker is ready to submit the grant proposal to the department or agency. Check with the department or agency congressional liaison to learn where letters should be sent.
A sample letter of support, written on the Member's letterhead, might read as follows:
Ms. Ronda Mason, Acting Administrator
Dear Ms. Mason,
I am writing on behalf of the Local Youth Mentoring Initiative grant application submitted by a coalition of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) affiliates from across the state to expand their mentoring programs for at-risk youth.
The three coalition member groups have been working with families in our state for more than 40 years. Each of the affiliates currently serves between 350 and 500 children, matching each young person with a professionally supported mentor. Since 2000, the state's
This funding will allow the coalition to offer mentoring programs to 500 more at-risk youth in the state, including those in foster care. Each agency already has more than 100 children currently on waiting lists and all are ready to expand their programs as soon as new resources become available.
I am proud to support programs to improve the criminal justice system, assist victims of crime, and support youth mentoring. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention studies have documented that mentoring leads to significant reductions in illegal drug and alcohol use, truancy and aggressive behavior, as well as improvements in confidence and school performance. In the midst of this economic recession the good work of organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters is critical to maintaining the strength of families and communities.
I ask your serious consideration of this worthy project. If you have any questions, please contact my Grants Coordinator, [author name scrubbed], at [phone number scrubbed].
United States Member of Congress
Although there is some variation, the usual announcement procedure in cases of allocated federal funds is for the agency making the award to notify the Senate office first (a Senator of the President's party may be first notified), then the House office, and finally the recipient. This allows Members of Congress an opportunity to notify recipients of grants. Not all awards are announced publicly. In the case of block grants, the Office of Management and Budget notifies Senate offices of the allocations among the states. The state's decision on how to distribute funds among local communities is, however, not necessarily communicated to congressional offices. In these cases, a good state agency contact may be willing to provide the office with this information. Announcements of grants awarded are often posted on Member websites.
Many congressional offices develop files or databases of grants awarded to track funding to their districts and states. Detailed information is difficult to obtain. P.L. 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, called for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a database, which became USAspending.gov. For a summary of sources and limitations of currently available data, and the new law's requirements, see CRS web page, Tracking
the Distribution of Federal Funds, by Maria Kreiser, at http://www.crs.gov/resources/TRACKING-FEDERAL-FUNDS. Contact the CRS author for search strategies and best sources.
To avoid disappointment, congressional staff might consider cautioning grant seekers from making requests that are unlikely to be approved at the federal level. Suggest considering other funding sources early in the process. In cases where grant applications are made and turned down, the congressional office may notify constituents of their right to know why the award was not granted and what the appeals process is. Constituents may ask the agency for an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal or may give the agency permission to provide the congressional office with this information. Alternative programs or other approaches may be suggested following an adverse decision. The constituent might also decide to improve the initial application and start the process again.
Hundreds of grants or loans for various purposes are available from federal departments and agencies. Most federal funding (more than 80%) goes to state and local governments that determine state and local needs, and
that they themselves offer competitive grants and funding opportunities. New programs and federal funding to enhance homeland security or enhance emergency services are of particular interest to many local jurisdictions. Other federal funds not dispensed through grants, but much sought after, are used for defense procurement, construction of federal installations, or infrastructure (e.g., military bases, federal office buildings, and federal projects such as flood control and highway construction). Congressional offices can assist state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and other grant seekers in becoming aware of available funds and how to go about obtaining them.
Staff members can contact federal agencies to find agency interest in certain projects; relay the findings to those interested and qualified for assistance in their states and districts; and notify home state governments, organizations, businesses, and people of what funds are available.
Once a grant application is filed, offices frequently keep in touch with agencies. Contact can be maintained by
Federal program and contact information is given in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), at https://www.cfda.gov. Current notices of grant opportunities for grant seekers themselves appear on the websites Grants.gov at http://www.grants.gov and FedConnect at https://www.fedconnect.net. See sections below for more information about these key sources.
Congress may also designate or "earmark" federal funds for projects in districts and states in annual appropriations legislation, though
Appropriations Committees in recent years have chosen to limit the practice. Because much of the annual U.S. budget consists of expenditures for entitlement programs such as Social Security, mandatory spending through authorizing legislation and interest payments, or allocations in the form of formula and block grants to states and local governments, discretionary funding for new grant awards is limited. The appropriations measure that a congressional office chooses to submit often reflects the Member's legislative agenda as well as the needs of the state or district.
Grant seekers who wish to ask support of their Senator or Representative for project funding should consider the congressional budget process calendar. Appropriations measures for the next fiscal year (October 1-September 30) are usually submitted as early as February.
If congressionally directed spending seems appropriate, applicants may be asked by the Member to make a formal request accompanied by supporting materials, including
Grant seekers may contact both Representatives and Senators about their project. Although an "earmark" may appear in either a House or Senate committee report, a conference committee (composed of an equal number of House and Senate Members) makes the final decisions on funding. Having support of both Representatives and Senators for a project may enhance a grant seeker's success for an "earmark."
The congressional appropriations process follows an annual time line, beginning in February of each year. Grant seekers such as state and local governments or nonprofit organizations can submit requests for project support and funding to Representatives and Senators before the beginning of the budget cycle.
Currently, programs in the CFDA, the key source to federal program information (see "Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance," below), are classified into several types of financial and nonfinancial assistance. For a fuller explanation of these categories, see the CFDA program descriptions themselves, and the unified list available at https://www.cfda.gov/?s=generalinfo&mode=list&tab=list&tabmode=list&static=assistance.
Grants are generally considered desirable by applicants because they are an outright award of funds.
Because loans must be repaid, they are often viewed by applicants as less desirable than grants. However, with the reduction of federal funds available for grants and the increasing level of competition for such funds, loans are often the only form of assistance available.
Some federal programs provide financial assistance to assure reimbursement for losses sustained under specified conditions. Coverage may be provided directly by the federal government or through private carriers and may or may not require the payment of premiums.
The federal government has programs both for the sale, exchange, or donation of property and for temporary use or loan of goods and property.
The federal government offers a variety of programs to assist communities and citizens.
The key source of information about federal programs, projects, services, and activities that provide assistance or benefits to the public is the CFDA. The Catalog, produced by the General Services Administration (GSA) and searchable for free on the Internet at https://www.cfda.gov, describes
some 2,330 authorized financial and nonfinancial assistance programs of federal departments and agencies.
About 1,800 CFDA programs are grants. CFDA program descriptions include the following:
Updated information on federal programs also appears in the daily Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=FR. Federal departments and agencies may also provide information and guidelines for specific programs on their websites. These websites may also provide a list of grantees from the previous fiscal year and indicate the amount of money still available for the coming year.
Congressional staff may suggest that constituents seeking federal funding search CFDA themselves by subject, keyword, beneficiary, and other options for identifying appropriate program information.
Some congressional offices may wish to forward to constituents a preliminary CFDA search of potential federal funding. Descriptions of programs identified will have to be carefully analyzed by grant seekers themselves to see whether they may be appropriate. Early in the process, the grant seeker should contact the department or agency indicated in the CFDA program description for latest information on funding availability, program requirements, and deadlines. Often a referral to a local or state office will be given. Many may be project or formula (block) grants to states that in turn accept grants applications and determine award recipients.
More than 80% of federal grant funding is allocated to states to administer, or directly to local governments, and funding opportunities may be posted at the state level. For competitive project grants, as part of the federal government's e-grants initiative, federal departments and agencies are required to post grants opportunities notices on websites, such as Grants.gov at http://www.grants.gov and FedConnect at https://www.fedconnect.net. These websites post federal funding notices, give guidelines and registration information, and provide a uniform application procedure.
Except for familiarizing themselves with information provided on the Grants.gov site, and sometimes posting Grants.gov funding notices on Member websites if they wish, congressional staff generally need not search this website for funding opportunities for constituents. CRS grants websites and reports include Grants.gov, which is free to the public, as a key source for grant seekers themselves to access and search.
Registration by the grant seeker who will be making the application is required at Grants.gov and FedConnect. Before applying, grant seekers must also obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number and register with the System for Awards Management (SAM). Grants.gov includes instructions and links at http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/organization-registration/step-1-obtain-duns-number.html and http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/organization-registration/step-2-register-with-sam.html.
For grant seekers who have identified appropriate federal funding programs (through CFDA or department and agency websites), Grants.gov enables them to
Many federal agencies have a number of offices: a central office in Washington, DC; a series of regional and state offices; and, in some cases, local or area offices. Each program in the CFDA includes information contacts, either giving the name, address, and telephone number of the main program officer, or referring applicants to the regional, state, or local office of the agency. Federal Regional Agency Offices are given in CFDA at https://www.cfda.gov/?s=appendix&mode=list&tab=list.
Congressional offices can channel their requests for program funding information and get help identifying appropriate grants officers through federal department and agency congressional liaison offices (see CRS Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies at http://www.crs.gov/resources/LiaisonOffices for telephone numbers). Establishing a good relationship with program grants officers is usually beneficial—they are normally well informed and willing to share information with congressional grants and projects staff. The liaison office may also be willing to brief congressional staff so that they may become more familiar with the way the agency is organized and where responsibilities are assigned, as well as with published materials that may be available on various programs.
State and district grants and projects staff usually work closely with federal agency representatives in their areas, with their state Members of Congress, with state and local elected officials, and with state councils of government. Many federal programs are administered directly by state agencies or other entities within the state, and many states have programs funded out of their own appropriations that supplement or complement federal programs. Local councils of government, where they exist, have access to federal funds for providing technical assistance, guidance, and counseling in the grants process. Constituents are, as a rule, best served by being put in touch with program officers closest to them as early as possible.
Some congressional grants and projects staff report that a congressional office that encourages cooperation among local organizations, foundations, units of government, and councils of government can serve as a catalyst for applicants by improving communications, which may in turn enhance the chances for proposal approval. When congressional staff take the time to express appreciation for assistance provided by federal personnel, foundation officials, and others involved in the grants process, they may possibly improve their chances for future assistance.
Many federal grants such as formula and block grants are awarded directly to state governments, which then set priorities and allocate funds within that state. To help constituents, congressional grants staff need to identify their State Administering Agencies (SAAs), the state counterpart offices accepting grants applications and disbursing federal formula and other grants. For more information on how a state intends to distribute formula grant funds, grant seekers need to contact the state administering agency.
Many federal department and agency websites provide state contacts. Often the site will have an interactive U.S. map where grant seekers can click on their state and obtain program and funding contact information. State government agencies provide coordination of local efforts to obtain federal funds through grant programs that are already allocated to the state; and state government agencies are familiar with federal program requirements, can assist with proposals, and can provide other guidance. In fact, many federal grant programs require that an applicant complete a pre-application screening at the state level before submitting requests.
Many federal department and agency websites include SAAs and often the site will have an interactive U.S. map. Grant seekers can click on their state and obtain program and state contact information. A selection of some executive department websites includes the following:1
Agriculture Rural Development State Contacts
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Partners
Commerce Offices and Services
Education (ED) State Contacts
Energy (DOE) Efficiency & Renewable Energy in My State
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grant Regional Office
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) State Offices and Agencies
Health and Human Services (HHS), Social Services Block Grants State Officials & Program Contacts
Homeland Security (DHS) State Homeland Security Contacts
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) State/Local Offices
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) State Councils
Office of Justice Programs (OJP) State Administering Agencies
Labor (DOL) Education and Training Administration, State and Local Contacts
Small Business Administration
Transportation, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Regional Offices
Veterans Affairs State/Territory Offices
With reductions in federal programs, congressional grants specialists may wish to suggest other funding possibilities to their constituents as alternatives or supplements to federal grants. Private foundation funding can also be used for federal grants that have matching requirements.
Small local projects should begin their search for help at the community level from local businesses or institutions. Support may be available in the form of cash contributions or in-kind contributions of property, buildings, equipment, or professional expertise. Evidence of such community-based support may strengthen a federal grant proposal.
Grant making foundations are established for the express purpose of providing funds for projects in their areas of interest, and all must comply with specific Internal Revenue Service regulations to maintain their tax-exempt status. Every year, each is required to give away money equal to at least 5% of the market value of its assets, and each must make its tax records public.
Although there are all kinds of foundation and corporate grants available, competition for these funds is great, and, just as is the case in searching for federal support, grant seekers enhance their chances for success by doing preliminary research to find grant makers whose priorities and goals match their own. By searching foundation websites, grant seekers can find guidelines, copies of annual reports and tax returns to learn whether their proposals match a foundation's areas of interest and geographic guidelines; whether the proposal is within its budgetary constraints; and whether it normally funds the type of project being considered.
There are many different kinds of foundations, with widely varying resources and purposes. Some are national in scope; others are set up purely for the purpose of local giving. Some are endowed by an individual or family to provide funds for specific social, educational, or religious purposes; others are company-sponsored; still others are publicly supported community foundations. Grant seekers might begin by identifying state or local foundations. These may have a greater interest in local projects than larger foundations mainly concerned with programs of national significance. Direct corporate giving should also be explored: many corporations support local projects in areas where they have their headquarters or plants, or sponsor projects which somehow enhance their corporate image.
Because of this variety, different strategies may be needed for dealing with different foundations. A few foundations publicize their funding policies, and even initiate projects, but generally they do not. Usually, the grant seeker must take the first step and approach the foundation about his or her proposal. Although it is hard to generalize about foundations, they tend to be more flexible than federal funding agencies and to have fewer bureaucratic requirements. Many foundations see their purpose as providing short-term, startup funding for demonstration projects. Frequently, such foundations are the best source to turn to for funding emergency situations or small, high-risk, innovative programs. In some cases, foundation officials will work closely with inexperienced grant seekers to help them develop realistic proposals.
The Foundation Center serves as a clearinghouse of information on private philanthropic giving and is a good starting point for identifying likely funding sources. The center's office in Washington, DC, can advise staff on other sources of private funding. The Foundation Center can be contacted via phone at [phone number scrubbed]. The center's website, http://www.foundationcenter.org, includes extensive information about private funders; posts requests for proposals (RFPs) for funding opportunities from foundations in all subject fields; offers web and in-person training, many of them free, including a "Proposal Writing Short Course
;" and produces a number of directories and guides to private and corporate funding sources, in print, CD-ROM, web, and other electronic formats. The Foundation Center also posts IRS Form 990 for nonprofit organizations at http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/.
In addition to its major reference collections in New York, Washington, DC, Cleveland, and San Francisco, the Foundation Center maintains a national network of cooperating library collections in each state, with print and electronic resources available free to the public. Addresses of these library collections are provided on the Foundation Center website at http://foundationcenter.org/fin. At these libraries, grant seekers may search the Foundation Directory Online by field of interest, by foundation location, and other categories to produce lists of likely funding sources for projects. For congressional staff, the Library of Congress maintains a subscription to the Foundation Directory Online.
Other websites that provide free listings of foundations include the Council on Foundations web page, Community Foundation Locator by state, at http://www.cof.org/community-foundation-locator; and the Grantsmanship Center's Funding Sources, which for each state lists "top," corporate, and community foundations, at http://tgci.com/funding-sources. Congressional offices may wish to send constituents state listings from these websites.
Grants and Federal Assistance web page, by
Merete F. Gerli
Focuses on CRS grants web products and publications. CRS reports provide guidance to congressional staff on federal programs and funding, and may be forwarded to constituents in response to grants requests.
Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance web page, by
Merete F. Gerli
Provides Internet links to free key federal and private grants and funding information, including the CFDA, Grants.gov, and other federal websites; and the Foundation Center, and other private funding resources. Members may add this CRS web page to their home page so grant seekers in districts and states can access web information directly using the Member's home page as portal to key grants sources.
For Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and Grants.gov, see sections of this report and the CRS websites described above.
A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies (General Services Administration)
To better develop a grant proposal, search a department or agency's home page to learn more about its programs and objectives. The site also includes the following:
Grants Management Circulars (Office of Management and Budget)
OMB establishes government-wide grants management policies and guidelines through circulars and common rules. OMB Circulars are cited in CFDA program descriptions. Circulars target grants recipients and audit requirements for educational institutions, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations.
Grants and Related Resources (Michigan State University Libraries)
The site provides government and private grants resources, primarily Internet, by subject or group categories, and is updated frequently. Subpages include the following:
Funding for Business and Economic Development
Grants for Nonprofit
Grants for Individuals (primarily financial aid and scholarships)
Author Contact Information
This report was originally prepared by Merete F. Gerli, formerly an information research specialist at CRS. The listed librarians have revised and updated the content and are available to respond to inquiries on the subject.
Compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) from executive department and agency websites.