Order Code 97-220 C
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Grants Work in a Congressional Office
Updated January 3, 2005
Merete F. Gerli
Information Management Specialist
Information Research Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Grants Work in a Congressional Office
Members of Congress frequently receive requests from grant seekers needing
funds for projects in districts and states. The congressional office should first
determine its priorities about how much assistance to give constituents, from
providing information about grants programs to active advocacy of projects.
Congressional grants staff can best help grant seekers when they understand the
entire 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 departments and
agencies, including their state and regional offices. A congressional office may
sometimes choose to communicate with a selected constituency by targeted mailings
or sponsoring seminars on federal and private assistance. Member home pages can
link to grants/Internet sources such as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
and Grants.gov so that constituents themselves can search for grants and funding
opportunities. The CRS Grants Information Web page, which .can be found at
[http://www.crs.gov/reference/general/grantsinfo.shtml], links to key CRS products
and Internet sources, including a ready-made Grants and Federal Domestic
Assistance Web page that Members may add to their home page for constituents to
The congressional office can use CRS reports to learn about grants work and to
provide information on government and private funding. These include CRS Report
RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents with Grant Requests
Before Federal Agencies; CRS Report RS20514, Grants Information for
Constituents; CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal;
reports on block grants and the appropriations process; reports covering federal
assistance for homeland security and terrorism preparedness; and reports on federal
programs on specific subjects and for specific groups such as states and local
governments, police and fire departments, libraries and museums, nonprofit
organizations, small business, and so forth.
An internal grants manual is a valuable tool for grants staff to develop. It can
outline office policies and procedures. With reductions in federal programs, grants
specialists may suggest other funding sources to their constituents, such as private or
corporate foundations, as alternatives or supplements to federal grants.
This report will be updated periodically.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Providing Information to Constituents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Writing Letters for Grant Seekers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Federal Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Federal Grants and the Appropriations Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Grants.gov . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Types of Federal Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Loans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Goods and Properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Services, Information, Training, and Employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Establishing and Maintaining Federal Contacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Managing Grants Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Office Grants Manual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
File Systems and Logs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Communicating with Staff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Proposal Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Following Up on Constituents’ Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Announcing Grants Awards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Foundations and Corporate Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Basic Grants Resources for a Congressional Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
CRS Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Grants Work in a Congressional Office
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 should be considered.
Given the competition for federal funds, the success rate in obtaining federal
assistance is not high. 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, and other contacts.
Senate and House offices allocate staff and other resources to grants and
projects activities in order to assist these constituents with projects of potential
benefit to their districts, cities, or states. 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 in
! providing facts about financial and nonfinancial assistance available through
! clarifying the intricacies of proposal development, application, and follow-up
! writing letters of interest or support from the Member to the granting agency;
! resolving problems that occur when an applicant is unsuccessful in obtaining
funds or other assistance; and
! suggesting other sources for grant assistance in both the private and public
The congressional office should first determine the priorities of its particular office:
! Where do grants requests fall within the operations of the office?
! Should grants officers be located in DC or the state or district?
! What should be the role of the congressional office: information source or
active advocacy, or sometimes even earmarking appropriations for a project?
! What is the assess volume of incoming grants requests?
! What criteria determines how much attention should be given to each grants
request (e.g., number of people who will be affected, visibility of projects, and
Congressional grants staff can help their constituents best when they thoroughly
understand the entire grants process:
! Defining the project
! Searching for likely funding sources
! Writing proposals
! Applying for grants
! Understanding review and award procedures
! Knowing post-award requirements
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.
Providing Information to Constituents
Cutbacks in federal programs mean many projects are made possible only
through a combination of funding sources — government grants as well as private
foundation or corporate grants. 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 in order 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, a congressional office
can help identify sources. To assist Members in their representational duties, and to
help congressional offices respond to grants questions, CRS developed two Grants
! for congressional staff, the CRS
Grants Information Web page
[http://www.crs.gov/reference/general/grantsinfo.shtml] focuses on key CRS
products. It includes an audio/slide show, Grants Work in a Congressional
Office, highlighting grants strategy, key sources, and demonstrating how to
find funding information for a typical grant request; CRS publications on
grants and programs that congressional offices can forward to their
constituents; and a separate Web page (see next bullet) that Members may add
to their home page for constituents.
! for grant seekers in districts and states, Members may request the Grants and
Federal Domestic Assistance page from the CRS website at
[http://www.crs.gov/reference/general/grants/member-grant.html] to provide
useful information via their home page. It gives guidance and links to key
Internet sources and includes a slide program, Grants Information for
Constituents, covering information readily available to the public.
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 consult many of the published sources
at large public or university libraries or in government depository libraries, and may
search Internet sites from home computers or in local libraries. Key useful CRS
reports on grants work include:
! CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With
Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies
! CRS Report RS20514, Grants Information for Constituents
! CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal
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 [http://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. Your constituent should also be advised that notices of actual
federal funding opportunities under CFDA programs can be tracked at the website
Grants.gov at [http://www.grants.gov].
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.
Newsletters (print or e-mail) are a good way of reaching a large number of
people. Some offices choose to send out either a special grants and projects
newsletter or include a section on grants and projects in their regular newsletter.
Subjects that could be developed include new programs, new appropriations, and
descriptions of recently awarded grants.
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 for
homeland security and terrorism preparedness are created and receive congressional
appropriations: for example, a newly funded program for first responders may be
announced in the Federal Register with short application deadlines, 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 or the Foundation Center at [http://www.fdncenter.org], and corporations
are willing to provide speakers for district seminars arranged by congressional offices
and also to provide such materials as brochures, sample proposals, and lists of
information contacts. For telephone number to contact speakers from federal
departments and agencies, congressional staff can use CRS Report 98-446,
Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies. For constituent
orientation and group seminars, CRS products may be used as handouts and
Although well-planned, balanced programs tailored to a particular audience can
create good will, coordinating and following through on such seminars take a great
deal of staff work and time. Such programs may also result in additional requests
and demands on the sponsoring office.
Writing Letters for Grant Seekers
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 Grants Requests
Before Federal Agencies, 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 are not needed.
Explain to your constituent that the federal grants process is competitive, that
your office can consider writing a letter to the department or agency once the
individual submits 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 for letters:
! Write a letter only when your constituent has submitted the grant proposal to
the department or agency.
! Information needed from the grant seeker:
— Name of applicant; contact person for the project if different;
— Grant program, CFDA number, agency address, and grants officer’s
— Deadline for proposal submission;
— Project name and summary.
! The project summary should highlight
— What the project/program does and who it serves;
— Why this program is important to the community;
— Any unique features of the project, needs that are not already being
— Specifically how the grant money will be used.
! Write directly to the person in the department of agency (do not give a letter
to your constituent to submit with the proposal, unless the department or
agency specifically requires it) and provide a copy to your constituent.
! The Member’s letter could say why this is important to his district (what needs
are being met, etc.; the summary supplied by your constituent should give the
objectives of the propsal/project).
! Close by asking the grants officer to let the Member know when a decision
about recipients of the grant will be made; and to keep your office informed
about the progress of the proposal.
In cases where your constituent’s proposal is unsuccessful, tell him they may ask
the department or agency to review the proposal to suggest how to improve it, and
that he may be able to resubmit the proposal if the program continues to be funded.
There are hundreds of grants or loans for various purposes available from
federal departments and agencies. New programs and federal funding to enhance
homeland security are of particular interest to 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 and
eligible private sector organizations 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 letter, phone,
e-mail, or in person as the situation dictates. Concerted action on the part of the staff
may result in more federal funds being spent in a state or district, thereby providing
greater benefit to the constituency. On the House side, staff can track department and
agency awards and disbursements down to state, county, and congressional district
level through a House Information Resources database, Federal Funds Express
(Intranet.House.gov; call HIR, ext. 56002, for information). Since there is no
counterpart of this system on the Senate side, Senate staff could ask House state
delegation staff to search for them. For information available from the Bureau of the
Census, General Services Administration, and Office of Management and Budget,
see the CRS website Tracking the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds at
Grant seekers may apply directly to federal departments and agencies for
funding or nonfinancial assistance. Program and contact information is given in the
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance [http://www.cfda.gov]. Current notices of
grant opportunities appear on the website Grants.gov [http://www.grants.gov]. See
sections below for more information about these key sources.
To provide better coordination of state and local efforts in requesting federal
funding through the grant programs already in place, state government agencies have
people who are familiar with federal program requirements, can assist with proposals,
and 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. State contacts for federal departments and agencies are given in CFDA
Appendix IV Regional and Local Office Addresses (by agency and by state) at
Federal Grants and the Appropriations Process
Federal funds for projects in districts and states may also be designated or
“earmarked” in annual appropriations legislation passed by Congress. 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 seek 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,
! Project description;
! Research and documentation of the need for the project (such as a feasability
study and history of community support);
! Letters of support from elected officials and local community leaders; and
! Amount requested, anticipated total project cost, sources of other funding
(state, private, local match), and any history of past funding.
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.
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.
! February: The President submits to Congress the proposed Budget of the
! Members submit requests for discretionary funding on behalf of projects in
their districts or states prior to the start of appropriations hearings in early
Early March: The House Appropriations Committee’s 13 subcommittees
begin hearings on proposed spending bills.
May - August: The House votes on appropriations bills beginning in May and
tries to finish before the end of the fiscal year, September 30. The Senate
generally follows the House in considering appropriations measures. In recent
years, voting has continued into the fall, and continuing resolutions are passed
to ensure that federal offices and programs do not close down.
After each chamber votes on its version of an appropriations bill, a conference
committee, consisting of equal numbers of House and Senate members, meets
to reconcile any differences and makes final decisions on spending.
Funding for district and state projects included in both House and Senate
appropriations bills will generally be approved by the conferees, and
submitted for floor vote by the full House and Senate.
After approval, appropriations bills are forwarded to the President for
Members notify grant seekers of projects successfully funded.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
The key sources of information about federal programs, projects, services, and
activities that provide assistance or benefits to the American public are the Catalog
of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and Grants.gov. CFDA is produced by the
General Services Administration and searchable for free on the Internet
[http://www.cfda.gov/]. The Government Printing Office publishes and sells an
annual print edition for government depository libraries and the public
[http://bookstore.gpo.gov/]. Only the Internet version is updated throughout the
year. The Catalog describes some1,500 authorized financial and nonfinancial
assistance programs administered by departments and agencies of the federal
government. For grants programs, money that is actually available (appropriated by
Congress in the annual budget) appears in notices of current funding opportunities
posted at Grants.gov [http://www.grants.gov].
CFDA program descriptions include:
Federal agency administering a program
Legislation which authorizes the program
Objectives and goals of program
Types of financial and nonfinancial assistance provided
Uses and restrictions
Application and award process, including deadlines
Criteria for selecting proposals
Amount of obligations for the past, current, and future fiscal years
Regulations, guidelines, and literature relevant to a program
Information contacts and headquarters, regional, and local offices
Examples of funded projects
Formula and matching requirements, where applicable
Requirements for post-assistance reports
Updated information on federal programs also appears in the daily Federal
Register [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html]. House Information Resources
(HIR) makes available to Congress and to the general public at
[http://www.house.gov/ffr/federal_funding_reports.shtml] the Federal Funding
Report, a weekly compilation of notices from the previous week’s Federal Register
dealing with federal domestic assistance programs.
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 will go ahead and
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
grantseeker 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. Agencies often
prepare guidelines and application packets for specific programs. They may also
provide a list of grantees from the previous fiscal year and indicate the amount of
money still available for the coming year.
Grants.gov is the single access point for current funding notices from over 900
federal grant programs. Grant seekers may search current notices (including by
CFDA program number), sign up for e-mail notification of future grant opportunities,
download grants application packages and instructions, and submit applications
electronically through a uniform process for all federal grant-making agencies.
Types of Federal Assistance
Currently, programs in the CFDA are classified into several types of financial
and nonfinancial assistance. For a fuller explanation of these categories, see the
CFDA itself and various CRS publications, including CRS Report RS20669, Federal
Grants to State and Local Governments: Overview and Characteristics and CRS
Report RL30818, Block Grants: An Overview.
Grants. Grants are generally considered desirable by applicants since they are
an outright award of funds.
! Formula Grants: allocations of money to states or their subdivisions for
activities of a continuing nature not confined to a specific project. Includes
block grants to states and local governments.
! Project Grants: funding, for fixed or known periods, of specific projects or
the delivery of specific services or products, including fellowships,
scholarships, research grants, training grants, traineeships, experimental and
demonstration grants, evaluation grants, planning grants, technical assistance
grants, survey grants, construction grants, and unsolicited contractual
agreements. Can also be referred to as discretionary or categorical grants or
! Direct Payments for Specified Use: federal financial assistance provided
directly to individuals, private firms, and other private institutions to
encourage or subsidize a particular activity.
! Direct Payments with Unrestricted Use: federal financial assistance
provided directly to beneficiaries who satisfy federal eligibility requirements
with no restrictions as to how the money is spent.
Loans. Since 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.
! Direct Loans: lending of federal funds for a specific period of times, with a
reasonable expectation of repayment; may or may not require the payment of
! Guaranteed/Insured Loans: programs in which the federal government
makes an arrangement to indemnify a lender against part or all of any defaults
by those responsible for repayment of loans.
Insurance. 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.
Goods and Properties. The federal government has programs both for the
sale, exchange, or donation of property and for temporary use or loan of goods and
! Sale, Exchange, or Donation of Property and Goods: programs which
provide for the sale, exchange, or donation of federal real property, personal
property, commodities, and other goods including land, buildings, equipment,
food, and drugs.
! Use of Property, Facilities, and Equipment: programs which provide for the
loan of, use of, or access to federal facilities or property wherein the federallyowned facilities or property do not remain in the possession of the recipient
of the assistance.
Services, Information, Training, and Employment. The federal
government offers a variety of programs to assist communities and citizens.
! Provision of Specialized Services: programs which provide federal personnel
to directly perform certain tasks for the benefit of communities or individuals.
! Advisory Services and Counseling: programs which provide federal
specialists to consult, advise, or counsel communities or individuals, to
include conferences, workshops, or personal contacts.
! Dissemination of Technical Information: programs which provide for the
publication and distribution of information or data of a specialized technical
nature frequently through clearinghouses or libraries.
! Training: programs which provide instructional activities conducted directly
by a federal agency for individuals not employed by the federal government.
! Investigation of Complaints: federal administrative agency activities that are
initiated in response to requests, either formal or informal, to examine or
investigate claims of violations of federal statutes, policy, or procedure.
! Federal Employment: programs which reflect the government-wide
responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management in the recruitment and
hiring of federal civilian agency personnel.
Establishing and Maintaining Federal Contacts
Many federal agencies have a number of offices: a central office in Washington;
a series of regional and state offices; and, in some cases, local or area offices. Each
program in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance includes information
contacts, either giving the name, address, and telephone number of the program
officer, or referring applicants to the regional, state, or local office of the agency.
Regional and Local Office Addresses are given in Appendix IV of the Catalog
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 Report 98-446,
Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies, for telephone numbers).
Establishing a good relationship with the 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 set
up a tour of the agency for 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 and
Senators, with state and local elected officials, and with 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
Some congressional grants and projects veterans 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.
Organizing Office Grants Operations
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 and workload of the office.
! Most offices divide responsibility by function (i.e., legislation is assigned to
legislative assistants and correspondents, press and newsletters are under the
purview of a press secretary, and caseworkers do casework). Offices
organized in this way may have 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.
! Some offices divide responsibilities by subject area (i.e., a specialist in health
issues is involved with legislation, correspondence, casework, grants, projects,
speeches, and press releases in that subject area).
! DC, state, or district office? In some offices, all grants requests are handled
in the district or state office; in others, they are answered by the Washington,
DC, staff; still others divide grants and projects activity between the district
or state office and the Washington, DC, office. Regardless of how this
responsibility is assigned, it is helpful to have at least one person in the district
or state office and one person in the Washington, DC, office familiar with the
whole process. District staff will be more readily able to communicate and
develop relationships with federal department and agency state and regional
offices (listed in Appendix IV of the print or Web version of the Catalog of
Federal Domestic Assistance), often the preferred contact office for federal
! State delegation cooperation. Since some constituents request the aid of the
entire state delegation for a grant or project, cooperation among Members of
the delegation can minimize duplication of effort and permit more effective
use of staff time. To increase the chances of a project’s funding, Members
may solicit the support of other Members either from the same geographic
region if the proposal would benefit a wide area, or from those who hold key
positions in leadership or on committees which exercise funding and oversight
of the federal program. Political considerations can limit the amount of such
cooperation. One state’s delegation has established a State Projects Office to
help its constituents learn about the grants process and follow through on all
applications until awards are made.
Managing Grants Requests
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. Commercial computer software packages are
available to manage correspondence, projects, and workload. Congressional office
systems administrators should contact HIR (ext. 56002) or the Senate Sergeant at
Arms’ Senate Service Team (ext. 41517) for recommendations.
Office Grants Manual
An internal grants manual is a valuable tool for grants staff to develop. It can
outline office policies and procedures. Among the items that might be included in
such a manual are as follows:
! A statement of the Member’s policy on letters of endorsement and press
announcements, along with samples.
! A checklist of procedures to facilitate the training of new staff.
! Sample project worksheets, allowing space for agency contacts, status reports,
and follow-up timetables.
! A constantly-updated telephone listing of contacts in federal, state, and local
agencies, and foundations which are heavily relied upon because of the
frequency of requests under their supervision, or which have proven especially
File Systems and Logs
A congressional office may wish to maintain detailed, cross-referenced files
such as agency files, constituent files by county, and tracking records.
! Agency files, which could also be arranged under broad subjects, or use
subject subdivisions: for example, Defense Department, district contracts;
Education Department, education pilot projects.
! Program files, which include detailed information on the most frequently used
programs in communities in the state or district, with a fact sheet describing
each program, plus agency brochures, and contacts.
! Project files, which may contain lists of applicants for each project. Some
offices keep records on the steps taken in support of all grant applications as
Constituent Files by County
! These can prove especially useful for the Member’s visits to the state or
! Correspondence on each grant application, and local press coverage of awards
can be added.
! These clippings, along with letters from grateful constituents, can serve as a
source for favorable quotations.
! Monitor grant applications as they move through an agency’s review process.
! Maintain a follow-up calendar or log.
! Track all grants awarded in the district or state — even those your office did
not work on.
Communicating with Staff
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.
! The report prepares the Member for the types of questions that may be asked
during visits to the state or district and provides topics to be addressed in
! The legislative staff will benefit from knowing about pending state or local
government actions that would have an impact on grants and projects.
Conversely, grants and projects staff should also be able to rely on the
legislative staff for information about pending bills that would alter or create
federal programs or change relevant funding levels. Sometimes, comments
from constituents can supply data on whether programs are carrying out
legislative intent and whether changes in agency regulations or legislation are
needed. Such recommendations might then be the subject of congressional
oversight hearings or might result in recommending changes in legislation.
! The press secretary should also be kept up to date on programs of interest in
the district, so that current information can be presented in newsletters and
! The staff may want to maintain a listing of federal grant recipients and the
amount of federal dollars received each year for their state or district. Figures
by state and counties can be found in the Bureau of the Census annual
publications Consolidated Federal Funds Report, available on the Internet at
[http://www.census.gov/govs/www/cffr.html], and Federal Aid to States at
[http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/fas.html]. HIR (ext. 56002) also
provides quarterly data on recipients of grants by congressional districts for
Although most offices do not write proposals, they are frequently approached
by inexperienced constituents seeking guidance on what makes a good proposal.
Constituents may find helpful CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a
Grant Proposal, 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,
some in Spanish as well as English.
The Foundation Center and other organizations also publish guides to writing
proposals; the Foundation Center offers a mini “Proposal Writing Course”on its
website at [http://www.fdncenter.org] and includes versions in Spanish and French.
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:
! Allow sufficient time to prepare a thoroughly documented proposal, well
before the application deadline. If possible, have someone outside the
organization critique the proposal prior to submission.
! Follow the instructions given in the application form or in other material
provided by the agency or foundation. Answer questions as asked.
! See that the proposal is clear and brief. Avoid jargon. Take pains to make the
proposal interesting. Reviewing panels have limited time to devote to any
single proposal. Whenever possible, fit the style of the proposal to the style
of the agency or foundation being approached.
! When no form or instructions for submitting grant proposals are provided, the
proposal should include the following:
1. A cover letter on the applicant’s letterhead giving a brief
description of the purpose and amount of the grant proposal,
conveying the applicant’s willingness to discuss the proposal in
2. A half-page summary that includes identification of the applicant,
the reasons for the request, proposed objectives and means to
accomplish them, along with the total cost of the project, an
indication of funds already obtained, and the amount being requested
for this grant.
3. An introduction in which the history, credentials, and
accomplishments of the applicant are presented briefly (supporting
documents can be included in an appendix).
4. A description of current conditions demonstrating the need for the
5. A statement of the project’s objectives in specific, measurable
6. A description of the methods to be used to accomplish these
7. A description of the means by which the project will be monitored
8. A discussion of plans for continuing the project beyond the period
covered by the grant.
9. A detailed budget.
Following Up on Constituents’ Requests
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 under way that address the problem? Is there an appropriate federal
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. 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. Another alternative would be to send a
copy of your constituent’s letter to the agency with a buck slip, asking the agency’s
attention, and to inform your constituent of your action and advise that he or she will
be hearing more from the office once the agency reports back.
Another approach is to call the agency contact. 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
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. Many 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. 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.
Announcing Grants Awards
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.
It is a good practice to discourage people 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. Your constituent might also decide to improve the initial application and
start the process again.
Foundations and Corporate Grants
With reductions in federal programs, congressional grants specialists may wish
to suggest other funding possibilities to their constituents as alternatives and
supplements to federal grants. Grants staff will want to get to know the kinds and
levels of private sector support that is available to their constituents. The Foundation
Center, [http://www.fdncenter.org], with an office in Washington, DC (202) 3311400, provides each office with its yearly Foundation Directory and can advise staff
on other sources on private funding.
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. In fact, evidence of such community-based support may lead
the way to additional outside funding.
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 grantmakers whose priorities and goals are consistent with their own.
Grantmaking 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.
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.
Because of this variety, different strategies may be needed for dealing with
different foundations. There are a few foundations that 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 is an independent national service organization, which
serves as a clearinghouse of information on private philanthropic giving. The center
produces a number of directories and guides to private and corporate funding sources,
in print, CD-ROM, Web, and other electronic formats. In addition to its major
reference collections in New York, Washington, DC, Cleveland, and San Francisco,
it maintains a national network of cooperating library collections in each state, all
available free to the public. Addresses of these library collections are provided on
the Foundation Center website. Titles in these collections include:
! Foundation Directory, Part 1 (describing the 10,000 largest foundations,
based upon total giving) and Part 2 (describing some 10,000 of the smaller
national, state, and local foundations, by total giving)
! Foundation Grants Index, which lists by state over 125,000 grants awarded
by the largest foundations in the last year or two, useful for identifying
potential funding sources based on previously awarded grants
! Guide to U.S. Foundations, Their Trustees, Officers, and Donors, which
covers over 65,000 foundations, many local or community.
Data included in these directories can also be searched electronically; check the
Foundation Center website at [http://www.fdncenter.org] for information.
It is generally a good idea to try to identify state or local foundations. They may
have a greater interest in local projects than do larger foundations mainly concerned
with programs of national significance. Foundation Center resources are a good
starting point for identifying likely funding sources. The next step is to find out more
about these foundations by obtaining from them copies of their annual reports or
guidelines. Grant seekers need to find out whether their proposals match the
foundation’s areas of interest and geographic guidelines, whether the proposal is
within the its budgetary constraints, and whether it normally funds the type of project
Direct corporate giving is another potential funding source not to be overlooked.
Many corporations support local projects in areas where they have their headquarters
or plants, or sponsor projects which somehow enhance their corporate image. The
Foundation Center’s National Directory of Corporate Giving describes
approximately 3,600 corporate foundations that often make grants reflecting the
interests of their parent companies.
Some Foundation Center directories are available for congressional staff use in
CRS House and Senate Research Centers and the La Follette Congressional Reading
Basic Grants Resources for a Congressional Office
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. Washington: GPO. Annual. Full-text,
continuously updated on the Web at [http://www.cfda.gov/].
Key directory of information on federal financial and nonfinancial assistance
programs. Entries include eligibility, objectives, award process, application
procedure, information contacts, and related programs. Grant seekers should
also check individual department and agency websites, which are linked via
First.gov at [http://www.firstgov.gov], and must contact departments or agencies
directly for available funds and application deadlines.
Foundation Directory, Parts 1 and 2. New York: Foundation Center. Annual with
Key directory of private funding information, arranged by state. Part one
describes over 10,000 largest American foundations; part two includes over
10,000 smaller private and community foundations geared to supporting local
organizations and projects. Entries include factual and financial data, statements
of purpose and activities, types of support, limitations, application information,
and names of donors, officers, and trustees. Includes a subject index, by broad
topic of interest. Distributed to each congressional office by the Foundation
Center, (202) 331-1400. Data are also available electronically via Web
subscription and CD-ROM. The center also publishes a number of other
directories and guides to private funding, some of which are available for use in
CRS Research Centers and the La Follette Congressional Reading Room. Users
may also search its website at [http://www.fdncenter.org/].
While the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance provides program
descriptions, Grants.gov lists actual funding available under these programs.
Users may search the site for free (including by CFDA program number), sign
up for email notication of funding opportunities, and apply for federal grants
through a uniform application process.
CRS Web page, Grants Information
CRS Web page, Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance
These two CRS Web pages link to key grants and funding information. The first
focuses on CRS information products and publications; the second on Internet
resources, including the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Grants.gov and
other federal websites, the Foundation Center, and other Internet funding
resources. Members may add the CRS Web page, Grants and Federal Domestic
Assistance, to their home page so grant seekers in districts and states can access
Internet information directly (order CRS Product CA90001; also available in
CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant
Requests Before Federal Agencies
CRS Report RS20514, Grants Information for Constituents
CRS Report RL32159, How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal
General Information and Contacts
CRS Report RL30818, Block Grants: An Overview
CRS Report RS20124, Community Services Block Grants: Background and Funding
CRS Report 97-684, The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction
CRS Report 98-446, Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies
CRS Report 98-79, Federal Funds: Tracking Their Geographic Distribution
CRS Report RS20669, Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: Overview
CRS Report RL30778, Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: Concepts
for Legislative Design and Oversight
Terrorism and Homeland Security
CRS Report RS21736, FY2005 Appropriations for First Responder Preparedness
CRS Report RL32036, Homeland Security: Federal Assistance Funding and
CRS Report RL31465, Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Terrorist Attack: A
Catalog of Selected Federal Assistance Programs
CRS Report RL31227, Terrorism Preparedness: a Catalog of Federal Assistance
CRS Report RL31734, Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries
Other CRS Grants Publications
On the CRS Products page at [http://www.crs.gov/search/searchpage.shtml],
Search for CRS Products under subject keywords AND “grant*,” “grants
information,” “grants-in-aid,” “funding,” “federal fund*,” “federal aid,” or “block
grants” to find federal programs on specific subjects and for specific groups such as
states and local governments, police and fire departments, libraries and museums,
nonprofit organizations, small business, and so forth. Some examples include:
CRS Report RS21302, Assistance to Firefighters Program
CRS Report 98-507, Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grants
CRS Report RS21924, Charitable Choice: Expansion by Executive Action
CRS Report 98-113, Child Day Care Centers: Resources for Starting and Operating
a Child Day Care Center
CRS Report 97-196, The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program:
CRS Report RL31065, Forestry Assistance Program
CRS Report RL31128, Funding for Public Charter School Facilities: Federal Policy
Under the ESEA
CRS Report 96-123, Historic Preservation: Background and Funding
CRS Report RL31540, Second Chance Homes: Federal Funding,Programs, and