Order Code 97-220 C
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Grants Work in a Congressional Office
Updated September 17, 2003
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 receive continuous 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 constituents 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
so that constituents themselves can search for grants and funding programs. The
CRS Grants Web page 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 CRS can customize for Member home
The congressional office can use the CRS Info Pack IP050G, Grants and
Foundation Support, to learn about grants work and to provide information on
government and private funding. The packet includes guidance on developing a good
grants proposal, which should describe the need for the proposed project, methods
to accomplish these objectives, the means of monitoring and evaluating, plans for
continuing the project beyond the period covered by the grant, and a detailed budget.
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
Federal Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Federal Grants and the Appropriations Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Types of Federal Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Loans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Goods and Properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Services, Information, Training, and Employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Establishing and Maintaining Federal Contacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Managing Grants Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Office Grants Manual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
File Systems and Logs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Communicating with Staff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Proposal Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Following Up on Constituents’ Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Announcing Grants Awards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Foundations and Corporate Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Basic Grants Resources for a Congressional Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
CRS Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
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
! Where do grants requests fall within the operations of the office?
! Should grants officers be located in D.C. 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 grant seekers;
! for grant seekers in districts and states, Members may request from CRS the
Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance Web page to provide useful
information via their home page. It provides guidance and links to key
Internet sources [http://www.crs.gov/reference/general/member_grant.html]
and includes an audio/slide program, Grants Information for Constituents,
covering information readily available to the public.
CRS has also compiled Info Pack IP050G, Grants and Foundation Support,
which contains material to help both congressional staff and constituents. 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. The Info Pack includes
! CRS Report 97-220, Grants Work in a Congressional Office;
! CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With
Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies;
! CRS Report RS20514, Grants Information for Constituents;
! Excerpts from the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance describing Catalog
highlights, and guidance on “Developing and Writing Grant Proposals”; and
! For private funding, addresses and telephone numbers of Foundation Center
library collections in every state.
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 Web sites such as federal
department and agency home pages and Office of Management and Budget grants
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 via 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 academic and corporate specialists, experienced volunteers, and
constituents who share common concerns. Many agencies 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, the CRS 25-minute audio/slide
program Grants Information for Constituents can be used as an overview. The
program may be viewed and listened to on the Member Grants and Federal Domestic
Assistance Web page [http://www.crs.gov/reference/general/member_grant.html].
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.
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; track department and agency disbursements through a House
Information Resources (HIR, ext. 56002) database; 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, 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.
Grant seekers may apply directly to federal departments and agencies for
funding or nonfinancial assistance. Program and contact information is given in the
annual Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.
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 [http://www.cfda.gov/public/cat-app4-index.htm].
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 source of information about federal programs, projects, services, and
activities that provide assistance or benefits to the American public is the Catalog of
Federal Domestic Assistance, 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 some 1,500 financial and nonfinancial
assistance programs administered by departments and agencies of the federal
government. 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 on the Web the Federal Funding Report
[http://www.house.gov/ffr/], a weekly compilation of notices from the previous
week’s Federal Register dealing with federal domestic assistance programs. HIR
also furnishes information about federal grants which have been awarded in the last
four quarters. Senate offices wishing access to HIR databases can contact House
staff in the same state delegation and ask them to contact HIR for information.
Congressional staff may suggest that constituents seeking federal funding begin
by conducting subject or keyword searches for program information in the Catalog
of Federal Domestic Assistance and the Federal Register on the Internet, or at federal
depository libraries or other large libraries in their area. Some congressional grants
specialists offer additional service to their constituents by providing a preliminary
Internet search of potential federal funding in the Catalog. Descriptions of programs
identified will have to be carefully analyzed by constituents seeking assistance to see
whether they may be appropriate. Early in the process, a telephone call or letter to
the department or agency contact indicated in the CFDA program description should
be made for latest information on funding availability, program requirements and
deadlines. If appropriate, state and regional contacts for federal departments and
agencies are given in the Catalog. 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
Types of Federal Assistance
Currently, programs in the Catalog are classified into several types of financial
and nonfinancial assistance. For a fuller explanation of these categories, see the
Catalog 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.
Addresses and telephone numbers for regional and state offices are given in
Appendix IV of the Catalog [http://www.cfda.gov/public/cat-app4-index.htm].
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 House Information Resources (ext. 56002) or
the Senate Sergeant at Arms’ Senate Service Team (ext. 41517) for
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
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
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]. House Information
Resources (ext. 56002) also provides quarterly data on recipients of grants by
congressional districts for House offices.
Information on proposal writing from the Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance is included in CRS Info Pack 50G, Grants and Foundation Support. The
Foundation Center and other organizations also publish guides to writing proposals;
the Foundation Center offers a mini “Proposal Writing Course”on its Web site,
[http://www.fdncenter.org]. Constituents may also be advised that computer
software templates can be found by searching the Internet under terms such as grant
proposal AND template.
Although most offices do not actually write proposals, they are frequently
approached by inexperienced constituents seeking guidance on what makes a good
proposal. 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 further detail.
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 terms.
6. A description of the methods to be used to accomplish these objectives.
7. A description of the means by which the project will be monitored and
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 the constituent’s letter to the agency with a buck slip, asking the agency’s
attention, and to inform the 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 the 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. The 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. A list of these library collections is included in the CRS
Info Pack IP050G, Grants and Foundation Support. Titles in these collections
! 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 Web site [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 being
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.
Key directory of information on federal financial and non-financial assistance
programs. Entries include eligibility, objectives, award process, application
procedure, information contacts, and related programs. Grant seekers must contact
departments or agencies for available funds and application deadlines. Search fulltext on the Internet at [http://www.cfda.gov/].
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 Web site at [http://www.fdncenter.org/].
Grants Information 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 and other federal
Web sites, 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).
CRS Info Pack IP050G, Grants and Foundation Support: Information on
Government and Private Funding, includes
CRS Report 97-220, Grants Work in a Congressional Office
CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With
Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies
CRS Report RS20514, Grants Information for Constituents
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 RL31202, Federal Research and Development for Counter Terrorism:
Organization, Funding, and Options
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 RS21400, FY2003 Appropriations for First Responders: Fact Sheet
CRS Report RL31734, Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries
Other CRS Grants Publications
On the CRS Products page [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 RS20287, Arts and Humanities: Background on Funding
CRS Report RS21302, Assistance to Firefighters Program
CRS Report 98-507, Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grants
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 RL31256, Education Finance Incentive Grants under ESEA Title I
CRS Report RL31065, Forestry Assistance Program
CRS Report RL31128, Funding for Public Charter School Facilities: Federal Policy
Under the ESEA
CRS Report 96-12, Historic Preservation: Background and Funding
CRS Report RL31480, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): State
CRS Report 97-248, Prison Grant Programs
CRS Report RL31540, Second Chance Homes: Federal Funding,Programs, and
CRS Report RS20134, Welfare Reform: Brief Summary of the Welfare-to-Work