How does your organization decide which federal and state grant applications to pursue during the year? Do you wait for a specific RFP or NOFA to open before you begin talking about an application? Do you look at last year’s funded line items and anticipate a repeat of the timeline, and funding line items for next year, and plan for those opportunities? Or do you use a mix of past history with federal forecasts and budgets to determine what applications your organization will pursue in the upcoming year?
General Federal Forecasting for Pre-Planning
Ideally, you guessed it, it’s best to use a mix of past federal agency granting history combined with federal forecasts and budgets in order to determine which application your organization should start its pre-planning efforts for.
Before we look at specific agency and department information, I recommend that regardless of which federal agency you are interested in pursuing grant funding with, there are two free forecasting tools you’ll want to learn how to use:
1. Federal Register – You typically want to pay the most attention to the notices in the “Public Inspection” section which include grants and funding documents.
2. Grants.gov – Rather than watching for what’s currently open, you want to look at what opportunities have been archived for the federal agencies and departments you are most interested in receiving funds for.
The Federal Register combined with Grants.gov will help you to create a plan while you review the federal forecasts and budgets as they are released.
Agency Specific & Fiscal Year Budget Information
After you feel comfortable with the general forecasting tools, it’s time to dig into the specifics of the federal agencies, or departments you’re interested in learning more about the funding opportunities for the upcoming year.
The first place to start is with The President’s Budget for the upcoming or current fiscal year. You can see The President’s Budget here. After familiarizing yourself with the overall summary, look at a summary fact sheet for each agency you’re interested in pursuing funding through here.
Beyond the fact sheets, each agency has flexibility for how much additional information they provide related to forecasting for the upcoming grant applications.
Some federal agencies, such as the Department of Education, provide a fiscal year forecast that lists its funding opportunities for the upcoming year, including a CFDA number, and still include those that are not anticipated to be funded in the upcoming fiscal year. You can see the current fiscal year forecast for the Department of Education here.
Other agencies forecasts are posted in Grants.gov. According to an April 2017 post in the website’s community blog, “Opportunities are ‘forecasted’ when funds are not yet formally available and are pending budgetary and discretionary spending approvals and federal agency program decisions.” Checking “Forecasted” under Opportunity Status and the agency to tailor searches:
Other federal agencies provide additional budget information in a formal report or brief, such as the FY 2018 Department of Labor budget, or the FY 2018 Homeland Security (which includes FEMA) Budget-in-Brief here.
There is a great deal of reading and research for you to do in determining your plan for the upcoming fiscal year so that you can begin your pre-planning in anticipation of applications to apply for when they formally open. Set aside some time to do some digging, and after you’ve done your research and homework, contact the agency staff and ask questions about previous funding and anticipated funding for this fiscal year. They want you to only apply for the funding where you will be competitive, just as you would like for your own organization.
Editor’s Note: Updated March, 14, 2018.