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Guidelines and Information
“Grant” is a general term for the thousands of federal programs available to assist state and local governments, nonprofit social service groups, and community-based organizations. This assistance takes many forms, including direct funding, low-interest loans, surplus property, technical advice and assistance, and resources. As you consider whether to seek federal assistance for your project, bear in mind that all grant programs are:
- Targeted: Any given grant program was authorized by Congress to address a particular problem, and to do so within specified parameters. Consequently, a grant will only fund projects and initiatives that fall within the scope of that purpose.
- Competitive: Grant programs almost always have many more applicants than their available resources can fund. Due to the high demand, even many strong applications fail to receive funding.
- Conditional: Each federal grant program has its own specifications regarding eligibility criteria, grantee obligations, and reporting requirements. All of these must be strictly adhered to in order to receive funding.
When you search for funding, make sure you are exploring all sources of assistance that might be applicable. In addition to federal government programs, you should consider assistance that might be available through state government agencies, councils of governments, philanthropic institutions and private foundation funding.
Grant-making government agencies and foundations whose interests and intentions are consistent with yours will be most likely to provide support. You may find it necessary to solicit funds from a combination of sources, including federal, state, or local programs and grants from private or corporate foundations. You should cast a wide, but targeted, net.
Grants and Federal Domestic Assistance
Below are guidance and key resources to help eligible grantseekers find information on federal grants, loans, and non-financial assistance, as well as on private funding.
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the U.S. Senate.
How Best to Find Information
- Find out who is eligible for a grant? Other government websites may be more suitable for personal needs, student loans, small business assistance, or other business opportunities such as government contracting. The website Government Benefits, Grants, and Financial Aid may also be of help.
- If eligible, search for programs at Assistance Listings. Includes grants, loans, business and nonfinancial help.
- Contact federal office given in each Assistance Listing program description.
- Go to federal websites given in each Assistance Listing program description for more information and for state administering agencies responsible for managing these programs.
- Check current federal grants opportunities at Grants.gov, obtain a Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number, register with System for Award Management (SAM), and apply online (links and instructions given at the website). Additional notices appear at FedConnect.
- Search foundations for project funding: use the Foundation Center website or Foundation Information Network resources in libraries to identify national, state, and community foundations.
- Learn how to write grant proposals: Take the free online Foundation Center Proposal Writing Short Course, or see other tips and sample proposals at Grantspace’s How Do I Write a Grant Proposal?
Key Federal Funding Sources
Assistance Listings at SAM.gov (General Services Administration)
Official descriptions of more than 2,200 federal assistance programs (including grants, loans, and other financial and nonfinancial assistance) can be found on SAM.gov. The website, produced by the General Services Administration (GSA), houses federal assistance listings previously found on the now-retired Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Each federal assistance program has a corresponding CFDA program number; these CFDA numbers are still used as numerical program identifiers. Programs are searchable at the “Assistance Listings” domain at SAM.gov; descriptions are updated by departments and agencies, and they cover authorizing legislation, objectives, and eligibility and compliance requirements. The site will eventually be renamed SAM.gov. For current notices of funding availability, see Grants.gov or FedConnect.
Grants.gov (via Dept. of Health and Human Services)
Federal grants website that allows eligible grantseekers (see Who is eligible for a Grant?) to find and apply for current competitive grant opportunities from ALL federal agencies. Grantseekers can check on notices of funding availability (NOFAs) posted in the last 7 days; access RSS feeds of grant opportunities; and apply for federal grants through a unified process by downloading the application and submitting online. The website guides grantseekers in obtaining a Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number, registering with System for Award Management (SAM), and registering with Grants.gov to apply and to track applications. See also website FedConnect for additional grants and contracts opportunities.
State Single Points of Contact (Office of Management and Budget)
Under Executive Order 12372, some states require federal grants applicants to submit a copy of their application for state government level review and comment. The state offices listed here coordinate federal financial assistance and may direct federal development. For help in identifying state-level grants, other state government agencies websites may be found at State and Local Agencies.
Related Federal Resources
- A-Z Index Departments & Agencies
- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Homeland Security Grants
- USA.gov for Business
- Student Aid on the Web
- FTC Consumer Alert
- OMB Circulars
A-Z Index of U.S. Department and Agencies (General Services Administration)
To better develop a grant proposal, search a department or agency’s Home Page to learn more about its programs and objectives. The site USA.gov also links to Government Benefits, Grants and Loans.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Funding (Department of Energy)
Grants are EERE’s primary funding vehicle for businesses, industries, universities and others. Most EERE grants are awarded on merit on a competitive basis. See also EERE Financial Opportunities and listings on Grants.gov or FedConnect. For state-by-state information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, search DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency).
DHS Financial Assistance (Department of Homeland Security)
Most Homeland Security non-disaster grant programs are designated for state and local governments and specific entities such as colleges, etc. Unsolicited applications from individuals are generally not accepted. Includes Urban Area Security Initiative, Citizens Corps, Medical Response System, Operation Stonegarden (border security), Infrastructure Protection. Contact homeland security State Offices. Programs for firefighters may be found at Assistance to Firefighters.
USA.gov for Businesses and Nonprofits (GSA)
Includes contracting with the federal government, international trade and exporting, and small business. See also financial assistance links at the Small Business Administration website.
Student Aid on the Web (Department of Education)
Financial assistance for education beyond high school is generally “needs-based” and often includes loans and work-study, in addition to some grants. College and university applications, websites, and brochures usually include financial aid information for prospective and incoming students.
https://www.benefits.gov/ (via department of labor)
Government grants are not direct assistance to individuals, but fund state and local programs providing help to those in need. This online screening site can be used to identify state and local government benefits and how to apply. Covers direct payments, loans, insurance, training, or other services.
FTC Consumer Alert (Federal Trade Commission)
The FTC warns consumers to beware of paying “processing fees” for information that is available free to the public. Ads claiming federal grants are available for home repairs, home business, unpaid bills, or other personal expenses are often a scam.
OMB Grants Management Web Site (Office of Management and Budget) OMB establishes government-wide grants management policies and guidelines through circulars and common rules. OMB Circulars are cited in SAM.gov Assistance Listing program descriptions and may be printed out full text.
Private and Corporate Funding Sources
Candid Grants Space
Gateway to information about private funding sources, the grantseeking process, guidelines on writing a grant proposal, addresses of state libraries with grants reference collections, and links to other useful Internet websites. The Center maintains a comprehensive Foundation Directory Online database on foundations; produces print and electronic directories and guides; conducts research and publishes studies in the field; and offers a variety of training and educational seminars.
- How do I find grants for my nonprofit?
- Proposal Writing Short Course (also in Spanish, French, and other languages)
- Foundation Information Network (by state) Check for locations at Grants Space, Find Us. Free funding information available in libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit centers nationwide.
Grants Resources by State (Grantsmanship Center)
Click on state map to find links to information about a state’s foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs and the state’s home page.
Community Foundations There are more than 750 community foundations in the U.S., which are grantmaking public charities dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area. The Council on Foundations has a listing of community foundations by state.