Assessing Your Readiness to Apply for Funding

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Federal funding announcements will indicate what type of organization is eligible to apply and indicate eligibility requirements. Before applying for funds, many organizations will seek to acquire designation as a nonprofit organization in the state where they operate. This requires applying for 501(c) (3) not-for-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is the Federal tax code designation for nonprofit, charitable organizations that seek donations or grant funding. Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, and a functioning board of directors are typically required in order to successfully complete these steps. Receiving status as a nonprofit organization makes you eligible to receive grant funding from both public and private sources. Each state has its own requirements for incorporation and nonprofit designations. Contact your Secretary of State’s office to learn how to complete the process.

Each Federal agency and program has its own eligibility requirements.

It is a good idea to identify the agencies that fund the type of work you are interested in and learn as much as possible about their programs and the types of organizations they fund. Access their websites, research their programs, and monitor their press releases, notices, program announcements, and request for proposals (RFP) or request for applications (RFA). Federal, state, and local agencies also often offer technical assistance workshop opportunities to talk to program staff directly. At these workshops, funding agencies generally offer information about eligibility, program goals and objectives, administrative requirements, and compliance. Attending a technical assistance workshop can be a critical step in preparing your organization to apply for assistance. Announcements of workshops are included in grant notices, press releases, newspaper advertisements, and RFPs. If a technical assistance workshop is offered for a grant program you are interested in, attend if possible, or at least request the workshop materials so that you can review them.

Click to open interactivity Research funding agencies to stay current on opportunities that could contribute to your organization.

Research funding agencies to stay current on opportunities that could contribute to your organization.

usaspending.gov

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Assess your goals and motivations for seeking Federal funding.

The first question you must ask is whether or not the program funding is consistent with your organization’s mission and goals. Are you seeking funding to carry out your mission? Or are you simply motivated by the availability of the funding? It is very difficult to make a convincing case that an agency should fund your program if you have not had a previous commitment to the program area. Undertaking a program that is inconsistent with your mission could harm your organization by distracting it from its primary work. Discuss your interest in public funding with key stakeholders, including board members, staff, clients, other organizations doing similar work, and existing funders. All parties should be committed to the decision to seek funding since you will need their support for your application.

Click to open interactivity Before seeking additional funding, ask a few important questions.

Before seeking additional funding, ask a few important questions.

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Assess the need for your services.

Make sure that you have thoroughly researched the need for the program in your community. A good resource for demographic data about target populations is the U.S. Census Bureau website, www.census.gov. Contact state and local government departments and agencies that administer programs for your target population to help you determine whether there are unmet needs in your geographic and program area of interest. You should also contact others who are providing services similar to those you propose, or who serve the same population you want to work with to learn more about service needs. Building relationships with these other service providers will prove helpful as you develop partnerships to support the grant seeking process.

All proposals must include a statement of the problem or an assessment of the need for the proposed program, documented and supported by statistical data. If the program you are considering is already being done locally, it may be difficult to justify your program to funders unless you can document the need for another program and distinguish your program from others and indicate how it will be different and more effective.

Have a clear understanding of what your program intends to do.

Funding proposals must clearly set out the needs of the population to be served, the program goals, a means to accomplish them (program activities), and how progress or program impact (outcomes) will be measured. You must be able to logically explain what your program will do in terms of activities and outcomes. Activities are the actions that will be taken. Outcomes are the changes that will take place as a result of program activities. It may help to develop a logic model that graphically lays out your organization’s activities and outcomes. When applying for Federal funds, you must understand and clearly articulate how you will evaluate/measure your program outcomes and explain how the proposed measures relate to your activities.