The federal government releases dozens of funding opportunities (or Requests for Proposals- RFPs) every day, so it can be overwhelming to review these and make a determination about what is a good fit for your organization. This can be daunting, but one easy way to handle it is to realize that the vast majority of funding opportunities simply do not apply to you or your organization.
Search, Search, Search
How do you manage this constant stream of RFPs? A good search feature. Have we mentioned before that grants.gov is your friend? It surely is, as this is where you find all the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) released by all the different federal agencies in one, convenient place. Here you can search by agency, eligibility (nonprofits having 501(c)(3) designation for example), category (such as community development), or funding instrument type (such as grant). Please check out our upcoming detailed post on how to navigate and successfully use grants.gov.
Reviewing the RFP
We’ve broken this into three steps so you can decide which grants to go after and which ones to let pass.
- The Deadline
- Are you eligible?
- Program “fit”
The Deadline sounds serious, as it should. For a proposal, it’s the very first thing you look at. Most federal opportunities have 6-12 weeks between when the RFP is released to when the proposal is due. But unless you monitor grants.gov daily (which we actually try to do), you may not know right when an opportunity has been released. If the deadline is less than two weeks away, it’s unlikely you have sufficient time to put together a fundable proposal. If less than one month away, you’ll need to make a determination about whether it’s feasible based on your workload and how highly you prioritize this opportunity relative to others. In cases where there simply isn’t enough time to put together a solid proposal, then at least you haven’t wasted time reading through the RFP before making that decision!
Is your organization eligible to apply for this funding? Also critical and vital. All RFPs will specify eligibility by types of agencies, such as nonprofits, for-profits, institutions of higher education, local government entities, state governments, or local education agencies, among others. You can even calibrate searches in grants.gov to only bring up certain eligible types. If your organization is not eligible, you know immediately to drop this RFP and look at other opportunities- your time is valuable, folks.
OK, you know you are eligible and there is enough time to put together a fundable proposal before the deadline. Now you need to decide whether your organization and program idea will be competitive – are you a good “fit” for what the funder is interested in?
Sometimes this is straightforward – if your organization is dedicated to K-12 academic supports, then it’s pretty clear a grant for healthcare services is not a good fit! In other cases, it’s less clear, and you can refer to the table of contents in the RFP to skip to sections that will help you decide (e.g., program description or required services).
Following these three steps will save you a TON of time! Many federal RFPs can range up to a hundred or more pages of dense text, including federal regulations (important but HARD to read), and repetitive instructions on how to use grants.gov. If a grant opportunity is not a good fit, you want to know that as quickly as possible – and before you’ve wasted hours reading a long RFP!
How do you decide which RFPs are right for you?