Let us take a moment to explain why we started The Portal.
A Little Background
One of the biggest challenges Heather and I have faced in our grant writing careers (over 25 combined years and counting) is making sure that we are aware of all relevant and open Request for Proposals (RFPs) for public funding that our agency (then) and clients (now) are interested in.
It was and is a never-ending battle.
Unfortunately, finding these funds is not as simple as we and others in the nonprofit field would like for it to be. It feels like a constant struggle to make sure we don’t miss something important, whether we are looking for local, state, or federal funding opportunities that have been released.
Grants.gov To The Rescue
For federal RFPs, there are some key places to go to check- most notably through the grants.gov Search page.
This page and the services provided through grants.gov are an AMAZING improvement over what used to be the case. Back when I started as a grant writer in 2002, I had to review and scan the Federal Register at least once a week, sifting through the various departments to find the flashes of gold (well, potential gold). I would have loved having The Portal then.
Thankfully, this was done online even in 2002. I’ve heard stories from more experienced grant writers about receiving the Register in the mail or going to the library to consult it in the pre-Internet days. Consolidating all open federal solicitations in one place with strong search capacities has made finding RFPs you are interested in much easier and faster.
Yet finding open solicitations can still be a challenge, particularly when you search across multiple departments.
How to Search?
A major source of solicitations on grants.gov, for example, is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which releases a very high number of research funding opportunities that are specific to academics and scientists, but not so much for nonprofits providing human services. A quick check shows 1,326 active solicitations for HHS at the time I wrote this, very few of which are relevant for nonprofit grant writers seeking information on Head Start, for example, or a Small Business Innovation Research Program.
So what to do? Well, a future blog post will talk specifically about navigating the challenges of sifting through RFPs released by HHS…
But you can use the search functions on the grants.gov page which are pretty good. (Unlike many grant writers, I think the federal government actually does a good job in consolidating the information required to find, apply for and submit federal grants in the grants.gov system).
Using the Search features, you can search by department or your type of agency (such as nonprofit), or keywords and then sort by posted date and due date to see the active solicitations that might fit your interests.
The trouble is that you have to go and perform these searches frequently, in order to make sure that you not only get active solicitations, but that you get them in time to put together a quality proposal.
RFP Deadlines can be Tough!
Remember, many RFPs (not all) only provide 4-6 weeks between the release of the RFP and the due date. This means you really need to get started within a week or two after the release date in order to complete and submit a technically correct and high quality proposal.
Signing up for Information
Another good strategy is to sign up for announcements with every single federal department you are interested in that releases RFPs. You will then receive an email when funding solicitations are released.
You should definitely do this as much as you can, but you are limited to the programs you know about already, not necessarily new ones you might be interested in going forward. Also, sometimes the announcements from federal departments about an RFP can come out two weeks after the solicitation has gone live. That’s not ideal.
How Does The Portal Help?
That’s why The Portal, Grants Republic’s newsletter is sent out every two weeks, to make sure we capture grant opportunities relevant to the needs of nonprofit agencies, school districts, cities, counties, community colleges, and four year colleges and universities. And if we have listings that are particularly time sensitive, we may send them out a bit more quickly.
We want to get this information in your hands as soon as possible, so you can thoroughly plan to go after the public funding that’s a great fit for the services and programs you provide.
In coming weeks, we’ll also include more and more state funding opportunities as well as federal. One of our current projects is to provide links and information on RFPs released by every California state department. Eventually we intend to include a list with all the states (yes, all fifty!) and relevant departments in each that release RFPs. Most of these won’t be relevant to you, of course, but some will. And you can quickly find your state to check.
Ultimately, we hope The Portal will help your organization get more funding by increasing the opportunities you have to apply for it. The first step is to become aware of it, and we hope this newsletter helps with this. Please click on the link above to sign up.
We’re glad you are joining us.