How to Plan Your 2016 Grant Applications Using Federal Forecasts and Budgets

Use a mix of past history and federal forecasts to determine which application your organization should start pre-planning for


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" section which contains “non-rulemaking documents that are applicable to the general public and named parties. These documents include…grants and funding…”

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 Grants.gov - Rather than watching for what’s currently open, you want to look at what opportunities have been archived for the federal agencies and departments you are most interested in receiving funds for.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 for Fiscal Year 2016 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.

Another forecast example to review is from Health and Human Services (HHS), found here.

Other federal agencies provide additional budget information in a formal report or brief, such as the FY 2016 Department of Labor budget brief here or the FY 2016 Homeland Security (which includes FEMA) Budget-in-Brief here.

Next Steps

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.

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