Maximizing Award Success: Navigating Grant Program Applications
Understanding Program NOFOs
NOFO structure is standardized. Contact the program point of contact about specific requirements. The sections of a NOFO are:
- Section A. Program Description
- Section B. Federal Award Information: Includes total funding amount, anticipated number and size of awards, and period of performance.
- Section C. Eligibility Information: Includes eligible applicants and any cost-sharing requirements.
- Section D. Application and Submission Information: Includes application format requirements, submission deadlines, and any funding restrictions.
- Section E. Application Review Information: Includes evaluation criteria, selection process, and anticipated award announcement date.
- Section F. Federal Award Administration Information: Includes award notice and reporting requirements.
- Section G: Federal Awarding Agency Contacts
- Section H: Other Information
Submitting the Application
Many programs use Grants.gov to submit and receive applications. Make sure you (or the associated applicant entity) has an active Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number in the System for Award Management (SAM) of Grants.gov. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses that helps a program verify the business status of an applicant (as applicable). Make sure each attachment is populated, submitted, and consistent throughout the application. Explore available Grants.gov trainings for additional applicant guidance.
Writing A Compelling Story
Some programs may require an applicant to articulate the expected outcomes or impact the project would have on the community. This could also include examples of community support or desire for the project. Consider showing alignment to stated priorities of the program, agency, and/or Department.
Complying with Regulations
Compliance with local, State, and Federal regulations throughout the application process and after award is required and critically important to project award and implementation. For example, certain programs require environmental reviews, special permits, and other standards in accordance with Federal policies. Carefully review requirements and clearly articulate compliance in this regard.
Some programs may require an applicant to articulate the potential impact of the proposed project. Consider quantifying statements as much as possible or providing data points specific to the community.
Demonstrating Commitment and Accountability
Some programs may require an applicant to demonstrate that it can collect, house, analyze, and return any needed data on the project throughout its lifecycle. Consider setting the project up for success by clearly outlining processes and procedures for tracking and monitoring project activities throughout the lifecycle. This may include performance measures, financial plans, or staffing models.
Preparing for Potential Solicitations
Depending on the program, applicants may have to solicit a Request for Proposal for partners and providers as a step in the application process. Consider program-specific criteria in determining the most cost-effective bidder. Contact your designated program point of contact for more information on solicitations.
Demonstrating Stewardship of Federal Funds
Demonstrating the capacity to effectively manage awarded funds may bolster an applicant’s appearance as a strong candidate for Federal investment.
- Engage with subject matter experts to provide any technical or nuanced inputs and information (i.e., financial, engineering, etc.) to the application
- Attend any financial management trainings provided for new potential applicants
- Connect with State and local resources as needed to assist with financial planning, permitting, and other approvals
- Identify and reach out to a program’s point of contact with specific questions as they come up
USDOT TIP: The key to an “attractive” application is crafting an effective, compelling, and comprehensive story that demonstrates funding need, commitment, and impact.