August 6, 2020
August 6, 2020
Following the Money at the Federal Level
The federal government budget encompasses more than four trillion dollars every year, and every organization should have a strategy in place to identify, pursue and win federal grants, loans and contracts to help support and expand its mission and goals.
Dollars are plentiful for almost every need imaginable, including healthcare, new drug development, education, workforce training, national defense and homeland security, law enforcement, broadband development, community development, infrastructure and transportation improvements, and many more. While competition is fierce, organizations that take meaningful steps to lay the groundwork for success fare far better than those who take on these opportunities unprepared.
Mike Fulton in our agency’s Washington, D.C. office worked 10 years on Capitol Hill learning and then mastering the ropes of federal funding strategies and how non-profits, higher education, businesses, associations, and state and local governments can optimize their pursuit of available resources to bring about positive change and meaningful projects.
Appalachian Headwaters, Country Roads Angel Network, Mister Bee Potato Chips, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Northampton Community College, and the West Virginia Hive Network are some of the clients we are helping follow federal opportunities.
It is important for organizations and their support networks (states, economic development groups, institutions of higher education and non-profits) build a culture of collaboration that enhances their pursuit of federal funds.
Top winning strategies for doing so include:
- Review daily (not once a week or whenever it is convenient) the databases of federal grants and contracts and private foundations for opportunities.
- Weigh carefully the pluses and minuses of all opportunities. Public records document how much money is available and how many awards might be made with the resources available. It can be beneficial to conduct research to learn how many applications were submitted, funded and the amounts in past years. What was the geographic spread of past federal awards?
- Focus on writing solid proposals, when a “go” decision is made. It is important to follow the solicitation’s guidelines and treat it like following a recipe (like baking a cake). A long list of supporters or advocacy by lobbyists or members of Congress cannot take the place of a well-defined proposal to achieve outcomes.
- Participate in webinars, read online guides, and attend interactive sessions to network and learn from experts or colleagues.
- Help your employees seek and complete certificate and degree programs that train skilled proposal writers to help pursue more grants and contracts and increase the win rate.
- Track opportunities for your staff to sit on federal review panels and to serve fellowships at federal agencies to better understand the federal funding processes and agency priorities.
- Invite and promote federal grant and contract specialists visiting your communities to share upcoming opportunities and offer insights on best practices that can lead to funding successes. Federal agencies and military facilities that might be nearby are great places to start building relationships.
- Inform your Senators and Representatives whose districts might be impacted about the grant, loan or contract you are pursuing. After submission of a proposal, members of Congress may be able to support proposals, monitor the progress of its review by federal agencies and of course announce award winners. Congressional representatives also play a decisive role in authorizing federal programs through legislation and appropriating funding for their administration. If there are positive or negative observations with a federal grant, loan or contract activity, your Congressional delegation will want to know about the specifics.
- Successful grantees/contractors should avoid being greedy or spreading their own internal resources too thin by pursuing every opportunity that comes their way. Be aware that expectations for positive outcomes and judicious use of federal tax dollars will be carefully monitored by the award agency and an audit may be requested along with periodic reporting on progress.
The bottom line is that the benefits of pursuing federal opportunities and learning how to win them outweigh the hard work, potential risks and rigor of federal oversight of projects. Most federally supported activities become magnets for other resources, offer federal agency and Congressional validation, and bring new or expanded services or benefits to their organizations.
Toward that end, employing these strategies will help your organization work harder and smarter than your competitors at pursuing upcoming federal and private sector resources. If you are interested in specific case studies, advanced resources or experts to tap, our Asher Agency team would be happy to share our insights and information specific to your needs.