Bringing in the Feds: Navigating the Federal & Government Grants Landscape

Published:

March 7, 2024

Last Updated:

March 7, 2024

Eager to tap into federal grant opportunities, but not sure where to begin? 🤔You're not alone.

​We're bringing together two pros in the government grants space, Patrice Davis and Rachel Werner, to reveal their top strategies for demystifying federal grants.

What You’ll Gain:

  • ​🔮 Foresee your funding success: Understand the pre-award process through a post-award lens and transform your applications into strategic foresights, ensuring each submission is set up for success
  • 🧩 Decode the eligibility puzzle: Learn 3 powerful strategies on how to navigate the maze of complex applications and submission requirements with ease
  • 🗺️ Map your opportunities: Identify how to find (and where to look!) for good-fit federal or government grants, leveraging the power of Instrumentl

​This event is crucial for grant writers and administrators in larger organizations looking to enhance their federal grant strategy.

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More about our speakers

Patrice Davis | Founder & CEO, Grants Works

​Grants Works and Grants Works Academy were founded by Patrice Davis, a grant professional with 15 years of direct experience. She has successfully managed primary and sub-awards from 20+ local, state, and federal agencies and subagencies. Patrice also served as the fiscal consultant during site monitoring visits of state agency recipients of federal grants.

​She is a member of the National Grant Management Association, the Grant Professionals Association, and the Georgia Grant Professionals Association. Outside of grants, she has many interests. She is the mother of three young adults, host of the Age Has No Limit podcast, and enjoys international travel, foreign films, and international fiction.

Rachel Werner | Owner & CEO, RBW Strategy

​Rachel began her career as a New York City public-school teacher which parlayed into a two-decade career of work in the public sector. She has served as a nonprofit fundraiser/grant writer, grants manager at an education management organization, and management consultant overseeing federal government contracts. Since the beginning of her career, she and her firm have helped secure millions in funding from government, foundation, and corporate sources and managed over $2.5 billion in grant funding.

What is Instrumentl?

​Instrumentl is the most-loved grants platform. In 2023, Instrumentl helped over 3,000 organizations win over $1 billion by bringing grant discovery, research, and tracking to one place. Our customers are on the front lines educating kids, saving endangered species, and restoring watersheds. Learn more at instrumentl.com.

Can I try Instrumentl?

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PLEASE NOTE: This webinar is geared towards US-based 501c3’s with a minimum of a $200K operating budget, or consultants working with such organizations. If you are based internationally, you should have a US-affiliated chapter and 501c3 status.

Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.

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Bringing in the Feds: Navigating the Federal & Government Grants Landscape - Grant Training Transcription

Rachel: Hi, everybody. Welcome. I'm going to go ahead and get us rolling. If you haven't already, please answer those questions in the poll. I'm going to close that in just a second and introduce yourself in the chat. It's great to see folks. Hi, James. Hi, Janelle. Hi, Julia. Thank you for being with us this morning. Go ahead and end this poll. Thank you for sharing a little bit about yourselves.

So, welcome to our event this morning. We're talking about navigating federal and government grants today. This is a free grant workshop as part of our Instrumentl partner webinars in our funding focus series. So these partner webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and our community partners to provide free educational workshops to grant professionals and nonprofit leaders. These funding focus programs are usually a deep dive into a funding area or sector that we think our community could learn more about. So, we're building in those supports and key learnings to help grant areas like you become more successful and get more funding.

For those of you who are new to Instrumentl, we're the most loved all-in-one grants platform for grant prospecting, tracking, and management. We currently help more than 3,000 nonprofits, and grant consultants save time in finding and applying for more grants.

So to start us off, and just quickly introduce the team that's putting on this event today. My name is Rachel. Some of you probably see me in some events recently. I'm one of the newest team members of Instrumentl. And my job is to help develop helpful and educational events like this one to share with our community. I have a decade plus of experience in informal education, specifically in museums, and I'm based in Los Angeles, California. I also have my wonderful colleague, Ryan, who many of you may know from our blog. Ryan is going to be supporting behind the scenes in the chat box, so feel free to ask questions in there. And as we go through the presentation, he'll drop in some helpful links and help out with responses in there as well. Thanks for your help, Ryan.

Some quick FYI as we as we get started, this event is going to be about an hour long. This is a partner-led educational session with a live Q&A. I'll share how you can drop those questions in the chat. This workshop is being recorded and the slides will be shared afterwards. So keep your eyes peeled for a follow up email. And try not to worry about capturing everything that we'll cover today. There's a lot of content. So, don't worry. You can always go back and review it. I'll make sure everybody gets an access to the recording.

And I know we're all super busy and working hard. So, thanks again for being here. Take care of your personal needs during our event, bring a snack, make sure to hydrate. I've got my glass of water right here. And obviously, step away as needed during the program. But make sure you're back here at about quarter till. That's where we're going to start our live Q&A and share about our freebies and how to enter our raffle. To make sure you can follow along with our speakers today, I have enabled closed captions. So, you can toggle those on in your Zoom settings if it's helpful for you to read along as our folks are sharing.

Our partners have generously offered some fun freebies to those who stick it out to the end today. So, I hope you'll stay with us throughout this program. Plus, you might be a lucky winner of our raffle. So anyone who submits their feedback form at the end of the program today will get a copy of Rachel Werner’s 12 tips for grant readiness. It's a checklist that'll help you assess if you're ready for applying to those federal grant opportunities. And Patrice Davis has so graciously offered folks in this program 30% off tickets to the upcoming Federal Grant Funding & Management Summit, which is in person and virtual. So, we'll share a little bit about that in just a sec.

And lastly, if you haven't had a chance to experience the magic of Instrumentl yet, you could be a lucky winner of a $50 gift card to Amazon. All you'll have to do is create your own account by this time tomorrow. So, I hope you'll stick around to the end of our time together today to get those freebies and be eligible for this fun prize.

As a reminder of how you can participate today, this is your time to learn, so jot down those nuggets of wisdom, take screenshots of those slides that seemed like really great kind of golden nuggets of wisdom that we're going to be sharing today, and try and be present with this learning community as much as possible. I know we've got emails and Slack messages and all the things coming in. But I promise this can wait. We've got a lot of great content to cover together.

We will gather your questions for our closing Q&A. So, go ahead and add your questions into the chat with three hashtags at the front of your question so that Ryan can help me organize those questions, and I'll moderate them live at the end of our event. As a kind reminder, we're just going to stay on mute for the duration of the event, just to make sure we're creating the best environment for learning and also just a kind reminder to please respect each other and our staff while we're chatting in the chat box.

One last thing before our -- I intro our very special guests, I'm trying something a little new. In our event feedback, I've seen that the chat box can get old little unwieldy. So, I've made a special events resources by page just for this event, that will have everything that we've dropped into the chat, reminders about how to be eligible for the raffle or to get those freebies, and the links to our slides and recording after the event. I’ll also be going through afterwards and copying and pasting any kind of bits of wisdom that your peers have shared in the chat box. And you'll even be able to see the full chats transcript on this page. So, bookmark this page. Ryan, I’ll help drop that in the chat. And you can come back there after the event. It'll be updated kind of as a repository of all those good little pieces of knowledge that we're sharing today. And don't worry, I'll also send that in the follow-up email. So if you lose that link, you'll get it again.

Okay. Now, I am very proud to introduce the two pros who are sharing their knowledge with us today. First, we have Patrice Davis. Patrice is the founder and CEO of Grants Works, a firm that specializes in federal grant applications, management and compliance. She's also the creator and lead trainer of Grants Works Academy, an online source of on demand federal grant management training. She and her team have successfully managed over 200 million in government grants from 20 local, state and government and federal government agencies as a recipient, sub-recipient and pass through entity, and she conducted site monitoring visits for a federal agency.

Patrice is a certified grant management specialist and a member of the National Grant Management Association, Grant Professionals Association, Georgia Grant Professionals Association, and the Society of Professional Consultants. Welcome, Patrice.

And second, we have Rachel Werner. Rachel is the owner and CEO of RBW Strategy, LLC and principal of MyFed Trainer, which some of you may be familiar with. She and her teams provide customized grants lifecycle training and consulting support, including a focus on federal grant compliance specifically. She's an active member of the GPA and a certified grants professional since 2014 and Project Management Professional since 2010.

Thank you both for being here.

So as we start our federal grant learning today, I'm going to launch one quick poll. And then I'm going to bring Rachel on. She's going to get us into the kind of big picture overview of what we're looking for in federal grants. But I want to start with a little poll to get a sense in the room of how we're feeling about our federal grant management. So, I'm going to launch this. And I'm curious to hear from folks in the room. What are you most concerned about with federal grant management? You might be not understanding the rules or regulations, not having the policies and procedures to implement the administration of the award, not having personnel resources able to meet the requirements, or not having systems in place to manage and track funding and tasks.

If there's something else on your mind that isn't in this poll, please add it to the chat because I do want to document any of those other challenges or concerns posts are facing when they're applying to federal grant opportunities.

Awesome. I'm seeing those results come in, all of the above. Yes, sir. I feel you on that. I'll give folks about 10 more seconds to answer our poll.

Yeah, yeah, these are great. I'm seeing some in the chat here, too. Yeah, Marilyn, applying more than managing. Okay, I'm going to go ahead and end this poll. I'll share the results so folks can see. It looks like the most -- you know, the highest concern, it's kind of a tie. We've got not understanding the rules and regulations and not having personnel resources able to meet the requirements.

So, why I'm really excited to even launch this poll is because Rachel is going to take us through some of the operational baseline that you should be starting with when you're applying for federal grant opportunities. And so Rachel is going to walk us through some of these big picture notes to see into the future of your funding success. And we're going to review the pre-award process through a post-award lens, which hopefully will help us get a higher likelihood of acceptance on all of those submissions that we're spending time on.

So, Rachel, I'm going to pass it over to you and get you spotlighted so we can start on your section.

Rachel: Great, thank you.

Okay. You ready? Here we go. Well, it's nice to see everybody, or virtually. And I'm here to talk about what you need to think about during the pre-award phase so that you can be a very good compliance warrior the post-award phase. Because a lot of times, people are just all consumed about, “We need to get the application out the door,” thinking about all the great things you're going to do with that funding. But not really thinking about “Okay. Well, how are we going to actually manage and administer this federal grant?” And for those who have federal grant management experience, I'm sure that you know that there's a lot of different components to it. So, I'm just going to provide an overview of some of that so that you can be made aware of what you need to do.

So, the first thing I want to do is just kind of level set. So were aware of, you know, what the stages are of the federal grant lifecycle. So the first part is you're doing your research and your planning. And this is where you're investigating, doing your go, no-go assessment, understanding, see if there's any relationships that you can cultivate with different partners, or, you know, those kinds of things to just prepare for the actual writing, which is the second phase.

So when you actually do the writing, that's when you gather all the attachments, put together your budget, the narrative, all of those different pieces. And then let's say, “Yay, you get the award.” That's the award project startup phase where then you're going to get your Notice of Grant Award and you'll be able to see the terms and conditions that you need to adhere to. And then the ongoing monitoring is phase four, which is you're actually going to be managing it and doing all the things in those terms and conditions that you're required to do to ensure compliance. And then there's project closeout. And there are some more things you need to do on that end.

Next slide. Oh, here we go. So before applying, these are some things you know. As regional shared, this is more of an operational overview. So I'm not going to go into specific details, but more about you as an organization, what in your infrastructure should you really be thinking about and be mindful of to decide if this opportunity is worth pursuing or not and if you have the capacity. So really thinking about those big picture ideas, like risk analysis, you know. Risk management is a huge area, especially related to procurement. Because when you partner with organizations, you're really giving them resources that are public funding. I'm saying, like, we expect you to provide the goods and services needed to administer the grant. But what if there are some risky behavior? And what about you as an organization? Are you thinking about the risk that there could be you manage this federal grant? So thinking about things like not just financial risk, but reputational risk, strategic risks. There's a lot of different areas of risk. And so, being able to see how you would mitigate them and how you would, you know, manage them if you were to receive the award.

You know, and as I mentioned before about the partnerships, you know, what you can handle internally, what you might have to outsource what your partners bring to the table, how are you assessing their past performance to ensure that they're going to be good stewards of the public funding. So all of those key considerations that happen, you know, before you even submit the application. And program analysis. So, yeah, the money looks great, you know. But then, what are you going to do to accomplish what you set out to do and ensuring that your programs are set up that you can actually be successful?

And then sustainability. So, okay, so you get the money. So, let's say you get that program started and it's working out well. Well, how can you ensure that you're going to be able to continue that for long-term success?

So in the funding opportunity announcement, I know sometimes they could be maybe 30 pages and then sometimes they can be 150 pages. So, what are some things that you should really be thinking about with the funding opportunity announcement? Well, what requirements will impact your organization upon award receipt? So, what are the areas that are going to be touched? Things like, you know, program evaluation and thinking about performance measurement. Your organizational structure, do you need more resources? And then thinking about planning, you know, what are some things that you need to do to set yourself up for success? And any additional outreach that needs to happen?

So from a programmatic lens, you know, how are you going to ensure that you can deliver what you said you were going to do in the proposal? And then financial -- so this is going to be a big topic on the post award side because a lot of issues come up because maybe your time is not properly tracked through time and effort reporting if you have staff that are being paid out of the grant award. And also thinking about allowable costs, and does your program site understand what they're allowed to spend their funds on? Are they being tracked correctly? Do you have the policies in place to manage it? So, those are some things that you want to think about from a financial lens.

And then operations, the reporting expectations. We know that a lot of these are, you know, deadline driven. So just understanding, you know, how your operations are going to be impacted by the receipt of this federal award and are there different kinds of things you need to think about? Now, I mentioned policies before, you know, what are the policies that you have in place. Do they need to be updated? You know, do you have processes, do you have resources, do you have the knowledge? So, all of those pieces come into play when thinking about that funding opportunity and understanding, you know, what do we need to do between the time that we submit the application and potentially the time that we received the award? What things might you need to put in place within your organization?

And I call this because we always talk about the culture of philanthropy. But I like to talk about the culture of compliance. So the culture of compliance in grants management is what are all the things that we need to do? So I call it the who, what, when, where, why, how. So the “who” are the people. Who's going to be actually doing the work? And it's not just, “Okay, that person is the grants person. So, that person is going to do everything. Because there are so many different components that I mentioned, where it's programmatic financial operations. So, there need to have more than one person because this is a team sport. And how is that codified in job descriptions?

So thinking about who is responsible, do they have the appropriate knowledge, is there a need for additional training or support or outsourcing? And then, you know, the knowledge is the why, you know, what exactly -- do you have that understanding of the federal requirements of 2CFR 200? Which is the Office of Management and Budget, uniform grant guidance. Now, what are the things that you need to understand in order to make sure that you're going to be in compliance and the processes, you know. There's tends to be technology and systems.

And I'm sure there's a lot of you that work in sort of these hybrid work environments. So, what are you doing to share information? And how is that going to be administered? And how is that dictated so that everybody's on the same page in your policies, which the policies are required for internal controls as part of your federal grant management process, you know, how you're going to do things. And that dictates the processes.

And then maintenance, who is updating, you know, any sort of project management or grant management database with all the key deadlines and all the requirements and updating different things that are required as part of the record keeping? And the systems, you know, where's the information housed? You know, I know that not everybody is going to use a project management or grant management database. But what about, you know, some kind of shared system? Whether it's team or Google, or Dropbox, whatever you might be using, you know, how is everybody having access to information?

And I also just wanted to touch on this because these are some federal grant trends. So, you know, I live and breathe uniform grant guidance. So some of this might, you know, be a little bit over your head. But I want to share this with you, especially as you dive into federal grants, and you might be receiving federal grants, you might be interested in going after them. These are some trends that you might want to be mindful of. And especially because the uniform grant guidance is going to be updated this year. We don't know when, but there are some positive changes that are happening. And also, just some of the societal trends that are being now infused as part of the federal grant award process.

So first is increased accountability. If you're unaware of the GREAT Act and Data Act, you know, that's just trying to ensure that information about federal grants is publicly available. If you want to look up, you know, who's receiving federal grants, you can look at usaspending.gov and just look at a recipient and the information is in there.

And there's a lot of really valuable tool, tools that you can, you know, look at. And that's one of the reasons is to make information available to the general public so that they see, “Okay, they're not spending on private jets or jewelry. They're actually spending it on what they said they were going to do.” And also, just making information just easier to share from a reporting perspective for grantees so that they can provide it in the same format to federal agencies. And also, a greater need for risk assessment. So with regard to procurement, there's a lot of requirements and expectations with regard to how you're going to work with small business owners and focusing on American-based businesses.

So, there's a lot of different areas to kind of strengthen the procurement process that need to be mindful of, especially if you're going to be working with sub-recipients or partners. And also thinking about, you know, I mentioned before about that risk assessment. So, how are you going to partner with your contractors and sub-recipients? What's the risk assessment process that you're using to evaluate whether those are going to be good partners?

And I mean, just making sure this information is available to your team. And that's where the knowledge and information sharing is so important because everybody needs to understand why these areas are important and that should be part of your review process when you're evaluating whether this opportunity is the right fit and whether or not you should pursue. Because some times, there could be some issues that, you know, come up at the onset and you're able to avoid some of those landmines that could torpedo your grants. And we don't want that to happen.

And so, I brought this up because this is a case study. What happens with good grants go bad? So, you know, if you don't do your due diligence, if you don't really evaluate some of these things at the onset, it could really bite you in the end, especially if you have to go through a single audit, which is required for those that receive over $750,000 within a fiscal year. And it's not just a financial audit, it's also looking at how the program was administered, standards of conduct, there's a lot of different areas that are covered in a single audit that, you know, an auditor is going to be looking at some of these areas in more detail.

You know, just to give you an example, one of the clients that we worked with in RBW strategy, they had prepaid for some services with one of their partners. And guess what, that you know, that contractor ended up going bankrupt. So, they lost all that money. And all of those costs that were disallowed, they had to pay back to the government. And so those kinds of things, you know, what were some of the financial integrity questions, risk assessment, that you could have looked at, you know, to say, “Oh, you know, how could we have evaluated whether this was the right partner? So those are the kinds of things, those kinds of landmines that we want to avoid, because you don't want to end up having to pay for things that you weren't accounting for, especially with some of these huge grants that could be, you know, several 100 million dollar plus or multiyear that could really impact your bottom line.

So, how should you be you prepare? Well, some of the things I want you to think about are communication, transparency, who should be sitting at the table, who should be there for any sort of kickoff meeting, whether it's, you know, working on the application or at the beginning of administering your grant award and just being honest and communicative with you and your partner. So it's not just internal, it's also external partners as well, and thinking about who the people are within your organization that should be there. And not just senior leadership, but those who are actually administering the grant award and just being honest about, you know, what are the things that we need to do to prepare, are our policies strong, or are they weak? Do we need to think about improving -- having access to a better system for tracking information? So thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and about your policies and procedures as part of that, because that really is the framework for how you can ensure success is having strong policies and procedures.

And thinking about, you know, the project management and record keeping, just like with anything, you know, I know that Instrumentl, for instance, is strengthening their post award side in terms of tracking and managing award information. So, you know, if you have an existing system that you can use and leverage, you know, that's a great way to start being on the same page, ensuring people have access and documenting and maintaining those records so that you can share them with an auditor or for reporting purposes.

So the last thing, I'll say, just to summarize. So on the pre-award side, you know, thinking about that planning, thinking about, you know, how you're going to evaluate which ones are the right opportunity to meet your specific grant goals and fundraising goals, because sometimes grants will not be the best solution for certain types of funding needs. And thinking about, you know, the team and looking at the budgets and making sure it matches with what you're going to be asking for and that it all makes sense. You know, the post award side, getting that kickoff is really, really critical so that all the partners can be on the same page, looking at the Notice of Grant awards, understanding the terms and condition, who's responsible for managing the different components, and then tracking the requirements. And that should be built into your internal controls. You're going to hear me say internal controls may sound like a robot repeating myself. But it's very critical.

So, that is my quick and dirty overview that sometimes can take several hours to go through. But those are just some highlights that you want to think about with regard to, you know, post-award management from the pre-award lens.

Rachel: I love that, Rachel. And thank you for giving us the perfect tee up for Patrice to take us into a little more of the detail when you're looking at the application. Some of these elements kind of filtering through as you're thinking about the risk assessment and all those partners you might bring into play.

Before we get to Patrice’s section, I want to launch another quick poll. We'd love to hear from folks a little bit about what they wish they knew more about. So, I'm going to launch this poll here. And let me see if I can get this to launch. Hold on one second. Sorry, folks. But, yeah, what we're interested in seeing here is kind of what are some of the things you wish you knew a little more about? This poll isn't launching. Maybe if folks want to add their thoughts into the chat? Oh, wait, there we go. Hold on one sec.

Okay. So my question here is, I wish I knew more about blank when I wrote my last federal grant. If you haven't written a federal grant, that's okay. Maybe think about something that you wish you had a little bit more of a grasp on as we've started to kind of tease out some of those elements of the federal grant application. But some of you might be wanting to know more about the reporting requirements, your internal infrastructure that you need to manage the grant, maybe resource allocation to identify the roles and responsibilities, or those policies and procedures. I saw Megan mentioned how policies are such an important aspect of this, on how you implement the funding.

I'll give folks about 10 more seconds to answer and then I'll share those results. Yeah. And if you have other thoughts, things that you also are wishing you knew more about, please add those into the chat. I see some additional comments from Marilyn and Michelle, and Liz. Yep.

All right. So it looks like our winner on this one is folks are wishing they knew a little more about the internal infrastructure needed to manage the grant. That's a great tip for us to kind of be aware of what are the elements of our infrastructure that we need to be aware of. And then kind of a follow up there a second place is those policies and procedures on how we implement the funding. So Patrice is going to take us through some of the kind of decoding of the eligibility puzzle now that we kind of covered that big picture. Patrice, what do you think we need to know to navigate that maze of applications and eligibility requirements?

Patrice: Right. I will -- I'm more than happy to provide some insight into that. So, the five steps to understanding complex applications. So if you can move on to the next slide, that'll be great. I think it's great for us to at least level set and understand, Rachel, if you can move to the next slide? Really, you know, these, at least understanding what we're, you know, the nomenclature, the differences and the way things are described across the federal landscape. So, I wanted to start here in level set by making sure that we were clear about the different names that are used for the funding opportunity. So, we already have here an acronym soup. We have the Notice of Funding Opportunity, which I tend to use the most, the NOFO. We also have the Request for Application; the FOA, the Funding Opportunity Announcement. We also have some clients that have National Science Foundation Grants, and they actually apply to a broad agency announcement.

But I would think the generic term that's used across the board is solicitation. And so, when we are typically providing training on how to assess a solicitation, determine whether it's a good fit. One of the first things we always talk about is whether or not you are, number one, an eligible entity, which is very, very clear. Typically, what they -- all these notices of funding opportunity RFAs, FOAs, whatever term you want to use, they typically have to follow a certain format. And that format is actually outlined.

And a term I heard someone say, I'm not sure what that is, but the actual full term is uniform administrative guidance, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards. And in that guidance, which is released by the Office of Management and Budget, they basically know that, “Hey, your notices of funding opportunities or your solicitations” -- and this is basically guidance to the federal agencies themselves, must have this information. And as a result, we now see some consistency in the way that they are being released to the public before uniform guidance was passed than this was actually first released to the public. The interim, let's call it the interim version, was -- I believe it was December of 2014.

So before December of 2014, you know, there was some inconsistency in the way that these documents look. But now, they pretty much have the same information, the agency, the title, the funding opportunity number, the assistance listing number, of course, the important dates, deadlines, executive summary, eligibility, the authorization. In other words, what law or laws authorize this funding, you know, the application requirements, the evaluation criteria, the formatting requirements, how to submit an application, all these details are outlined in the NOFO or solicitation.

One of the things that we often share with the folks that are in our training programs are, you know, it's never enough to read this once, twice, or even three times when you're applying for a grant. You really need to read it five, six, seven times. And I always joke, you should have multiple highlighters in hand, different colors, just to make sure you're not missing some key information that could make or break the application.

The next slide, please? So, I did want to let you all know that OMB, Office of Management and Budget, is actually has proposed changes as Rachel -- the other Rachel mentioned earlier. And some of the changes that relate to the pre award side or the application side of federal grants are these three here. And that is, number one, they plan on -- they have proposed a complete revision to the no fold template text. And they plan on, basically, making sure that they, you know, they're going to be using Clean Language principles and they're going to try to group similar items together. And then, of course, they plan overall is to -- the plan overall is to reduce administrative burden and unnecessary obstacles from applying for federal assistance.

So in my world, not only am I focus on applying for actually finding, applying for and, of course, managing government grants, federal grants, specifically. In my world, I'm also paying close attention to guidance that's been reduced, that's been released that actually impacts our work in our client’s funding. But also, you know, laws that are being proposed or bills that are being proposed. And for quite some time, you know, senators have been proposing ways to simplify federal grant, notices of funding opportunity. So, I'm not surprised that this is kind of flowed down to the Office of Management and Budget. They propose these changes.

And as Rachel mentioned earlier, it will be this year more than likely that the final changes will be published. And, you know, so I just want to make sure you're all aware that we should expect some changes as it relates to the funding opportunity itself.

If you're on team -- okay, there we go. So, we're going to talk now about what it really takes to actually manage a federal grant application. Some of you noted that you have some experience applying for federal grants. And, you know, so this will -- some of this will be new to you. For those of you who are not, I'm definitely going to make sure I add some details based on my experience applying for federal grants for about 18, 19 years now.

So the first thing, of course, is that when you're applying for federal grant, as one would, you know, I'm sure you're not surprised, it must be a team-centered approach. As Rachel mentioned earlier, you want to know exactly who's going to be at the table. So you definitely want to make sure that you have a finance or several finance people at the table because one may be actually, you know, gathering some of the information that the other person may be helping to create the budget. And then, of course, in some instances, you definitely want to have the grant writer at the table. Whoever the project subject matter experts going to be, there may be one or two others that you want to have at the table, at least for that first meeting to make sure there's a level set, there's a clarity and understanding of what you're trying to accomplish, a project plan is in place, everyone understands their assignment, everyone is very, very clear about what their role is, and at what point we will really be -- you will be relying more heavily on, maybe what they will be contributing to the project.

So collaboration is a key part of this, of course, making sure that you're tracking deadlines very closely, making sure you're very aware of -- at the very beginning of the project. What are those supporting documents that must accompany the application? How should we be submitting the application? Who, when -- you know, what is the deadline to actually reach out to the Federal Agency for any questions? And is there going to be a pre-application webinar? If there's going to be a pre-application webinar, when are additional details going to be released? Maybe a modified Notice of Funding Opportunity expected to be released.

So, these are just some of the details that you want to make sure that we're all -- that you're all on the same page about, that you're communicating frequently, but also in a way that is, again, as collaborative as possible and as streamlined as possible. And, of course, you want to be consistent. And as I mentioned before, communicate, you know, you know, as clearly as you can. We, at our organization, we use project management system to manage these applications. We do this for a number of entities for, you know, university with 15 partners or for a, you know, an association with five partners.

And so if you imagine just the number of stakeholders that you have to engage, it needs to be team-centered. You must collaborate. You must be consistent in the way you communicate. And of course, you must be as effective as possible in your communication.

Next slide? All right. So as I mentioned before, as you're evaluating the NOFO, the Notice of Funding Opportunity, it needs to be a full assessment from the front page all the way to the end. One of the things I really like now is that they're making sure that they are including post-award requirements in the notices of funding opportunity. So for those of you who want to get an idea of what it actually entails to manage the award once awarded, you know, definitely read through the latter, you know. Let's say 1/5 of the NOFO. Sometimes, you know, people tend to not pay attention to that because it has nothing to do with the actual application and how the application will be evaluated. But if you ever want to know, okay, what are the reports that they're going to expect? How frequently will they expect the report? There are some standards across the federal landscape. But in some instances, a particular program office within the federal agency may have slightly different program -- program and financial reporting requirements.

And as I said before, make sure that you are, you know, approaching this as a team. Don't take any of the details for granted. So even things like, you know, the formatting, how they want the file names, sometimes they tell you specifically. The file names need to be this. And, you know, exactly how they want certain things formatted is very, very important. So, please pay attention to those really important details.

As I said before, read multiple times. And, you know, one of the things that I used to do in early in my career is that I would, of course, have a colleague read along with me and then we would share notes to make sure there was nothing that we've missed. Now that I've done this for a little bit longer, some of those details kind of jumped out at me. And then, of course, we're able to plan accordingly.

Definitely assess those priorities early and really, really understand who the stakeholders are going to be. Stakeholders could be sub-recipients. What are the proposed sub-recipients that you plan on including in the grants? Are you allowed to name their sub-recipients by name? In many instances, you're not. Are you going to have a, you know, an advisory board or some kind of governance council that would be factored into, you know, the application itself? What are the letters of support you're going to need and which stakeholders are going to need to provide you with letters of support or letters of commitment?

This is why evaluating that NOFO with some of those questions in mind is going to be really important at the very, very beginning. And, of course, the method of submission. I’ve have submitted applications for clients via email -- or even before we started the firm -- via email. Sometimes we, you know, early in my career, I would drive it down to the county office, all three copies, which were about a ream of long. So we basically walked out, you know, deliver three reams, three stacks of paper as they are -- for the application in binders. Sometimes, thankfully, those days are no longer. At least recently, for me, we haven't had to do any of those.

But what is the method of submission? Is it going to be paper copy, which hopefully, that's no longer being required. Email. Is it going to be submitted in grants.gov? Is it supposed to be submitted in the ER exchange or some other agency specific portal? Please note that some agencies have their own specific portals that they would like for you to use to submit that application. So, it's really important that you find out what they are early on.

Katrina said, “Yes, thank God, most have moved on.” Absolutely. I agree with you.

So again, making sure you're clear about those stakeholders. Your internal and external stakeholders. So making sure you're clear about those roles at the very beginning, what are the concentric circles, right? So, the immediate circle may be, of course, the team working on the application. Right outside of that are going to be any, you know, proposed sub-recipients and then, you know, potentially any contractors. You're not going to name those contractors because you definitely have to follow procurement guidelines as it relates to identifying contractors once you’re funded. And then maybe the other concentric circle maybe with those organizations or county offices or other external parties that would be submitting letters of support or letters of commitment.

And again, there could even be additional concentric circles outside of that. And then making sure you're clear on the accountability. Certainly, of that, the two circles. You're a team that's preparing the application and those sub-awardees. What are the things that you're going to need from them immediately? What are some of the things you're going to be evaluating about them before you even include them in your application? That's very, very important. That's part of the risk assessment that Rachel Werner mentioned earlier.

And, of course, coordinating all of that and gathering any information are really, really core to making sure that the application process is as streamlined as possible. One of the things that we try to pride ourselves, we pride ourselves on is sort of being that duck in the water, you know, the client is only seeing, of course, that duck, you know, smoothly gliding across the water. But underneath the surface, our team is working really hard to make sure that everything is, you know, is as complete and ready to be submitted.

And, of course, the ultimate goal is to make sure that we have a competitive application that would result in a grant funding for our clients.

The next slide.

Documents. So I think, you know, as I've said before, you need to make sure you read those instructions carefully. One of the things that we tend to do is -- at the very beginning, of course, is make sure we determine if what templates are required versus other instances where they allow you to use your own template. But definitely want to find out what templates are required at the very beginning. Again, assess this at the very beginning of the project and ensure that these forms are complete.

In some instances, you have -- some of these forms require that you reach out to a legal representative of your organization. And so, that's why it's important to find out what those documents are at the very, very beginning so that you can, you know, try to make sure that they're as complete as possible at -- again, at the very beginning of the project. So you're not -- there are these straggler things that are dragged -- that are going to, you know, potentially risk the application being incomplete when it's being -- when it's time to submit everything.

And the final slide. Budget and Budget Narrative. One of my favorites. And so, you know, when you're creating your budget and budget narrative, of course, you definitely want to partner with your finance lead. In some instances, you're going to partner with other folks within the organization, such as an HR person who can provide you some of the details you may need when it comes to, of course, providing specific salaries. Sometimes that finance person has it. But sometimes, you just want to make sure that that person is kind of involved on the beginning of the project as well. Gather all the required information.

So one of the things that I want to make sure is that whenever you're including some of the cost estimates, it's best to definitely make sure that those estimates are based on, you know, let's say real examples. So, for example, if you're going to be -- if the travel section includes flights to Washington, DC because the federal agency requires that you come to DC for an annual conference, then you're going to want to definitely go to expedia.com or maybe your favorite airline. And actually just, you know, search, what is the cost from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, DC and -- let's say this time of year. Just so there's a basis for the cost.

So in other words, make sure in those instances where it's possible, there's a basis for the cost. You definitely want to check for accuracy multiple times and make sure -- the most important -- one of the most important thing here is, of course, that it's aligned with the proposed project. I can't stress that enough. Make sure that it is definitely aligned with the proposed project. Are the cost reasonable? It goes back to, again, identifying those bases for those costs where possible. If you're going to be purchasing equipment, what are you doing to make sure that that equipment price that you're estimating actually reflects, you know, what it actually cost if you were to buy it on the open market?

Indirect cost. Many -- so most -- well, let's see. You can basically use something called de minimis rate. Currently, it's at 10%. One of the proposed changes that OMB has proposed would increase that rate. I won't say what that increase is because I don't want to confuse you, guys. Just know that right now, you can actually factor in 10% de minimis rate to be used for indirect cost.

Now, if your organization has a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement, then, of course, you would move forward with that NICRA. As long as that NICRA is active and is current and has not expired. Okay?

And then, of course, you know, you want to factor in whether or not I've seen this in some instances where the agency wants you to just submit the application for the first year. It may be a multiyear grant. It may be a three or five-year grant. But they just want you to submit the budget for year one. And then so just because there are number of reasons for that, but I just want to make sure you're aware that you're paying attention to the timeframe of the budget that they're asking before. Okay?

All right. And this is where you get to submit the application. We aim for a minimum of two days before deadline. Sometimes we're able to submit four days before the deadline. But we aim for it no later than two days before the deadline for obvious reasons. You know, systems can crash, all these different things can happen that would, you know, risk your being able to submit your application. So, always aim for two to five days before the deadline. Exactly. All the things can happen. And we want to make sure that we're avoiding all the things as Susan just pointed out.

Again, making sure you're clear on the method of submission. I always recommend that you retain the Notice of Funding Opportunity. That's because, in many instances, the Notice of Funding Opportunity has program specific requirements, right? And so you want to make sure you are aware of what those program specific requirements are.

Another thing to point out is you definitely want to verify the accuracy and completeness of the application. Again, you may want to have a partner work with you to make sure that all the parts are there. Again, we've submitted applications where there were many, many, many moving parts and multiple supporting documents. And then even the, you know, the parties that were actual, you know, applicants, they needed to have their own NSFID. And then they had to have all these different documents, their bio sketches. So, it's just important to really have a partner there to double check, especially those instances where you have very complex multi-stakeholder applications.

Retain both the paper and electronic copies. I'm sure I don't need to explain that. And, of course, ensure complete submission. So until you receive some kind of emailed, you know, confirmation that's been submitted, it hasn't been submitted. So, I just want to make sure that you all are looking out for that as well.

And then the final slide is what Rachel mentioned earlier, is that we're actually hosting a federal grant funding and management summit. On March 28, we do offer in-person and online attendance. We're going to have a federal grant writers’ panel. And these are going to be successful federal grant writers who can give you some insight on what it takes to actually submit a successful federal grant and what they need from you as the applicant so that it can to help move it toward a successful -- to being funded. We're definitely going to focus on post award management, which is my sweet spot. We're going to have an evaluator talk about program and evaluation, the what, when, why and how sub-recipient monitoring, which is a huge, you know, it's a big topic and something that I personally specialize in and, of course, preparing for your single audit.

Rachael Werner mentioned earlier, that, yes, if you expend more than $750,000 in federal funding per year, you will have to have a single audit. That is yet another one of those things that will change or have been proposed to change. That threshold has been proposed to be increased by the Office of Management and Budget. Again, I won't say what that proposed increase amount is. I just want us to focus on what it is today, which is 750,000. And, of course, additional speakers will be announced soon. And we currently have a few people that are currently on our -- this graphic that you're seeing on the screen. And Rachel will share some information with you all about how you can get 30% off of your registration fee.

Rachel: Yay. Thank you so much, Patrice. I love working with both you and Rachel because I feel like you make federal funding opportunities really exciting and fun to learn about. So, thank you. You covered so much great content. I'm going to wrap us up with a real quick overview of how we might be looking for our good fit federal or government grant opportunities.

I probably don't need to explain some of the gripes that folks have with grants.gov. But just as a reminder -- and because this is an Instrumentl webinar, I'm just going to quickly highlight some of the ways I think Instrumentl can be a real boon to your federal or government grants searches. So on grants.gov, you can save those searches, right? But you're not necessarily going to get automatic reminders about the searches that you've saved. You're going to have to continue to be reviewing those upcoming proposals that are posted on the website or in your newsletters that you get.

So with Instrumentl, you'll get those automatic deadline reminders. They'll update automatically and email you so you never feel like you're behind on deadlines that you want to pay attention to. We also will uniquely match you with those best fit funding opportunities. I'll show you in a real quick like one minute highlight of how you can just immediately get those funding opportunities sent right into your inbox and then track in Instrumentl.

While grants.gov is a little difficult and complex to navigate, we have a user friendly database with over 15,000 active RFPs across the board. Not just state and federal grants, but corporate grants, private foundation grants. So, you've got a huge library of resources to pull from.

And, you know, with grants.gov, there's not a ton of support that comes with using that site or some of the grants that you may be pursuing there. But our customer service is super responsive and thoughtful. And they'll help maximize your grant seeking if you join kind of our Instrumentl community. In the Instrumentl’s database, just to give folks a kind of hint of what we have in there, we do have every department that funds through grants.gov. We will also build a new page for every grant cycle for each federal grant. So, it's always updated because those deadlines are not exactly always consistent or the funding is not necessarily guaranteed year after year. We're always building a new page for those grant cycles.

We also publish new government grant opportunities within three business days. But often, much faster. And I actually screenshotted our Slack channel. We have a Slack called Build a Grant. And only one of our customer success managers is asking our grants building team, like, “Hey, we've got a customer that needs this federal grant ASAP,” and they'll build those right away. So, I see that Slack channel going off every day. I’m just so impressed with the speed at which we're putting out new opportunities for folks.

So, I'm going to show you in about one minute how you might find some relevant federal or government grants or funders in our database. So to start, if you haven't already, you'll click that link that Ryan has dropped into the chat and fill out your information. If you already have an Instrumentl account, hang tight for 10 seconds or so. Once you click that, you'll see for folks that are making their account for the first time, you'll have a page that comes up like this and then you'll be just filling out your basic information.

So I'm just putting in my name, my email address. I'm creating a password. I can probably update this playback speed just a tad. And I'm sharing a little information about my organization. So if you're creating your account for the first time, this is just to give your kind of baseline for opportunities that you're going to be looking for. This gives us a sense of what type of organization you are. I made up a fake museum, the Highland Park History Museum, and I indicated my organization's operating revenue, our 501(c)(3) status and how many grants my organization won in the past year.

Once you click that, you'll start with this screen. I've gone ahead and allowed us to skip the kickoff call for today. So, we'll go ahead and click Skip down here. And then you should be up on your project screen. So for folks that do already have an Instrumentl account, you'll be pretty easily able to create a new project. And for folks that are newbies, you might want to watch this playback because I'm going through real fast just to give us a sense of how quickly we can find those federal grant opportunities.

But essentially, I'm just creating a funding project. So, I'm looking for funding for a history education program for my Highland Park History Museum. I've selected the applicant type and indicated what types of grants I want to see. I don't necessarily want to see faith-based organizations because I'm not a faith-based organization.

And I made it so that my project serves nationally. I just said I was going to serve across the United States. So, I've indicated that region. And then probably most important here, you want to select your fields of work. So you'll indicate where -- what areas or sectors you might be focusing on. I was focusing on a history or arts program for students. So I selected fields of work related to that, including arts and culture, education, I think I did a history one. Yeah. And then I did a museum focused one since I was focusing on a cultural center and museum.

And then I'm going to indicate the size of grants I'm looking for. You might have a minimum that you're really going for. And I know a lot of our federal grants are going to be larger sums, right? So, maybe you're going for larger amounts here and how you want to use those funds.

This last section is going to be the most important. What kind of funders would you like to see grants from? Since I'm highlighting federal and government grants today, I only selected federal and state and local government. And you're going to see as soon as I click save and exit, it's going to go ahead and populate all the opportunities that are related to those specific funding sources.

So, that's a real quick overview. You'll see I'm going to get 33 grants that immediately pop up related to my project. And it's all in my tracker here. So, I'll be able to view the matches and scroll through and take a look at some of those opportunities. I might dive a little deeper and want to read a little more about the eligibility requirements like both our speakers are talking about. You really want to do a lot of digging here. So, Instrumentl will actually feed through some of the information from the website. And it'll also embed in -- yeah, the full NOFO. So, here is this PDF of the NOFO for this particular opportunity. You can dive deeper. I've gone ahead and saved it and said I'm going to explore it a little bit later.

So, that's how Instrumentl is kind of done a real quick just review of some of those opportunities that you can get in just a quick project setup. And I did that at, you know, 10 times speed. But, folks, if they have questions about setting that up, I'll hang around a little bit after the call so folks can get their tracker set up and explore some of those federal opportunities in Instrumentl.

I want to spend a moment going through a few questions that we had for Patrice and Rachel. So, I'm going to jump in to some of those. And, Rachel, if you want to hop back on, we'll kind of do a bit of a moderated Q&A here. I'm going to spotlight you all as well. One of the first questions I wanted to ask here is that my organization wants to go after more federal and state grant opportunities. But I'm only one grant writer. How do I make the case for increasing our grant staff? You have thoughts about that?

Rachel: Well, that's a good one. And I think it just -- I think I would think broader about your fundraising goals and how grants feed into that because I think it's a broader conversation. Do you need help in other areas as well? And what would that job description look like? Do you need it for ongoing support? Do you need it just for specific, you know, as needed help? So, I think it'd be good to identify that whether you need contractor or staff part person. But I think building the business case is the first part of it. But I think you need to dig deeper into the needs analysis of what this person would do.

Rachel: Yeah, having a full understanding of what exactly -- yeah, how exactly would you be utilizing the services of this person. And kind of a related question, Diana was asked -- or commenting that she had very little staff. How would you approach federal grant applications or compliance with small teams? Do you feel like, you know, a lot of folks are outsourcing support for that? Or how do you find that smaller teams kind of approach this process.

Patrice: So based on my experience, they are outsourcing it. And, you know, when you think about what it takes to actually recruit on board and actually, you know, have this a new person come on the team, it's typically faster to outsource it to, you know, a company like Rachel's or like mine, because we are coming in already knowing how to analyze what your responsibilities are as a recipient, you know. We can typically also analyze what resources you already have, identify what the compliance gaps are, and then immediately find out what are some of the things that you should be prioritizing. And so, we can do all of that in about the time it takes for you to probably have your first person lined up for an interview.

And so, you know, that's typically what I, you know, I would recommend for small organization. Not just because it would be beneficial to companies like mine, but because it's a great way to set up your foundation so that when you do hire someone, you know, in-house, that foundation has been set and that person is coming into work on a really well-crafted foundation.

Rachel: I love that. Thanks, Patrice.

We had a couple of other questions. I'm actually going to save them. And Rachel and Patrice, I'll send them to you after the event. And if you want to add your thoughts for folks watching, I know Karen had a question, Diana, I'm going to add their responses into our Events Resources page so you can get answers to those questions. But we don't run over time. I know folks have meetings that are probably right after this event. So, thank you for your questions. I'll get those answered.

And I'm going to wrap us up with our program today. Thank you so much for being with us, Rachel and Patrice. You are just both a wealth of knowledge. And I'm so glad we could share a little bit about federal and government grants today.

I'd really love to hear your feedback. Ryan is going to drop that in the chat and some reminders about what you'll receive if you submit your feedback form. So as a reminder, you'll get these two freebies from our partners, that 12 tips for grant readiness and the 30% off the Federal Grant Summit. And if you're an Instrumentl newbie, you will get a chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon if you sign up by this time tomorrow. So, I encourage you to do that. If you haven't had a chance to explore, you'll get 14 days to check out the system.

Lastly, I'm excited to share these exciting events that we have coming up this month. We're doing a fund grants roundtable event next Friday where we're going to chat about the implications of AI in our field with Margit Brazda Polrier and Krista Kurlinkus. And then the following Thursday, I'm going to share some ideas about grant tracking and how you can make that a little -- save some time for yourself and save up to 15 hours a week on the 29th.

So if you're free, I suggest putting a name on the list for these. I'll send that in the chat as well. Oh, I'm so glad the folks enjoyed. Thanks for being here, everybody. I love seeing that.

As a last thing, I just want to say thank you again. I'll stick around Rachel and Patrice. You all can hop off when you need to. And I just really appreciate everybody being here today. Thank you so much. And we'll see you next time.

Patrice: Great. Thank you.

Rachel: Have a good one.

Rachel: Thank you.

Rachel: I'm going to let folks filter off, play a little music, and I'll answer some Instrumentl questions if folks have any further projects.

Bye, everybody.

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