Navigating the Grant Application
Navigating the Grants.gov Federal Grant Application System
John Jemison, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
An increasing number of grant applications submitted to federal grant programs must now go through grants.gov application submission process. While the application submission directions are a 50+ page PDF file, it is actually an improvement over previous USDA application systems. The budget forms are much easier to use, and once everything is comes together, it actually makes an improved system for applying for government grants. So, while the first time will be a struggle, after that, it should be more tolerable.
Step 1: Explore Grants.gov
When you consider applying for federal money, it is worth looking into the website well ahead of actually submitting a grant. Go to www.grants.gov. You can find a listing to search for all new government grant/contract opportunities each week. You can also search the system for potential grant funds in your working area. For example, if you were to work in the area of pest management, you can search the word, IPM, and the website will list any and all IPM-related grant projects and deadlines which would have to be submitted through Grants.gov. If you receive an email from someone announcing potential grant funds from a federal source, you can go to the grants.gov website and find out more information on the name or topic.
Step 2: Download the “viewer” app
Once on the website, you will be offered the chance to download an app that allows you to view Grants.gov files.
Step 3: Search Grants.gov for your specific funding source
Once you have downloaded the viewer, search for the funding source that you wish to apply for. Type the general name of topic (IPM, Water Quality) and you will be shown all grants in this list. Click on the specific funding source, and you will be directed to another webpage. This page will have at the top Selected Grant Applications for Download. You will see at the bottom another bar listing CDFA, Application number, Competition ID, Competition Title, Agency and Funding Name. Click on the Funding Name and you will be directed to another webpage. The title Download Opportunity Instructions and Application is at the top of this page and at the bottom you have two options: you can download a pdf file that describes how to fill out the grants.gov package.
Step 4: Download the Grants.gov instruction manual
This instruction manual is 50 pages in length, but you will use it as a reference only. It is good insomnia medicine. It is advisable to print a copy of this for your records. It will explain each step in the process, and what each page means.
Step 5: Download the specific grant application package
Now, download the actual application form. It will take a minute to download, and when complete, you will see the first page of your application form. Everything that you need to fill out throughout the application package is in yellow. Fill out the yellow blanks and save your work. The first yellow box is the application filing name. The name given is to help you identify the project. In the last one I did, I called it RIPM-Jemison. (Regional Integrated Pest Management Project Jemison).
Step 6: Start with the SF-424-RR form
This form provides to the agency the important contact information for them to work with Research and Sponsored Programs at UM. Below I have included the specific information you will need to complete the SF-424-RR form. Like all software, there are some good features and some that are a bit irritating. You can’t double click on forms or specific sections of the PureEdge Viewer. You click on the topic and then hit open. Also, sometimes you can copy and paste in information, and other times you cannot. After completing each section, save the application to a folder on your computer.
This is the specific information you need to fill out the SF-424-RR form:
In line 5. Application Information: The Univ. of Maine Acting through the Univ. of Maine System. You have to abbreviate Univ. for university or it won’t fit.
Sponsored Programs Address is as follows:
Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
5717 Corbett Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5717
Authorized Institutional Administrative Officer:
Mr. Michael M. Hastings, Director
TIN: 016000769 FOR NIH SUBMISSIONS USE: 1016000769A1
DUNS Number: 186875787
Our Congressional District: 2nd
USDA Code for Billing: 6J83B
Step 7: Research and related information
This section requires much of the same information is what is required for the PARS process of the office of research and sponsored programs. This page requires an abstract of the project and a project narrative which is your grant project proposal. These must be input as PDF files!!! Anything put in as a word document will not be processed. Also at the bottom there is a place to put in other attachments at line 11. In the last proposal I submitted there was a three-page abstract called the relevance document. It was sent to an additional group of reviewers to assess whether the project appeared to be relevant to the region. This is where you would attach this type of supplementary document.
Step 8: Senior and key person profile
Again, fill in anything in yellow. The biographical sketch requested on this page is generally a 2-page CV saved in PDF format.
Step 9: Personal information data
This helps the government track racial and ethnic information on grant submissions. This is voluntary, but they argue that if it’s not filled out, then it biases the statistics. So, its your choice on this one.
Step 10: Budget
This is the meat of the application process. Again, you will fill in the slots that are in yellow. Information from previous pages will have populated many of the lines required in this section. First of all, if you are working with another agency and you are a subcontract, this is the first thing to indicate at the top of the page. Fill in if it is your project and UM is the chief administrator of the funds or if you are subcontracting with another agency or university.
The other important part of this budget page is that you fill in information with one year at a time. Most grant projects are for two or more years. Each year will be a budget period. The system will accumulate the budget periods for you. Start with section A, and work your way through the page. After filling out the required information, go back to the top of the page and click the NEXT button. That brings you to sections C – E. Fill in the yellow blanks, and click NEXT. This takes you to Sections F – K. Fill in the yellow blanks and attach the budget narrative again as a PDF! – make sure that it matches what you have entered in the previous budget screens. The next part is the only tricky part. Again you will only put in information for one year at a time. You will click the NEXT PERIOD button to put in the information for year 2 and then for year 3. This button is located at the top of the budget page with sections F-K. After you put in the year 2 information, you can click the NEXT button and see the total cumulative budget page. You no longer have to do a cumulative budget form, or a cumulative budget narrative. That is the bonus of the new system.
Step 11: Complete the supplemental information form
This is like the rest. Fill in all yellow blanks. Information required here can be found in the request for proposal. We have a Department of Human Services PMS pin: 6j83b.
Put in your conflict of interest form at the bottom. Again it must be in a PDF form.
Step 12: Attach any subcontract forms
A colleague from an additional university will have filled out their budget as you have. They will have clicked on the subcontract option in the first section of the budget form. They will have saved their file, and they will have emailed it to you. You will attach their form here. These subcontract forms will be files with .xfd extensions. Just attach them as instructed in the document.
These are the key steps to make. After you complete each form, move them from the incomplete side to the completed side. You will want to do this and save your file. Once complete, you can send it to ORSP and they will complete the process and submit it for you.
So, while the system seems complicated, it’s really not that bad.