How to Apply for a Grant
Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)
For more information on available funding opportunities, please visit the Funding Opportunity Announcements page. In order to apply for a grant, you and/or your organization must complete the Grants.gov registration process.
Get more information about applying for a grant, including finding and understanding funding opportunities, submitting an application, understanding the review process, and more. We have provided an overview of the process to apply for ACF grants below.
Register & Get Ready
Register and Get Ready At Least One Month Before Your Funding Opportunity Opens
Every applicant organization and sub-recipient organization must complete three registrations to be able to submit a grant application:
- Unique Entity Identifier (formerly DUNS) Number registration;
- System for Award Management (SAM) SAM.gov registration; and
- Grants.gov registration.
All three registrations are free, but the process can take one month or longer. If you plan to apply for an ACF grant, do not delay. Get registered today! You can stay updated on upcoming funding opportunities offered by ACF by visiting the HHS Grants Forecast website. ACF publishes a basic summary of all anticipated upcoming funding opportunities on this site.
Unique Entity Identifier Number Registration
- You can complete this registration in one day.
- Visit the D&B DUNS Numbers for U.S. Government Contractors and Grantees website.
- Select the country or territory where your organization is physically located (ACF only provides grants to organizations located in the United States). Complete and submit the form. You will need to provide basic information about your organization, including physical and mailing addresses, name and title of the chief executive, primary Standard Industrial Code (SIC), whether or not the organization is minority-, woman- or veteran-owned, number of employees, and annual revenue.
- Your Unique Entity Identifier number will be e-mailed to you the same day.
System for Award Management (SAM) Registration (Formerly the Central Contractor Registry)
You can complete the initial registration on SAM.gov in three days. SAM.gov registration must be updated every year, which can take five days.
- Visit the System for Award Management website.
- Select Start a New Registration and complete the form, which will take about an hour.
- You must have your Unique Entity Identifier number and other information about your organization.
- You will have to designate an E-Business Point of Contact (E-Biz POC), who will identify a special password called the MPIN. The MPIN will give the E-Biz POC the authority to designate which employees of your organization are Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) who can submit applications on behalf of the organization. Soon after submitting your registration, the E-Biz POC will receive an e-mail requesting approval of designated AORs. If your organization already has an EIN (Employer Identification Number), this step can be completed in three days. If not, this step could take up to two weeks.
- To keep your SAM.gov registration active, be sure to renew at least once each year. If your registration expires you cannot submit a grant application until it is renewed.
For help with SAM.gov, please visit their support page.
For any SAM registration issues, please refer to the ACF Policy for Applicants Experiencing Federal Systems Issues document for complete guidance.
One day after receiving notification of final SAM.gov registration, an approved Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) can complete the required registrations by registering your organization with Grants.gov. You can complete the registration in three weeks.
- Visit Grants.gov > Get Registered.
- You must know your organization's Unique Entity Identifier number and be an AOR who has been approved through the System for Award Management (SAM) to register with Grants.gov.
- When the AOR registers with Grants.gov, the E-Biz POC will receive an e-mail, prompting her or him to log into Grants.gov and approve the AOR.
- When the registration is complete, the submitting AOR will receive a confirmation e-mail.
- Grants.gov registration must be updated every year and passwords must be updated every 90 days.
This Grants.gov video provides useful information on registering, searching and applying for Federal grant opportunities.
For more help with Grants.gov, please visit their support page.
The content on this page is for informational purposes and should not be construed as instructions for submitting an application. Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Announcement of interest for detailed instructions.Next: Find Funding Opportunities >
Find Funding Opportunities
View upcoming funding opportunities at HHS Grants Forecast
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Grants Forecast site is a database of planned grant opportunities proposed by its agencies. On this website you can search by agency to view planned ACF funding opportunities. Each forecasted funding opportunity contains:
- actual or estimated application and award dates
- estimated funding levels
- a list of eligible entities, and
- a description of the purpose and goals of the planned grant.
Forecasted opportunities are subject to change based on enactment of congressional appropriations.
Find open funding opportunities at Grants.gov
Synopses of all competitive ACF Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) are posted at Grants.gov — the same place you will go to submit your application. As ACF’s FOAs are announced, the full FOAs are posted on ACF’s website.
You can search by funding opportunity number, category, agency, or other criteria. If you are looking for a specific opportunity, searching by the funding opportunity number is the fastest way to find it (or go to www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa and follow the link to the synopsis and application package at Grants.gov).
If you do not have a specific funding opportunity in mind you may familiarize yourself with the various ACF programs. Some ACF programs provide free technical assistance to potential applicants — please see the program’s website for more information.
This Grants.gov video provides useful information on registering, searching and applying for Federal grant opportunities.
For help with Grants.gov, please visit their support page at: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/support.html.
The content on this page is for informational purposes and should not be construed as instructions for submitting an application. Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Announcement of interest for detailed instructions.Next: Understanding the Funding Opportunity Announcement >
Understanding the Funding Opportunity Announcement
All ACF Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) are organized into the following sections. This list provides a general description of the content typically found in each section, but is not exhaustive.
Section I: Program Description
- Provides background information, the goals of the program, post–application requirements and expectations, and a citation of the statutory authority for the award.
Section II: Federal Award Information
- Includes information on the anticipated funding amount and number of awards, the length of the project periods, and for cooperative agreements, a description of ACF’s anticipated substantial involvement in the funded project.
Section III: Eligibility Information
- Describes what entities are eligible to apply, application disqualification factors, and any cost-sharing requirements.
Section IV: Application and Submission Information
- Outlines all application and submission requirements. This includes guidance on formatting (e.g., adherence to font and page limitations); application submission instructions (e.g., adherence to the two-file requirement, application upload requirements); required forms, assurances, and certifications; application requirements for the project description and budget, guidance on formatting; submission dates and times; intergovernmental review requirements; funding restrictions; and an address to request an application package.
- Please NOTE in Section IV. Content and Form of Application Submission, under Application Upload Requirements, applicants submitting their applications electronically are required to upload ONLY two electronic files, excluding Standard Forms (SFs). No more than two files will be accepted for the review and additional files will be removed. Standard Forms will not be considered as additional files.
Section V: Application Review Information
- Includes the criteria objective reviewers will use to evaluate and score applications, information on the application review and award selection process, as well as anticipated announcement and award dates
Section VI: Federal Award Administration Information
- Provides information on award notices, administrative and national policy requirements, and post-award reporting requirements.
Section VII: HHS Awarding Agency Contact(s)
- Provides a program office contact and a grants management contact.
Section VIII: Other Information
- Includes additional information such as references to helpful websites and an application checklist.
The content on this page is for informational purposes and should not be construed as instructions for submitting an application. Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Announcement of interest for detailed instructions.Next: Decide Whether to Apply >
Decide Whether to Apply
Writing a grant application is a formidable task that can take many hours of staff time. Before you begin, be sure you can answer "yes" to the following questions:
- Have I read the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) completely and carefully? Do I understand it?
- Is my organization eligible to apply, based on the eligibility criteria described in Section III.1 Eligible Applicants of the FOA?
- Can I meet the FOA deadline and adhere to all the formatting instructions as specified in Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission? Can I adhere to the two electronic file requirement?
- Does my organization have the technical expertise, the personnel and the financial capacity to successfully implement the project goals and expectations described in the FOA? Does my organization’s mission align with the goals presented in the FOA?
- Are all the stakeholders in my organization supportive of applying for this grant?
- Is my organization prepared to do what it takes to successfully implement the project within the budget we're proposing? Applicants should also consider the administrative requirements that accompany Federal funding such as required reports, self-evaluations, participation in national evaluations, etc.
Write a Strong Application
Most Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) will require applications to include a description of:
- Goals and objectives, which should be clearly defined and specific;
- Need, which includes both the need for the service or activity that the grant will support and your organization's track record in fulfilling such needs;
- Approach and impact, which clearly shows how you plan to achieve the purpose of the grant program. Whenever possible, this should include supporting data;
- Resources and capabilities, which describes the knowledge, staffing and fiscal capacity that your organization has in order to carry out your proposed project and meet the goals of the grant program;
- Budget, which is a realistic plan that matches your goals and objectives. It includes a narrative that justifies the costs.
Be concise and precise in describing your proposed grant activities. Remember, your application must adhere to the page limitations stated in the formatting information (Section IV.) of the FOA.
Before You Submit
Your submission is final. You can't make edits or append any documents after submission. Be thorough in your review of your application, but do not wait until the last minute to submit. Late submissions are not accepted. Applicants should make every effort to submit their applications at least 24 hours before the application deadline.
- Check your application to make sure all required information requested is included. Check for spelling and correct calculations. In addition, check that the application adheres to page limitations, applications submission requirements (e.g., electronic applications must be submitted in only two separate files), and font and file-type requirements, as specified in Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission of the FOA.
- Use the checklist provided in the FOA (Section VIII. Other Information) or create your own, but make sure that all required documents are included in the application package. Be sure that application elements are in the order specified in the FOA.
- Review the content and be sure you have addressed all the criteria with which your proposal will be scored.
Submit an Application
The following is a brief overview of the process of submitting an application and is not exhaustive. Applicants must follow all instructions in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) in Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission and on Grants.gov.
Download the instructions and application kit from Grants.gov. The application kit includes everything you need to complete an application, including all the forms. Save the kit to your computer and complete it off-line.
***REMEMBER! In order to view application packages and instructions, you will need to download and install a Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader on your computer.
- Complete the Application, including all required forms, assurances, and certifications. When complete, save the application to your computer. Be sure to click the "Check for Errors" button, which will validate your application and activate the "Save and Submit" button.
Save and Submit only after you have double-checked your application for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with the page limit and application submission requirements (e.g., electronic applications must be submitted in only two separate files). After you click "Save and Submit," you will enter your username and password. Assuming you are registered with Grants.gov, you can click the "Sign and Submit" button to authenticate and submit your application.
As stated in the FOA in Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission, under Application Upload Requirements, applicants submitting their applications electronically are required to upload ONLY two electronic files, excluding Standard Forms (SFs). No more than two files will be accepted for the review and additional files will be removed. Standard Forms will not be considered as additional files.
You may not attach additional documents to the SF-424 at Question 14 and/or after Question 15. Instead of providing a separate response to Question 14, you are required to submit the SF for Project/Performance Site Location(s) (SF-P/PSL). In the SF-P/PSL, you may cite your primary location and up to 29 additional performance sites. Any documents attached to the SF-424 form will be removed from the review.
***REMEMBER! All ACF applicants must submit their application electronically unless they have received an exemption from this requirement through the process described in the FOA.
- Watch your E-mail. You will receive a series of e-mails from Grants.gov that will help you track your application. You can get the same information by logging into your account at Grants.gov.
For any systems issues experienced with Grants.gov and/or SAM.gov, please refer to the ACF Policy for Applicants Experiencing Federal Systems Issues document for complete guidance.
Tips on the Submission Process
Know Your Role
Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) work with their organization to prepare the application, and pass the completed application on to their Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). Only AORs have the ability to submit a grant application to ACF via Grants.gov. The E-Biz POC has the ability to designate the AOR for their organization.
Obtain Software – Adobe Reader
Applicants must download a Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader software in order to view and complete the application forms. Users can identify and download Grants.gov compatible versions of Adobe Reader by visiting the Adobe Software Compatibility page on the Grants.gov website.
Creating Portable Document Formats (PDFs)
Some applicants choose to submit their applications in a PDF.
The free Adobe Reader used to complete an application cannot be used to create PDF attachments or merge multiple documents. To comply with instructions in the FOA, some applicants may need to merge multiple documents together into one PDF file. View instructions on using one software to create and merge PDF documents or watch this video. ACF does not endorse any of the software, and applicants are not required to use a specific type of PDF conversion software to submit an application.
Understand the Review Process
Grant applications receive a comprehensive review, conducted by a panel of independent subject matter experts who are selected from a group of qualified individuals to become grant reviewers and/or a panel chairperson.
Applications are reviewed by at least three reviewers, who separately score the application according to evaluation criteria found in Section V.1 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). Each panel also has a chairperson that does not score applications, but facilitates the review process with reviewers and compiles comments for the Applicant Panel Summary report. This report describes the consensus of the panel reviewers’ comments and the overall average score for the application. The full panel reaches this summary based on individual reviews of each application according to the published evaluation criteria.
Evaluation criteria vary for each FOA, and applicants should refer to the specific FOA to which they are applying, but some common categories include:
- Objectives and Needs for Assistance;
- Program Performance Evaluation;
- Organizational Capacity; and
- Budget and Budget Justification.
If marked differences of opinion about an application exist among reviewers, the panel chairperson and reviewers will discuss the reasons for these differences and seek consensus. Once reviewers have reached consensus, the chairperson will send the Applicant Panel Summary report to the federal staff member overseeing the panel. The federal staff member reviews comments to ensure that they correspond to the appropriate published FOA evaluation criteria and substantiate the score on the Applicant Panel Summary report. Once approved by the federal staff member, the final score for each application is sent to the program office for consideration in making their funding decisions.
In 2013, ACF implemented a new policy that requires all applicants, whether successful or unsuccessful, to receive a copy of their Applicant Panel Summary Report. The Applicant Panel Summary Report includes the average score and a compilation of the reviewer's strengths and weakness statements on all criteria from the reviewed FOA. This information may be helpful as constructive feedback for future applications specific to that program.
What to Expect After Application Submission
Applications received by ACF receive a thorough and comprehensive review. Although the time varies from program to program, it takes approximately four to six months from the time ACF receives a new application to the time awards are made. Usually each Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will contain an estimated date as to when awards will be made. This information can be found in Section V.3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates of the FOA.
Successful applicants will be notified via email, informing them how to access their Notice of Award (NoA) and Terms and Conditions. Successful applicants can find instructions on accessing document(s) that pertain to their award (e.g., Applicant Panel Summary Report) in the remarks section of the NoA. ACF will send electronic notices to the Authorized Representative and contact person noted on the SF-424 form.
ACF program offices will notify applicants that were not funded either via email or through hard copy mail. These applicants will also receive a copy of their Applicant Panel Summary Report. The Applicant Panel Summary Report includes the average score and a compilation of the reviewer's strengths and weakness statements on all criteria from the reviewed FOA. If the application was reduced in response to FOA requirements, the applicant will also receive a letter explaining why the application was reduced.Next: FAQs >