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
ACF is participating in the Grants.gov initiative to provide the grant community with a single site to find and apply for grant funding opportunities. ACF applicants are required to submit their applications online through Grants.gov unless they have received an exemption from this requirement. Please refer to the ACF Policy for Requesting an Exemption from Required Electronic Application Submission document for complete guidance.
How to Register to Apply through Grants.gov
Read the instructions below about registering to apply for ACF funds. Applicants should read the registration instructions carefully and prepare the information requested before beginning the registration process. Reviewing and assembling the required information before beginning the registration process will alleviate last-minute searches for required information.
The registration process can take up to four weeks to complete. Therefore, registration should be done in sufficient time to ensure it does not impact your ability to meet required application submission deadlines. Organization applicants can find complete instructions by visiting Grants.gov, Organization Applicant Registration.
1. Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number
All entities applying for funding, including renewal funding, must have a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). Applicants must enter the DUNS number in the data entry field labeled "Organizational DUNS" on the SF-424 form.
For more detailed instructions for obtaining a DUNS number, refer to Obtain a DUNS Number.
2. Register with System for Award Management (SAM)
In addition to having a DUNS number, organizations applying online through Grants.gov must register with SAM in order to apply online. Failure to register with SAM will prevent your organization from applying through Grants.gov.
For more detailed instructions for registering with SAM, refer to Register With SAM.
Plan ahead. Please allow at least 10 business days after you submit your registration for it to become active in SAM and at least an additional 24 hours before that registration information is available in other government systems, i.e., Grants.gov.
This action should allow you time to resolve any issues that may arise. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in your inability to submit your application through Grants.gov or prevent the award of a grant. Applicants should maintain documentation (with dates) of your efforts to register for, or renew a registration, at SAM. User Guides are available under the “Help” tab at SAM. For any SAM registration issues, please refer to the ACF Policy for Applicants Experiencing Federal Systems Issues document for complete guidance.
HHS requires all entities that plan to apply for, and ultimately receive, federal grant funds from any HHS Agency, or receive subawards directly from recipients of those grant funds to:
- Be registered in the SAM prior to submitting an application or plan;
- Maintain an active SAM registration with current information at all times during which it has an active award or an application or plan under consideration by an OPDIV; and
- Provide its active DUNS number in each application or plan it submits to the OPDIV.
ACF is prohibited from making an award until an applicant has complied with these requirements. At the time an award is ready to be made, if the intended recipient has not complied with these requirements, ACF:
- May determine that the applicant is not qualified to receive an award; and
- May use that determination as a basis for making an award to another applicant.
3. Create a Grants.gov Account
The next step in the registration process is to create an account with Grants.gov. Applicants must know their organization's DUNS number to complete this process. Completing this process automatically triggers an email request for applicant roles to the organization's E-Business Point of Contact (EBiz POC) for review. The EBiz POC is a representative from your organization who is the contact listed for SAM. To apply for grants on behalf of your organization, you will need the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) role.
For more detailed instructions about creating a profile on Grants.gov, refer to Applicant Registration.
4. Authorize Grants.gov Roles
After creating an account on Grants.gov, the EBiz POC receives an email notifying them of your registration and request for roles. The EBiz POC will then log in to Grants.gov and authorize the appropriate roles, which may include the AOR role, thereby giving you permission to complete and submit applications on behalf of the organization. You will be able to submit your application online anytime after you have been approved as an AOR.
For more detailed instructions about creating a profile on Grants.gov, refer to EBiz POC Authorizes Roles.
5. Track Role Status
To track your role request, refer to Track Role Status.
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 forecasted funding opportunities at Grants.Gov.
A forecast is a planned funding opportunity that contains actual or estimated dates and funding levels for grants that an agency intends to award during the fiscal year. Forecast opportunities are subject to change based on enactment of congressional appropriations.
Forecasts for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) can be found on Grants.Gov, a centralized database of planned grant opportunities proposed by Federal agencies. 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.
When funding is available and an agency is ready to accept applications, the agency will issue an official notice, known as a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), which will be available on Grants.gov. The FOA provides guidance on how to receive an application kit and instructions on how to apply.
Find open Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) at Grants.gov
Synopses of all competitive ACF 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 ACF's Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) page 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.
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.
- In response to the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) requirements, under Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission, Required Forms, Assurances and Certifications, there is a new requirement regarding a Mandatory Grant Disclosure. HHS implemented this policy requirement for mandatory disclosures at 45 CFR § 75.113. For more information, please review the "New Mandatory Grant Disclosure Requirement in Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)" document.
- Please NOTE 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.
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
All ACF applicants must submit their application electronically unless they have received an exemption from this requirement. Please refer to the ACF Policy for Requesting an Exemption from Required Electronic Application Submission for complete guidance.
Grants.gov applicants can apply online using Workspace. Workspace is a shared, online environment where members of a grant team may simultaneously access and edit different webforms within the application. For each funding opportunity announcement (FOA), you can create individual instances of a workspace. The video below details how to create a workspace, but you can visit Grants.gov. to access instructions and other tutorials to help you apply for funding opportunities.
Timely Receipt Requirements and Proof of Timely Submission
All online applications must be received by 11:59 p.m., ET, on the due date established for each program. Proof of timely submission is automatically recorded by Grants.gov. An electronic date/time stamp is generated within the system when the application is successfully received by Grants.gov. The applicant AOR will receive an acknowledgement of receipt and a tracking number (GRANTXXXXXXXX) from Grants.gov with the successful transmission of their application. Applicant AORs will also receive the official date/time stamp and Grants.gov Tracking number in an email serving as proof of their timely submission.
When ACF successfully retrieves the application from Grants.gov, and acknowledges the download of submissions, Grants.gov will provide an electronic acknowledgment of receipt of the application to the email address of the applicant with the AOR role. Again, proof of timely submission shall be the official date and time that Grants.gov receives your application. Applications received by Grants.gov after the established due date for the program will be considered late and will not be considered for funding by ACF.
Applicants using slow internet, such as dial-up connections, should be aware that transmission can take some time before Grants.gov receives your application. Again, Grants.gov will provide either an error or a successfully received transmission in the form of an email sent to the applicant with the AOR role. The Grants.gov Support Center reports that some applicants end the transmission because they think that nothing is occurring during the transmission process. Please be patient and give the system time to process the application.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your submission, it is best to call the Grants.gov Support Center and get a ticket number. Grants.gov provides applicants 24/7 support via the toll-free number 1-800-518-4726 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions related to the specific grant opportunity, contact the number listed in the application package of the grant you are applying for.
The Support Center ticket number will assist ACF with tracking your issue and understanding background information on the issue. 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.
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 >