Skip to main content

Federal Grant Proposals: How Do I Know When My Nonprofit Is Ready for Federal Grants? 

It’s that time of the year again- the winter holidays are over, we’re seeing the first flower buds of spring, and… federal grant season has begun!  

With the federal grant writing season upon us, you might be thinking: is this the year that my nonprofit is ready for federal grants? This article will help you find the answer to that especially important question! 

Is my nonprofit ready for federal grant proposals? 

There are two essential categories you need to excel in for your nonprofit to be ready to write a winning federal proposal: Federal Grant Writing Readiness and Federal Grant Submission Readiness. If you are prepared in both areas, you are ready to write and submit a competitive proposal. 

1. Federal Grant Writing Readiness 

 Each federal office that administers grants will have different requirements for the grant opportunity. One of the most important things that you can do as you prepare to write your proposal is to read the directions extremely carefully. That will help you draft your proposal, and it is also an essential part of federal grant writing, as if you do not follow the directions exactly, it can often result in a complete disqualification of the entire grant proposal. 

While each grant opportunity will look different, there are some common topics that you should be prepared to discuss… 

Organizational History and Infrastructure: Are you able to clearly articulate your organization’s mission, vision, history, and staffing structure? Each of these areas will be important for your proposal. 

Community Need: Do you have recent data available about your target area and target population for your program? Community need will help articulate the need for your proposed project.  

Program Design and Evaluation: Do you have a detailed, well-researched project design in mind, as well as how you will evaluate that project? Remember to build in room for improvement for your project, which will be detailed through your proposed evaluation plan. 

Budget: Can you project how much your project will cost? Every federal grant opportunity you apply for will have some version of a budget required. As always, remember that your grant budget needs to reflect the rest of your grant narrative.  

Attachments: Is your nonprofit’s paperwork in order for 2023? All federal grant proposals have required attachments. Some of these attachments will be specific to the grant opportunity, such as a project timeline, and others will be general documentation like your Letter of Determination.  

2. Federal Grant Submission Readiness 

Interestingly, one of the most challenging parts about submitting a grant proposal can be the submission- especially when it comes to federal grants. It can take up to three months to complete the registration process itself, depending on what your current nonprofit infrastructure looks like, and potentially longer to familiarize yourself with the tools.  

Here are some of the essential submission steps you will want to plan for at least 3 months in advance (ideally more!) 

Register with the System for Award Management (SAM): SAM is the official U.S. government system that allows you to register your organization and keep your registration information up to date. 

Obtain a Unique Entity ID (UEI): The Unique Entity ID is a 12-character alphanumeric ID assigned to your nonprofit by and is required for most federal grant applications. 

Register with the System: is the centralized federal grant-making website and allows you to search for, apply for, and manage federal grants online. 

Obtain a SAM registration and a account: Once you have completed the steps 1-3, you will need to complete your SAM registration and apply for a federal account. 

Update your organization’s profile information: Make sure to keep your organization’s profile information up to date on SAM and, including your address, point of contact information, and certifications. 

Set up your Workspace:  Workspace is the standard way for organizations or individuals to apply for federal grants in Workspace is a shared, online environment where members of a grant team may simultaneously access and edit different forms within an application. 

Check out this free United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant checklist for a useful tool you can use to work through the process.  

What are the chances of my nonprofit winning federal grant proposals? 

This one is a tough one to estimate. The grants space is highly nuanced and there are many variable factors that impact success rate. As an example, even seasoned, professional grant writers will have proposals rejected. 

One of the most important take-homes you can get from this article is that grants are highly competitive. The more prepared you are, in terms of knowing the project you want to get funded, the more likely it will be that you are funded.   

On average, when it comes to private grants, most sources state that 1 in 10 applications are approved for funding. The “industry standard” of predicting success, therefore, is 10%.  

For federal grants, the estimated numbers are higher, at a 20% success rate. However, it is important to keep in mind- as we have covered in previous sections- that writing a federal grant proposal requires a level of detail and invested time that means that your project is in a highly evolved state. This means that your project has an overall higher likelihood of being funded, regardless of which opportunity you pursue. 

What should I do next? 

If you are still have questions on where you should start in federal grant writing, that is where The Woolf Group can help. Our Social Impact team provides a full array of grant management services, from prospecting to writing to reporting. And if you are still in the pre-grant program design space, that is an area we are happy to assist with as well! Contact us for more information! 


By Catherine Ruff, TWG Social Impact Specialist and Strategy Consultant