Staying on Top of Federal Trends

September 25, 2020 Julie Assel

A version of this blog was originally published at in January, 2020.

Receiving federal grant funding isn’t something that happens overnight - especially if you are just starting out. In order to be successful in your pursuit of federal funding and make the most of your time and resources - you need to do your homework. This includes keeping up with the constantly evolving federal government trends. Here is a helpful list of important trends to monitor and recommendations on how to keep current with each of the federal departments you feel are relevant to your organization.

1. Strategic Trends

  • Read the department’s strategic plan. This is how career department staff interpret presidential priorities. On each department’s website, find the ABOUT page. A link to their strategic plan can be found there.
  • Read the original and most recent legislation for the grant. This is how local legislators and society trends influence federal programs.

2. Appropriation Trends

  • Determine if the department, division, and grant appropriation has gone up or down under the current administration.
  • Has the president’s budget recommended an increase or decrease?
  • What was the legislature’s response?

3. State Trends

  • What grants have been funded in your state from the department or division?
  • When, if ever, has an award been made in your community? In your region of the state? In your state? In your region of the U.S.?
  • Have you ever made your federal legislators aware of your program? Invite them for a tour. Provide a one-page bullet point summary to their staffer.

4. Grant Trends

  • Conduct an overall review of grants available (over the last three years, if you have the time.)
    • What grants are most similar to your services or population served?
    • What kind of evaluations are expected? Internal or external evaluators?
    • How do aligned grants fit into the department’s strategic plan and appropriation?

5. Program Trends

  • What data does the department require in the proposal’s NEEDS section?
  • What programs have other awardees proposed in their abstracts?
  • What is the evidence base for these services?

If you are looking to learn more about federal grants and what it takes to apply, watch Julie’s recent webinar: Pursuing Federal Grants.
This blog is aligned to the Grant Professionals Certification Institute’s (GPCI) list of required competencies for the GPC (Grant Professional Certified) credential. 

  • Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs. 
    • Skill 1.1. Identify major trends in public funding and public policy. 
    • Skill 1.4. Identify techniques to learn about specific funders.

About the Author

Julie Assel

Julie has written awarded grants totaling more than $100 million since 2003, writing both federal and foundation grants for non-profit organizations, healthcare organizations, universities, and school districts. She currently serves as Board President for the national Grant Professional Certification Institute and holds a Fundraising Certificate from the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and a Bachelor's Degree in Education from Luther College. Her organization, Assel Grant Services <> , takes the mystery out of the grant process, including research <> , proposal creation, and application <> process. Assel Grant Services is a GPCI Accepted Provider and Julie Assel is one of 10 GPA Approved Trainers who is also a credentialed grant professional (GPC).

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