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Staying on Top of Federal Trends

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.

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Julie Assel is President and CEO of Assel Grant Services, a professional grant services firm she founded in 2007. She has over fifteen years of experience in prospect research, proposal writing, and grant management. She is one of less than 400 grant professionals who hold the Grant Professionals Certified credential through the Grant Professionals Certification Institute, and one of just 25 GPCs who are also Approved Trainers through the Grant Professionals Association. Julie manages a deep training portfolio of over forty different training sessions annually through Assel Grant Services’ professional development programs. Her current portfolio includes training series on federal grants, grants and ethics, basic grant training, and more advanced topics related to grants. In addition to speaking at Grant Professional Association and Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter trainings, regional conferences, and national conferences, Julie also provides live and webinar trainings upon request to targeted audiences and the broader nonprofit field.

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