Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Watching The Fiscal Origins of Federal Funding

U.S. Federal grant announcements may be confusing if you are new searching for grants. Here are the hints to help you. Nonprofit organizations need to know the fiscal sources of grants for renewals, for accountability and transparency and to avoid commingling of funds. .

The Federal agencies and departments label grant opportunities by funding year (FY) to help applicants understand the responsibility and obligations.That funding year generally begins October 1 in that year.

There are a few grant opportunities that will feature "FY2008". This means that the grant opportunity is from the Fiscal Year 2008 Congressional budget, either recovered or unexpended funds. There are not many of these anymore.

The next group is labeled "FY2009" They are still common. This refers to funding that Congress approved in Fiscal Year 2009.This may be a continuing funding the government has made for a number of years such as homeless, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, legal services, Head Start and many other. It may also be one-time or new grants funding that year.

The new piece is from the Recovery Act, ARRA. The Federal Government is labeling the source as such, "ARRA" or "Recovery Act" funding to distinguish it from the annual funding year that may seem similar in some instances..There are parallel grants, one labled FY2009 and the other ARRA.

There is much talk about new legislation in 2009 for volunteerism. That could be under its own title, under ARRA or FY 2009, if passed by Congress. Simply be aware of its designation if approved.

Congress is working on the FY 2010 budget set for October 1, 2009. That will be labled "FY 2010" to differentiate it from any new grants under ARRA and prior years.

So look for the source of funds before applying.

Here is language from a new grant opportunity in FY2009 from Homeland Security for fire and emergency departments round the U.S.

"The Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) remains largely unchanged from the previous year’s program based upon input from members of America’s fire services and other stakeholders. However, in FY 2009, they will shift the focus on the level of response provided in emergency medical services (EMS) from basic life support (BLS) to advanced life support (ALS). They will add “candidate physical agility assessments” as a high priority under the Wellness and Fitness Activities.

Through audits conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and through the Assistance to Firefighters Program Office grant monitoring, it has become apparent that some Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) recipients have not adhered, or are not totally adhering, to the proper procurement requirements when spending grant funds. Anything less than full compliance with Federal procurement policies jeopardizes the integrity of the grant as well as the grant program. As such, in FY 2009 they will place a greater emphasis on oversight of grantees’ procurement actions.

All procurement transactions shall be conducted in a manner that provides, to the maximum extent practical, open and free competition. Grantees are expected to promote competition and ensure advantageous pricing by soliciting bids from multiple vendors. Purchases shall be made from the vendor whose bid is responsive to the solicitation and is most advantageous to the grantee when price, quality, and other factors are considered. Grantees may use their own procurement procedures, which reflect applicable State and local laws and regulations, provided that the procurements conform to applicable Federal laws and standards. Grantees who fail to adhere to their own procurement policy, or otherwise fail to fully “compete” any purchase involving Federal funds, may find that their expenditures will be questioned and subsequently disallowed.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided $210 million in funding to DHS to construct new fire stations or modify existing fire stations. That funding opportunity will be announced in the near future and will NOT be part of this offering. Under the funding opportunity presented in this guidance, the AFG will only fund projects that do not alter the footprint or the profile of an existing structure. Projects for modifications that involve altering the footprint or the profile of an existing structure or projects that involve construction of new facilities will fall under a different funding opportunity. Interested parties should monitor http://www.recovery.gov/ for updated information on this and other first responder funding opportunities."

Be aware of the funding time and the regulations and contract requirements that go along with them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Federal Grant Application Reviewers Needed – W/Stipend

Agencies and departments of the Federal and possibly your state and local governments are in need of grant reviewers. Grant reviewers are professionals who are hired by agencies to review applications for possible funding. Under normal circumstances agencies are low key about the need but the ARRA Recovery Act grant making process is opening new opportunities. I have listed and linked RESOURCES for you as support in considering and applying as a grant reviewer.

Here is a short list of three agencies currently seeking reviewers. Read the first one, SAMSHSA, for a discussion about the general criteria needed and the tasks of the job. That will serve as an outline of what is expected. However, each agency has its own requirements and expectations.

  • Many agencies are editing their process for grant reviews to meet the new requirements of the ARRA. If you are not too familiar with the ARRA impact on that agency, then take the time to review that material as well, linked at the agency web site and possibly elsewhere.
  • This is a place for due diligence on your part.
  • Compensation varies according to agencies and program proposals. The per diem may range from $200 a day and up plus travel and expenses
  • Review the time commitment that may involve training time and final consensus meetings.
  • Let me say now, this is no lark. You will work hard. There is a ton of reading. There are tight deadlines. There will be new expectations.
  • There are also foundations that periodically seek reviewers, but that may be limited under current circumstances. The ARRA is stimulating a new need. I have listed a new request for reviewers by the AVON Foundation under RESOURCES below.
  • The time commitment to complete the application to the agency to be considered for becoming a reviewer can be 1½ to three or more hours.
  • First time applicants (“Newbies”) should study the agency’s entire web site about grants for indications of what will be sought and how to respond on the application to be a reviewer.

1. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Grant Review Opportunities at the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) continuously seeks professionals to evaluate grant applications.

SAMHSA reviewers must have related program experience and education, be able to analyze grant applications effectively against specific criteria, be able to express their evaluation clearly in writing, and be interested in contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Specifically, the agency is interested in reviewers with the following specific program experience and knowledge:

  • Individuals with background in mental health services and knowledge of community-based systems of care and services for adults with serious mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances.
  • Individuals with background and knowledge of substance abuse prevention, who have expertise or experience in working with activities that discourage substance abuse and behaviors increasing the risk of substance abuse.
  • Individuals with expertise in evidence-based effective substance abuse treatment services, programs and activities.
  • Grant reviewers gain many skills out of their experience such as:
  • Understanding of the grant-making process
  • Opportunity to network with colleagues
  • Chance to exercise professional judgment and expertise
  • Intellectual challenge

Reviewers are chosen for particular grant programs, based on their knowledge, education and experience.

Minimum Requirements for Grant Reviewers:

  1. Prospective reviewer must be willing and able to provide written and oral evaluative comments based on professional knowledge measured against published criteria – not personal opinion;
  2. able to listen attentively to the input of other panelists, engage in discussion, bridge differences, and work with other panelists to synthesize evaluative comments.
  3. Prospective reviewer must be able to exercise his/her highest level of personal standards to ethically review proprietary information, maintain confidentiality, and avoid any conflict of interest.
  4. Expertise in the subject area to be reviewed is a must.
  5. Selected reviewers will be precluded from reviewing any application for which they may have a potential conflict of interest, including reviewing in priority areas to which they or their affiliated organizations have applied.
  6. Time commitments vary based on grants being reviewed and type of review being conducted. Some grant reviews will require on-site meetings, generally in the Washington, DC area.
  7. Reviewers selected will receive taxable compensation for their services.

Applicants who wish to serve as NEW SAMHSA grant reviewers are asked to submit the completed reviewer contact form and your resume electronically via e-mail to reviewer@samhsa.hhs.gov .


2. Office of Head Start (OHS)

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is seeking peer grant reviewers for Head Start and Early Head Start grant competitions this summer. APPLY NOW!!

OHS is seeking peer grant reviewers who have direct Head Start or Early Head Start experience, academic expertise and knowledge of the following:

  • Infant, toddler and child development;
  • Services to pregnant women;
  • Best practices;
  • Fiscal management;
  • Program development and design;
  • Family outreach; professional development and;
  • Head Start and Early Head Start Performance Standards

It is anticipated that all reviews will be held in the Washington, D.C. area and will last approximately six days during the summer months. Reviewers will receive an honorarium for their work upon satisfactory completion of the review. Travel costs, lodging, and per diem for food, will be covered for the period of the review.

A resume must be submitted for consideration. Please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/grantreview to register.

3. Office of Community Services (OCS)

The Office of Community Services (OCS) is announcing several new funding opportunities and needs expert reviewers with a broad array of direct community development experience to review grant applications. If you or someone you know is interested, click here for information on how to register to be a grant reviewer.

Benefits of acting as a grant reviewer include:

  • Working with Federal officials
  • Building new relationships with professional peers
  • Learning about preparing quality grant applications
  • Gaining a full understanding of the review process

Please note: To avoid conflict of interest, individuals from organizations that are applying for OCS funding this year will not be accepted as reviewers for those funding opportunities.


Is Grant Application Reviewing Right for you? From the Administration on Youth, Children and Families.

Reviewer Confidentiality Statement

The content of grant applications is highly confidential. It is critical that no grant application reviewer participate in a review of any grant application where a conflict of interest exists or may exist. Therefore, before reviewing a grant application, each grant application reviewer will be given a Grant Application Reviewer Confidentiality Statement to read and affirm by signature.

The Center for Scientific Review has produced a video of a mock study section meeting to provide an inside look at how the National Institutes of Health grant applications are reviewed for scientific and technical merit. The video shows how outside experts assess applications and how review meetings are conducted to ensure fairness. The video also includes information on what applicants can do to improve the chances their applications will receive a positive review.

To make the video both authentic and authoritative, real reviewers volunteered to review real but altered and disguised applications. NIH staff members also volunteered to participate in this video, which was developed in collaboration with the NIH Office of Extramural Research.

Find Out What Has Changed Since the Video Was Produced: Check out the list of new policies and changes that have been implemented since they released this video. This list also covers upcoming changes you should know about. They hope to update the video soon.

A GUIDEBOOK FOR FEDERAL GRANT REVIEWERS by Karen A. Morison from 2002. This is from the Heritage Foundation. The pay rates listed are now low.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services has excellent handbooks about the grant review process:

IMLS program offices prepare reviewer handbooks for each grant program, which provide reviewers with the background information and instruction they need to effectively review grant applications. The following handbooks are available in PDF format:


Common Questions Grant Reviewers Ask About Proposals

The Avon Foundation Breast Care Fund (AFBCF) seeks qualified grant reviewers for its upcoming competitive grant application process which will be held during August and October 2009. AFBCF is looking for qualified candidates who possess one or more of the following:

  1. A comprehensive knowledge of breast care, breast cancer and women’s healthcare.
  2. Previous experience as a grant reviewer.
  3. Proficiency in financial or program management for a community-based organization.
  4. Experience in outreach/education to older, underserved women.
  5. Personal commitment to breast cancer outreach, education and screening.

They are now accepting applications for the 2010 AFBCF RFA Grant Reviewers. The application is due August 1, 2009.


For additional information about ARRA see the links under "Labels" on the right hand side of this blog.

My weekly e-newsletter about grant opportunities in partnership with CharityChannel will be issued again Tuesday April 21, 2009 and weekly thereafter. There was a hiatus because of health reasons.


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