Are You Ready to Compete?
As a grant writer, I get a lot of questions from small companies and nonprofits about obtaining government grants and contracts to help them launch. One of the first things an organization must do is to make themselves eligible to do so.
What does ‘eligibility’ mean?
Eligibility can refer to company size, type of ownership, type of organization, types of products or services, registration on vendor lists, and certifications. Let’s take them one by one.
Company size—are you a small business with 500 or fewer employees? Many federal and state grants and contracts are specifically “set aside” for small companies or micro-enterprises.
Ownership—is your company or organization woman-owned? Minority-owned? Veteran-owned? Opportunities are often designated for one or more of these ownership categories. Further, is a majority of your company owned by investors? Or is your company owned by foreign interests and registered out of the USA? Sometimes that does not matter, but often it is an important issue. Check with the funding source to be sure you are eligible if owned by 3rd parties or are a foreign firm registered outside the US.
Organization type—Some funding opportunities are only open to certain types of organizations, such as non-profits or corporations.
Principal product or service—In some programs such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, grants are made to small businesses working on cutting edge, innovative technologies that have the potential to transform the industry. In other instances government agencies seek to purchase products or services and are looking for private sector vendors.
HOWEVER. . .
Before preparing a proposal for a grant or contract, your company or nonprofit MUST be registered on the appropriate federal and agency databases. These include Dunn & Bradstreet where you can create a company profile and obtain a D-U-N-S number. This number is required for all entities seeking a grant or contract. There’s also the System for Award Management (SAM) registry, which collects required information about size, ownership, products, services, and more. A companion registry is managed by the Small Business Administration. Your organization must also be registered at grants.gov, since virtually all proposals for funding must be submitted via this electronic system. Additionally, some agencies like the National Institutes of Health have their own internal grant and award tracking systems, and you will need to be registered on those as well.
A grant writer can help you navigate these registries and databases to position your organization and demonstrate your eligibility to compete for government grants and contracts.