Preparing for grants: A get-ready guide and checklist for success

The amount of time required to prepare a grant application varies, depending on the source of the funding and the granting agency

This feature is part of our new JAG 2016 Success Guide, which gives you everything you need for this year’s Justice Assistance Grants program. To read all of the articles included in the guide, click here.

If you are interested in applying for federal grants, you must first have a firm understanding of your agency’s experience with previous applications and you must ensure that your department is able to meet the administrative requirements of federal grants.

Suggested steps include:

  • Compile information of existing grants managed by the department/agency.
    • What is the current status of each grant?
    • Are reports being submitted on time? By whom?
  • Review the department’s funding priorities.
    • Are the funding priorities tied to a strategic plan?
  • Establish a grant administration policy.
    • Familiarize yourself with grants and related requirements.
  • Register for online databases.
    • What systems are you and your agency registered for?
    • Who authorizes/revokes users?

Work with your agency’s finance office to obtain the common data elements needed for all grants. This includes information such as the agency’s employer ID number, state vendor number and the contact information for the authorized official.

Success hinges on record keeping and proper reporting. These two things must be ongoing.

Meeting registration requirements
A minimum of six registration steps must be completed prior to submission of a federal grant application. Below is a copy of the checklist:

  1. Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number.
  2. Register with the System for Award Management (SAM).
  3. Apply for, update or verify the Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  4. Create a account with username and password.
  5. Get approved as an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR).
  6. Complete registration in the Agency Grant Portal.
    ​Example: GMS, COPS, FEMA ND Portal, etc.

Meeting the pre-application requirements alone can take two to three weeks. Click here for further details on DUNS, SAM and registration steps and timeframes.

Checklist details
Acquire a Data Universal Numbering System number. In general, the Office of Management and Budget requires that all applicants (other than individuals) for federal funds include a DUNS number in their applications for a new award or a supplement to an existing award. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit sequence recognized as the universal standard for identifying and differentiating entities receiving federal funds. The identifier is used for tracking purposes and to validate address and point of contact information for federal assistance applicants, recipients and sub-recipients. The DUNS number will be used throughout the grant life cycle. Obtaining a DUNS number is a free, one-time activity. Call Dun and Bradstreet at 866-705-5711 to obtain a DUNS number or apply online at A DUNS number is usually received within two business days.

Acquire registration with the System for Award Management. SAM is the repository for standard information about federal financial assistance applicants, recipients and sub-recipients. OJP requires all applicants (other than individuals) for federal financial assistance to maintain current registrations in the SAM database. Applicants must be registered in SAM to successfully register in Applicants must update or renew their SAM registration annually to maintain an active status.

Acquire an Authorized Organization Representative and a username and password. Complete the AOR profile on and create a username and password. The applicant organization’s DUNS number must be used to complete this step. For more information about the registration process, go to

Acquire confirmation for the AOR from the E-Business Point of Contact. The E-Biz POC at the applicant organization must log into to confirm the applicant organization’s AOR. Note that an organization can have more than one AOR.

Financial capability
The agency will also need to complete a Financial Capability Questionnaire to demonstrate its ability to properly manage grant funds. Your organizational capacity includes your accounting processes, software, record keeping processes, your audit record and the qualifications of your accounting personnel. The financial obligations in the grant process are guided by both standard accounting principles as well as specific financial grant guidance directed by the funder. The federal requirements are the most stringent and cumbersome.

Preparing the grant application
For a successful grant application, an agency needs to complete the following:

  • Identify the problem to be addressed
  • Understand its internal strategic plan and grant process
  • Develop a needs assessment
  • Gather crime data and note trends in community to support the project need
  • Research grant opportunities
  • Prepare for grant applications before they open

The amount of time required to prepare a grant application varies, depending on the source of the funding and the granting agency. On average, 80-85 percent of the time will be spent on activities related to the preparation. Only 15-20 percent of the time will be dedicated to the actual writing of the proposal. Allow at least the minimum average time:

  • Federal: 40-100 hours
  • State: 10-40 hours
  • Private: varies (but generally same as or less than state)

Tips for finding a specific federal funding opportunity:

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