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Securing Federal Grants Requires a Strategic Approach

When a commercial entity selling products or services, it feels natural that a company would survey the competitive landscape and create a strategic plan of attack to win federal contracts. However, most entities do not apply that same methodical, data-driven approach to grant capture. Instead, entities often take a one-off approach only looking at a singular, published opportunity rather than analyzing the full picture within the federal market. That is a mistake. An entity’s approach to federal grants must be well-informed and strategic to maximize success.


The process starts with an assessment of need within the federal market and an understanding of all agencies potentially interested a specific type of project or research effort. From that point, identifying the grant program manager is the priority. A grant program manager is typically the technical expert in the field and can be used as a resource if there are questions or clarifications about the grant, its purpose, or the desired outcomes. He or she is ultimately responsible for the decision of which entity should receive an award but they often rely on a network of other technical experts for input. This individual can also help identify point of collaboration or partnerships with other entities that will ultimately strengthen the proposal and increase the likelihood of award.


By understanding the full scope and size of the federal government’s interest in a topic, an entity can right-size its investment of resources into proposal development. A targeted search that aligns the entity’s project ideas to currently published opportunities is one way to start the sizing process. An estimation of future solicitations based on known federal goals and future congressional funding further can generate an estimate of future award dollars based on the organization’s investment of time and other resources.


An entity must also assess the solicitation’s ultimate goals to ensure alignment with the potential proposer’s goals. Grants can range from one-off investments to providing seed money with the expectation the project will ultimately become self-sustaining or differently funded to achieving commercialization with the goal of the end product entering a larger acquisition life-cycle. If the grant’s end goals do not align with the entity’s end goals, then it may be better to find an alternate existing opportunity or to prompt an opportunity that better aligns with an organization’s intentions.


Preparing a strategy can increase the chances of receiving a grant award because it will result in a more competitive proposal. Not only will it contribute to the proposal’s organization and fact base, but it will support an articulation of need and demonstrate an expertise that otherwise might not be readily apparent.


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