How to Understand & Take Advantage of the Grant Opportunities in the American Rescue Plan Act with Julie Assel

In this 1-hour webinar (with 15 minutes Q&A), Julie Assel shares some straight talk about understanding and taking advantage of the grant opportunities in the American Rescue Plan Act!

By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, you’ll be able to:

  • ​How much and which federal agencies will have ARPA discretionary grant revenue
  • ​How to find ARPA grant opportunities
  • ​How to be prepared for quick turnaround federal grant opportunities
  • ​​​Understand how Instrumentl saves you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs.

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Julie Assel, GPC, is the President/CEO and a Senior Writer for Assel Grant Services. Julie has a varied background in grant writing including writing for school districts of varying sizes, universities, and non-profit organizations. So far, she has written awarded grants totaling more than $145 million since 2003.

Instrumentl Partner Webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and its community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing different ways Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Click here to save a seat in our next workshop.

Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.

Instrumentl Partner Workshop Replay

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How to Understand & Take Advantage of the Grant Opportunities in the American Rescue Plan Act - Grant Training Transcription

Will: All right. So, hello, everyone, and welcome to How to Understand and Take Advantage of the Grant Opportunities in the American Rescue Plan Act with Julie Assel. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So keep your eyes peeled for a follow up email later today in case you want to review anything that we go over.  In case this is your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl Partner workshop. These are collaborations between Instrumentl and Community Members to provide free education opportunities for grant professionals. Our entire goal is to just tackle some sort of problem that you guys are often facing, while sharing different ways that Instrumentl's platform can help grant writers win more grants.

Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you're looking to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management into a single place, we can help you do that. And you can set up your own personalized grant recommendations by using the link on the screen there. Lastly, be sure to stick around for today's entire presentation at the end. We will be raffling away some follow-on prizes related to the topic today. More details to come on that with Julie's conclusion of the presentation at the end.

Now with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm very excited to introduce Julie Assel. Julie is the President and CEO and a senior writer for the ASL Grant Services. She has a varied background in grant writing, including writing for school districts of varying sizes, universities, and nonprofit organizations. So far, she has written awarded grants totaling more than $145 million since 2003. So, we ask you to give her a warm welcome. And if you guys have any questions along the way, and a reminder, if this is your first time here, the way we work is you add in two hashtags in front of your question, and then we will add that question at the end or Julie will answer that along the way if it's opportunistic to the presentation. Other than that, though, Julie, feel free to take it away.

Julie: Great. Thanks so much, Will. I'm very excited to talk with all of you today about the American Rescue Plan Act, as talking about federal grants is definitely one of my favorite activities. I've been writing federal grants for nearly 20 years now, and to be honest, I feel like I kind of cut my professional teeth on writing federal grants. A significant portion of my first full-time grant job was writing to federal agencies for a major urban school district. And as I look back at my professional work history, it still ranks as one of my favorite jobs as I had the opportunity to make a major difference for the students and teachers in my community at large.

And that really is one of the best reasons to apply for federal funding. Now, as much as I love doing webinars with groups across the country or companies like Instrumentl, the former teacher in me really misses the live classroom. So, feel free to have your camera on today. It's nice to see people. And I've been thinking, feel free to have lunch. But given that we have people from coast to coast, perhaps you're just having breakfast or coffee.

I also want to encourage people to tell us about their federal experience. So, as we talk in the chat and you share where you're from, also feel free to give feedback about your own experience about federal grants, whether it's at your current agency or in your prior experience.

Well, I haven't written to quite all of the federal agencies. I have written to quite a few, and I'm going to try and make as many of my examples relevant for those of you who are here in attendance live. So feel free to add what federal agency or agencies that you're the most interested in, or if you're not sure, feel free to just put in the general topic area. And I've seen that some people have already started doing that. And as Will said, you're welcome to send comments and questions in the chat.

Now I've got a lot of questions for all of you. So in response to my questions about you, I wanted to give you a little bit more information about me. Who stands up here and says, OK, you have the nerve to tell us about this? Well, I have been writing and teaching about grants for nearly 20 years. I am a credentialed grant professional from the Grant Professional Certification Institute and an approved trainer from the Grant Professionals Association. I've written grants to the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, as well as to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation.

And now I know that not everyone has had the opportunity to write federal grants, but a lot of grant professionals are feeling pressured to investigate if these new influxes of money from the federal government have anything in them which might be a benefit to their agency.

So, I want to start today by asking you, how do you feel about federal grants? Because really, there's a lot of mixed bags about this, right? So here are your choices. One, hey, great, I feel great about them. I write them all the time. I'm excited to see what investments the American Recovery Plan Act and other federal bills are making. Or, maybe you are just cautiously optimistic with the idea that there might appear to be more grants available than there have been in the past that might fit with your agency mission. Or, for some of you, you might be frustrated, because even with all of this investment, no one seems to care about what you do every day. Or, you might even say you don't know yet. You might be new to federal grants, and this might be an opportunity for you to learn.

So I'm going to give you a second to do your poll. And then I'm going to go back to telling you a little bit about me and about my company, Assel Grant services. Now, the staff at AGS are easily federal grant experts. So in addition to writing proposals, we review proposals for clients who write the proposals themselves. We help clients design competitive projects. We help clients implement their projects within the federal guidelines, and we help them write detailed reports about their outcomes. And we do this, as Will said, for nonprofits, institutions of higher education, school districts, healthcare systems, and payer health centers. We've worked with organizations with large federal grant portfolios and organizations who are applying for or managing their first federal grant application. Then, of course, everything in between.

So, the question is, where are we with our poll today? We have some cautiously optimistic people here today, though we have gotten some people who have said that they're excited. That's great. I love federal grants. I'm always excited. And some people who are new. And not surprisingly, people who are frustrated. I will admit that I've definitely been in situations in which the board that I've worked with is like, go find us some federal grants. And we're like, there aren't any out there. Oh, no, there must be something out there. No, really, there aren't. So, we're going to talk today about what's there and what's not there.

Okay. So, on March 11 of 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This plan is often referred to as ARPA or even ARP, but it's a $1.9 trillion bill, which has a primary focus of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, including public health and the economic impacts the United States has been experiencing since March of 2020. Now, these funds can be broken up and talked about in many different ways. But as grant professionals, most of us really wanted to know what money can be applied for by the agencies with whom we work. So we're going to get some numbers out of the way to help us better understand the bottom line.

Okay. So of the $1.9 trillion included in this bill, about $656 billion was marked for direct financial assistance. What does this mean? Well, in general, this funding is not going to be competitive from a proposal perspective. We already know that it was competitive to get the PPP grants or maybe various tax credits. But two thirds of this funding is basically coming straight out as direct stimulus checks. So $440 billion for stimulus checks; $195 billion for unemployment; $34 billion for tax credits; $2 billion for unemployment fraud prevention, equitable access and timely payment; and $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection program; and then $15 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Now a second, fairly significant bucket here was marked for assistance to individuals and families. What exactly does that mean? In this category, these are direct assistance programs. But most of the time, this is actually additional funding coming out through programs that already exist to help individuals who are struggling with poverty, unemployment, et cetera. So this may include food, rent, homelessness. It also includes programs for the elderly, programs for pregnant women, infant and children under age five, and programs related to child abuse and family violence. So, for example, here is the support for food programs, like $1 billion for SNAP state administration, $3.5 billion for a 15% SNAP benefit increase. And this bill actually is an extension of that increase that was previously passed. There's $880 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women, Infants, and Children program that most people know as WIC, $5.6 billion for the Pandemic EBT program. Again, that's an extension of that program. $1 billion for the Nutrition Assistance specifically targeted to the US territories, and $37 million for the Commodities Supplemental Food program. Now, this support is great for those social service agencies who have had many people coming to their agency looking to apply for these direct benefit programs because they're out of work.

They also have been looking for assistance with their housing. And housing programs have received $5 billion for the Tenant Based Rental Assistance, $5 billion for Homeless Assistance, about $10 billion for Homeowner Assistance Fund, $21.5 billion for emergency rental assistance, $100 billion for rural housing, $4.5 billion for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and $500 million for low-income household drinking water and wastewater assistance.

For me, as a grant professional, this meant that we've been applying for the grants that have been available through state and local government programs for our social service agencies to then provide this assistance to those in need. A lot of this money, both food and housing, is really funneling down to the local level. But, there are, interestingly enough, even within this category, a real mix of other programs which saw increases in funding which directly help individuals and families.

So this includes $17 billion for veterans' affairs; $3 billion for IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; $450 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services; $250 million for community-based child abuse prevention; $100 million for child abuse prevention and treatment state grants, specifically; $1 billion for pandemic emergency assistance; $1.4 billion for the Older Americans Act programs; and $276 million for elder justice; $150 million for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs; and $50 million for family planning.

Now, in these areas, there has been and continues to be a variety of grants available. Some have been coming through the state. Some have been coming through the federal government. For example, right now there are two grants forecasted on grants.gov specifically related to family planning through the office of Assistant Secretary for Health. This is an office that not everybody pays attention to. There is a Family Planning Service Delivery grant program and a Family Planning Tele Health Infrastructure Enhancement and Expansion grant program. The first one anticipates awarding 90 grants between $150,000 and $21 million. They have $258 million set aside for that program, and the grant is expected to be due in January of 2022. So it's forecasted to be coming out. The second anticipates awarding seventy grants between $50,000 and $700,000. They have $45 million set aside for that program, which is currently forecasted to open in October and be due also in January of 2022. Now, we're going to talk more about how to keep ahead on forecasted grants later in our presentation today, but it's something to be keeping in mind.

So our next category is education and child care. I saw a lot of organizations who mentioned that they were interested in higher education and school districts, those types of things. So $211 billion was marked for this area. Over three fourths of this category is basically direct payments to school districts. But there are some interesting other items here for grant professionals interested in competitive opportunities. For example, nearly $15 billion is going to the Child Care Development Block grant, in which states really dictate how that funding is distributed. And while $10 million was allocated to the National Child Trauma Stress Network the anticipation is that this funding will also be competitively distributed via grants. Here, we're specifically looking at $166 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, $15 billion for that Child Care Development Block grant I mentioned, $633 million for Child Care Entitlements to States, $2 billion for Child Care Stabilization Fund, $1 billion for Head Start. Note, that’s for current grantees, not new head start programs. And $10 million for that National Child Trauma Stress Network.

As you might expect, significant funding, though, has also been put into this bill for health. So some of this is specifically related to COVID-19. Overall, $86 billion marked for health. And this particular slide shows funding marked for COVID-19. Some of that, though, is grants. So $48 billion went to states, localities, and tribes just for testing; $7.5 billion for vaccines. But $1 billion went for Vaccine Confidence education. These were grants that specifically came out in the last two months or so. A lot of them actually went to rural areas, which we know now, especially with the delta variant and might not have known in March, some of those issues that happen. $8.5 billion for provider relief, $7.5 billion for community health centers, $0.5 billion for the State Nursing Home Strike Teams. That's not for nursing homes to go on strike, but to help them. $500 million for the Emergency Rural Development Grants for Rural Health Care.

Now, let's talk a little bit about that last one. The last item, for example, is a grant currently available in the US Department of Agriculture. So if you're not as well versed on the rural healthcare grants, a lot of them come through the US Department of Agriculture. And there are two tracks for these grants. One, recovery grants. This is immediate healthcare needs stemming from the pandemic to help prepare for a future pandemic event or to increase access to quality health care services and improve community health outcomes.

That's a really tall order. And a lot of people are like, I don't have any current needs. Well, what about increasing access to quality healthcare? Rural America definitely needs that. These grants can range from $25,000. So not much, but some of these rural entities are like, oh, it's 250,000. I don't know what we'd do with that. $25,000 is very attainable and a great way to get your foot in the door with federal grants all the way up to a million dollars. They anticipate about $350 million of the $0.5 billion dollars is going to be put into track one.

The key here is you want to contact your local rural development office. Now, I'm going to drop a link here in the chat for you to know exactly where you can find your personal local rural development office. And they encourage you to call and discuss with the program officer before you submit your application. Each rural development state office is conducting a review, rating, and selection within that local office for complete applications received by October 12 at 4:00 P.M. local time. USDA is going to continue to accept those track one recovery grant applications on a continual basis if the money is not up and expended after October 12 -- until all of those funds are exhausted.

But there's a second category, they're called impact grants, which must be used to support the long-term sustainability of rural health care, which has been so stressed during this pandemic. So they define long term sustainability as improved health outcomes, improved access to quality health care, and creating or maintaining sustainable economic development for small communities. Because they know that that's really one of the challenges with consistent health care for individuals in those communities. These grants range from $5 to $10 million, with USDA anticipating providing up to about $125 million of that $0.5 billion in track two grants.

Again, contact your local rural development office to discuss your ideas and submit an application. But unlike track one grants, these applications must all be received by October 12.

The person who asked about the two grants through the Assistant Secretary for Health Agency, those were the family planning grants. That's $50 billion in family planning. Those are not out yet, but are coming.

The next slide here actually shows a significant investment from this bill in behavioral health, which includes both mental health and substance use. Here we've got $420 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Expansion grants, $20 million for Youth Suicide Prevention programs, $1.5 billion for Community Mental Health Services Block grants, $1.5 billion for Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Block grants, $30 million for community-based funding for local substance use disorder services, $50 million for community-based funding for local behavioral health needs, and $30 million from Project Aware.

Now, almost all of these grants will be competitive through the federal government. But of the $1.5 billion, for example, listed as Community Mental Health Services block grant, SAMHSA actually ended up distributing about half of that funding directly to the community mental health centers based on their size, and then the other half became a competitive opportunity for those same community mental health centers to tell SAMHSA how they would address specific areas targeted by SAMHSA. So SAMHSA is really doing a fantastic job, in my opinion, in forecasting these opportunities. So definitely keep your eye out there if mental health or substance use are areas that you're interested in, whether you're a local nonprofit, or whether you are even institutions of higher education and education entities as well.

But even before the current healthcare workforce crisis that we're seeing now here in 2021, the government knew it needed to invest more in diversifying the health and behavioral health workforce. So, here are the amounts written in this bill. And, yes, I am emphasizing this bill for a reason, because I think more money is coming if some of these other bills that they're talking about are going to pass. I think we're going to see more being invested in the coming years. Here we're talking about $800 million for the National Health Service Corps; $200 million for the Nurse Corps; $330 million for the Teaching Health Centers - Graduate Medical Education program; $80 million for Mental Health and Behavioral Health Training of health care professionals, specifically; $40 million for grants for the health care providers to promote Mental and Behavioral Health; $100 million for Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training; $14 million for Pediatric Mental Health Care Access; and about $7.5 billion for public health workforce.

Now, some of these programs help forgive loans taken out by students in these programs, like the National Health Service Corps or the Nurse Corps. But others are grant programs. So the Teaching Health Centers - Graduate Medical Education Program is currently available. It's due at the end of September.

And most of these other workforce grants are going to be available through HRSA. You'll hear people talk a lot about HRSA with health workforce grants. That's the Health Resources and Services Administration. The $100 million they've set aside here for behavioral health workforce education and training is a very competitive program, but a lot of people recognize that we really need to be investing in that area. And so we're going to see those grants come around year after year. Now, all of these things.

Can I assume this health workforce track would include pre hospital EMS, specifically? Frequently, yes. Though there are sometimes EMS grants that actually don't always come out through HRSA. They may come out in other areas. So you need to be specifically watching for emergency health. I think there's one available actually, right now, or it's been forecasted. So keep your eyes out there as well.

Now, there are a lot of things about the workforce, and I could probably do a whole entire presentation just on these workforce grants. But, as they passed these bills, one of the challenges they had was to get people on board. You've got to have consensus to get a bill through Congress. So there are also grants for industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic. And one of those is transportation.

So $40 billion was marked for this area. These are mostly formula grants, operating assistance grants, or capital investment grants. So $30 billion was for transit infrastructure grants. A lot of people are like what? But that's how they got people on board to pass this bill. $8 billion in relief for airports and $1.7 billion for Amtrak. I actually saw something recently that was talking about that Amtrak money. That's actually not to have Amtrak lay down more tracks, but to help them with their infrastructure and some of the challenges with people not being on the rails.

So, we have some other programs, though, and this is $61 billion for what I call "just other programs." This is everything from disaster relief funds for FEMA, which we can see with Henry, are incredibly important. And various emergency programs throughout the United States, like firefighters and here's your emergency responders. To other areas which Congress decided were affected by the pandemic, like the arts, broadband Internet access, and various economic development programs.

So $50 billion for disaster relief; $400 million for emergency food and shelter, $110 million emergency food and shelter for humanitarian relief, $100 million for the assistance for firefighter grants. That's a program that already exists that they're putting more into. $200 million for staffing for adequate fire and emergency response grants. So the person who asked that question earlier, I'd absolutely be looking at those. $100 million for emergency management performance, $3 billion for economic development assistance, $50 million for environmental justice, $50 million for air pollution, $7.2 billion for emergency connectivity. That's really focused on schools and libraries here. And $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Now, again, many of these are also discretionary grant programs, which means they're competitive. You can write a proposal and get this money. And some of these programs are really aiming them at the small entities. Somebody asked a question earlier about how do I, as a small entity, really be competitive for this? And we're going to talk about different aspects of this, but I want you to know that many of these programs are trying to get into rural areas, urban areas, and with agencies that are grassroots organizations that may never have seen federal funds before but who are in touch with what's really going on the ground.

The NEA grants are open right now, and we're writing several of these. And what's interesting to me, a perfect example of this situation, is the fact that NEA has straight out said, hey, we're looking at these small and medium-sized arts organizations that are all across the country, and you may never have applied for a federal grant before, but we don't want the arts to die in this country because of this pandemic. So instead, we're going to invest a little bit--$50,000, $100,000, $150,000--in these organizations to try and get you through these challenging couple of years.

Now our last slide with this kind of detail is $362 billion marked for state and local fiscal recovery funds. Kind of a loaded phrase right there. Fiscal recovery funds. So this aid includes direct, flexible aid to every state and county in America. Basically $220 billion for state fiscal recovery, $130 billion for local fiscal recovery, $10 billion for coronavirus capital projects, $2 billion for local assistance. These are public land counties and tribal consistency funds. Each government entity has some guidelines on how they can spend these dollars, but it's pretty flexible so we absolutely expect grant programs to be coming out of this.

If you're listening to the news coming out of your state capital, there's a lot of discussion about where the ARPA dollars are going. And I know that in my community, there's discussion about how we can improve infrastructure. But I also work with a community north of Kansas City as well here in the Midwest that made the decision with its ARPA dollars to basically freeze and pay for everyone's water bill for two years. And the city council went, why did the county decide that? How does that decision happen? And what I would encourage all of you to do is to be in contact with them. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that. But these decisions are getting made sometimes at the county level. Everyone's being given these dollars without really much discussion, and sometimes with not much influence? The real question for everyone is how can you find the grant opportunities you individually need? I don't hide from anyone the fact that federal grants may not be for everyone, but I do think there's a lot out there that people don't realize is out there.

So first, here is a list of the federal agencies that are getting the bulk of the funding out of this bill. You've got the major agencies, but then you kind of have these little sub agencies. You can see several of them, obviously, inside the Department of Health and Human Services. Everything from Administration for Children and Families; CDC, which doesn't surprise anybody; the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services; HRSA, as we talked about; SAMHSA as we talked about; and the Indian Health Service is also seeing a lot of funding here. You'll see FEMA. You'll see HUD, Department of Treasury, NEA, Small Business Association. So there's a lot of pieces here.

And I see someone's question about a match. And it's really interesting because a lot of these grants through ARPA, as well as in the previous bill, didn't always require a match. So be looking at that. It's a very good question.

One of the most challenging aspects of this bill, though, for many grant professionals, is how the money is going to get distributed. So first and foremost, there absolutely will be grant opportunities announced via the federal register enlisted through grants.gov, which scares a lot of people because they don't know how to use it.

So my recommendation for organizations who really want to access these dollars is to be looking on grants.gov no less than weekly. There's no cost other than your time to be doing that research on grants.gov. If you personally find grants.gov overwhelming or you're unsure of how to make that research efficient, we have a federal find and fit course that you can investigate. But here are some specific techniques I mentioned from that course.

So one, look at the keyword. This is one of the easiest methods. Type in "American Rescue Plan" in the keyword search box for the top basic search criteria. Right now, there are over 700 posted opportunities and over 125 forecasted opportunities. Now, like other foundation databases, if you type in more than one word, it increases the number of grant opportunities that come up. So you really want to put it in quotes to narrow it down to the ARPA grants. You get 26 posted opportunities. The difference there is that the quotes have all three words linked together, otherwise you might get the three words kind of scattered around. I also like to check acronyms here, too, like ARPA or ARP. The keyword might be inside the RFP, not just in the name of the RFP, and I know that seems odd, but it can also be very helpful.

A second thing is, take a look at that opportunity status. grants.gov is considered a very broad database with some unique filters along the left. In general, forecasted and posted grants are the ones most commonly searched, so they're automatically selected when you get to this page. I also like to use the closed opportunity status if I know a grant opportunity was available last year, and I want to learn more about it before it comes out again next year, which for some of these grant programs, as I said, they're simply dumping more money into grant programs that already exist.

Now the funding instrument type. Most opportunities are going to be grants or cooperative agreements. The key difference between these two is that the federal government is much more involved at the project level, not just the management reporting level, for a cooperative agreement. Here the government is not just funding your projects, but frankly, they're also working with you to ensure you're providing the service that they want provided in the way they want it done. So we're seeing a lot of that with ARPA funds, because they're trying to achieve very specific targets. I like to start out by looking at all agencies that could have possible funding using my keywords within the agency. But I use the agency filters also to keep things broad or to make them very narrow and tailored.

For example, I have a client who's a comprehensive community behavioral health organization providing substance abuse and mental health services, and they have specifically tasked me to look at the grants coming out of SAMHSA. Now, SAMHSA is a sub agency under the Department of Health Interment Services. So I'm able to check a box that gets me below that and scroll down specifically for them. They'll be alphabetically right at the end, and it narrows it substantially down.

Eligibility is one of my favorite filters, but it can also be very frustrating. It's always such a bummer for me to read a really great, grant opportunity, only to find out that the organization who would be a great match is not eligible. And I'm actually seeing this quite a bit right now because of the amount of money being funneled to county governments who don't really have the infrastructure to go after a lot of competitive federal grants. So, you're going to see that a lot of grant opportunities going to city, county, and even state government organizations, tribes, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education make up all of these opportunities. So we're really encouraging everyone we know, definitely our clients, to not just think about opportunities for which they can personally apply, but opportunities where another organization is the applicant and they're a partner in the project. And that's really going to be key with a lot of these county government grants.

So like many foundations, the federal government is quite interested in organizations working together in partnership to accomplish the objectives in their grant opportunities. Some grants are going to require having multiple partners. Others are going to simply make you document who your partners are. And that documentation is going to vary from grant to grant, department to department. So the Department of Justice had a grant earlier this year that required a very specific MoU to be completed by both parties. A grant for the National Science Foundation recommends letters of support or commitment from school districts who are referral partners. A third grant from SAMHSA looks for a list of organizations who are specific partners meeting objectives. But be very careful about whether they need a letter of commitment or an MoU, because these take time and sometimes lawyers, though hopefully not. So, don't go into these grants lightly if you're thinking about writing a grant quickly.

In addition, I talk with a lot of organizations who are writing grants for consortium of agencies about which is the best agency to be the applicant. For everyone's sake, please don't fight over money. It's so easy for us when we see these giant buckets of dollars to be like, oh, we want to be the applicant. There's a lot of strings tied to this. I would tell you that it can be a sensitive subject because a lot of organizations don't fully trust each other. They're naturally pitted against each other for funding. But you really want to take a look at the organization who has the internal processes and procedures to handle grant funding, whether federal or otherwise. And I am a big advocate of people applying for their first federal grant, but they still have to have internal processes and procedures in place. I've worked with school districts, universities, and hospital systems who have already received federal funding, but they're managing their first competitive federal grant. So going through the training to complete drawdowns for federal funding, reporting requirements, and audits can sound pretty scary if you've never done it before. And personally, I think that financial personnel are kind of naturally conservative. So don't be surprised if they aren't as excited as you are about going after federal funding.

And why would they be? They know how much work it is to track a lot of funding, and they're typically already very busy personnel. So, I recommend that you really get your executive leadership team in conversation with finance so that you're not butting heads with them as you go after this.

To someone's question about what's your chance of getting a federal grant: I think it really depends. And it depends on how many they're giving. Some of these grants, I said, hey, this is 90 applicants, this is 20 applicants. I tell people that if there's only three applications being awarded, chances are it's not you. And that's just being really honest. These are a lot of times organizations who have already been committed to this idea. So if you're like, oh, there's a great opportunity and there's only three of them, probably not. I don't think there's a specific budget level. With that said, it's not uncommon for people to think of $1 million dollars as being a budget level, because you've already shown that you can handle a lot of dollars. That said, like the NEA grant, they're looking at small arts organizations. I'm working with some who have a $0.5 million dollar budget level.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I recommend that you're out here once a week. And one of the options you have for managing your federal grant research is to save your search. This won't literally save the search you're working on, but it saves the search criteria you're using so that you can be consistent about it in the future. And the benefit to that is that if I have done all this and I've gone through and I figured out exactly what agency I want or what eligibility category is, all of these different things, I do not want to type it in again. I want to be able to go back and not remember when I saved it, and then there's all these things. Instead, I want the same fields. I can name it. And if I can go back, I can manage my searches, and I can have a free account on grants. It works really, really well. If you really want to dig into a list, you've got 200 maybe, and you're not going to have time to look through the whole list, I think the best option is to export the detailed data. Download the data as a CSV or a comma separated value file. I know it might look like an Excel file, but it isn't yet, so watch out. So I recommend saving that file as an Excel file right away, otherwise all the work you're going to do with the file, like hiding columns, filtering, sorting is going to be lost, because those are Excel features, not CSV files. Think of it like the difference between a word and a plain text file.

Now, I want you to know that when you export this, they'll give you a whole bunch of numbers, and they're not a random list of numbers. It actually tells you the date you did the search. So 2021 is the year. 0824 is the month and date. 0641 is Eastern time. That's the time it is. And 39 at the end. That's literally the second. I personally like to keep the raw data, and then copy and paste it into another worksheet to arrange it. If you want to learn about the exact procedure that we use for cleaning up data, you're going to be able to download it from our site. You have to stick around for the end to learn more about that. And it's going to give you a base from which you can decide how to tailor the information for your own agency's needs. It allows me to do this in short bursts instead of sitting down to do the research over a whole entire day. There's also many more ways to do this that we kind of cover in our Grants 101 series course called Researching Grant Opportunities. Now, if you don't have time to do that, make sure you're reaching out to an organization like ours that does that. They're going to ask you questions like what kind of organization are you and what subject area are you interested in?

Now, the second and third places to look for funding are going to be more challenging depending upon your state, although I think I saw someone already say when their state was opening up those opportunities. Some states are funneling all of their ARPA funding into offices for distribution, but a lot of them are sectioning it out by department to not overwhelm any one office. And most of the states and local governments, honestly, haven't been prepared to manage and distribute these funds no matter how much they needed or wanted them. So we recommend you reach out to your county and city to see what partnering opportunities might be there to leverage the funds your municipality is receiving. So let's talk about that quick turnaround. Ideally, you're going to be able to get information about these grant opportunities within one to two weeks of them being released, but no matter how much time they actually give you, it's never going to feel like it's enough.

So, some of the agencies, like SAMHSA and HRSA, are already forecasting opportunities for next spring. These are agencies who've received quite a few dollars from this bill and are already planning on funneling the extra money through programs that already exist. So stay on top of the grant opportunities to react to the ones that are right for you.

Second, make sure you're registered to do business with the federal government. Unlike portals run by many foundations, there are actually multiple registrations involved here. You've got your tax ID number, you've got your DUNS number, which is going to the Unique Identity Number. Then you've got registration for the system for award management. You'll hear it frequently called SAM. And then you've got grants.gov. And, depending upon the federal agency, there may be additional agency-specific portals.

Third, make sure that each office in your agency is actually on board with receiving federal funding. I've made some allusions to this with the finance office. But you can make some initial shortcuts to see whether this is really going to work for you. Know how much the grant is worth, what they can spend the dollars on, and whether indirect cost is allowed, and how much. Know whether the grant pays for staffing, whether there are particular staffing requirements, like a project director or how many years the grant covers. Look at how the grant aligns with what your organization already does: the mission, the service, and the target population. If it requires an evidence-based program, is your agency prepared to implement them? If it requires activities you don't currently provide, you have to be prepared to talk them through that, too. And those partnerships, a  go-no-go decision really hinges upon these things, or just talking to them so they don't feel so insurmountable.

Now, whether you have the opportunity to work from an RFP that was released for your program last year or you're simply looking at other RFPs, I recommend you create an initial checklist of likely attachments you're going to need to submit. Then, I like to create those attachments that I might need. I like to talk to partners that might be good matches for our organization. And I definitely like to educate my finance staff. Finally, I like to have drafted logic models for work plans created. These obviously aren't going to be perfect at this point, but if I can get my program and executive staff thinking about how the program can be expressed using these formats, I'm going to have a much easier and quicker time getting them to see how the RFD fits with the program after the grant opportunity has been released.

If you've never heard me talk about comprehensive organization and program case statements, I think that all organizations should have logic models to pre-prepare for any grant opportunities. Work plans are also great in terms of that timeline to implement. But, there are opportunities to do all of this within Instrumentl.

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Will: Awesome, Julie. Thanks so much for that hand off, and I wanted to quickly share with folks how you can manage your checklist, your documents, as well as your ARPA grant opportunities and Instrumentl. I'll leave a link to Julie's link again once more in the comments in case you haven't created your free account. But as we go to the next slide, I'm going to give some tips for folks that are already on Instrumentl as to how to find these opportunities. And then for anybody that hasn't already created an account, what Instrumentl does is we bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management into the same place.

So there's been a lot of questions in the chat box that I've been fielding around "how do I know if my small nonprofit qualifies for an opportunity?" Well, that's something that Instrumentl can help you with. Pretty much what we do is, on one side of things, we help you with your grant prospecting, in which you're able to set up a custom search. And then we'll actually output for you the first screening of all these active grant opportunities that you can actually apply for. And within those results, you will be able to filter down by federal, private, corporate opportunities, and so on. And that will include some ARPA opportunities as well. And then on the other side of things, what we'll do is once you start actually tracking these things--so what Julie referenced in terms of reaching out and the actual sequential steps for you to take to get your application out the door--you can do that also on Instrumentl so that you don't have to go a ton of different tools.

So, the two quick tips I have when it comes to what ARPA will look like on Instrumentl is that the grant opportunities titles will explicitly say, in this case, "FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Act Economic Adjustment Assistance Notice of Funding Opportunity." And you can see that this opportunity is coming from the Economic Development Administration. What you'll also see is essentially the use of that acronym ARPA. And so the easiest thing you can do is you can filter by the federal government in your funder type, and then you can search for ARPA in terms of your opportunities. So I'll show you that in a second when I take over the screen share. But in the next slide, I want to share with you specifically what that's going to look like when you start tracking things as well.

So, once you start saving an opportunity in Instrumentl, what's going to happen is we are going to auto track the deadlines that are coming up. So if anything changes from the government side of things, from grants.gov, that will also be updated Instrumentl, and then you'll be able to consolidate all the funding opportunities and track it to the same place. And then every single week, instead of having to potentially search grants.gov weekly, what you can do is you can look through your projects in Instrumentl and see whether or not new funding opportunities have come in. And you'll actually notice that in the screenshot, there is that little NEW tag. I'll show it once again when I actually share my screen here.

So I'm going to go ahead and take over the screen share really quickly to show you what that might look like in a project. And let me know when you guys can see my screen. Let me share my screen. Awesome. And so from here, I actually have one of our customer's projects or a similar project that one of our former customers set up. These folks are a nonprofit that helps with teaching entrepreneurship through education opportunities and mentorship and things like that. And so what you'll see here is that Instrumentl has actually already fielded down 356 potential active grant opportunities from the different fields of work and the location of this organization for their area of impact.

And what I'm saying in terms of the tips is the first thing you want to do is you want to actually hover to this filter and then actually select "Federal government" here. And that is going to be the first cut you can make in terms of different opportunities coming from government sources. And then what you can also do is do what I was doing earlier. So just go to the search bar here, and you can literally just search for "ARPA," or you can search for some variation of that. "American Rescue Plan Act'' could be spelled as well. And what Instrumentl is going to do is it's going to look through not only the grant title, but also all of the grant opportunity details to look for that particular query and output for you the ones that are potentially fitting to your particular project. So from here, what I would do if I wanted to research this further is that I would go ahead and click the save button, and then I would put it into either the plan section or the researching section. And once I do that, what's going to happen is I'm going to have it in my tracker.

And from there, you'd be able to have everything here on this researching tab, and Instrumentl will be auto rolled until you move it to a later stage. So, if you keep it in researching and you haven't started on this ARPA opportunity, we will keep monitoring it for you in terms of that deadline. But the second that you move it into something else, so, for example, if you plan to work on it, then from that point, you can set your own submission goal and then track towards that particular milestone.

So, again, reminder, if you keep it in researching, we're going to auto monitor that deadline for you. But if you change it to some other stage, we will start working towards whatever goal you set up. And then from there, all that tracking and management again. You can start to work in your normal flow. You can follow the logic model that Julie was talking about. You can do any of your sort of standard process in terms of your grant management side of things to get that submission.

And then when it comes to answering one of the questions that was in the chat about what do we do if the opportunity gets renewed or if it reopens? What you can also do is once you have something saved in your tracker, just go here in this year section and then feel free to duplicate that opportunity. And what will happen is if that opportunity does get renewed by the government, we will continue to monitor that for you. And again, once a week, we'll be sending you a message that says, hey, here are your new matches. And within these matches, you might find some ARP opportunities. And then on the other side of things, hey, here are all the things that you're currently working on in your tracker. And from there, we'll essentially answer those questions. Now, I'll pass it back to Julie to wrap up with some learning takeaways. We're going to share some of the announcements in terms of the raffle, and then we'll lightning round in terms of some questions, since we've got a good handful of those guys coming in as well.

Julie: Great. Thanks so much. So we've got three key takeaways here. One, grants.gov and Instrumentl are your friends. But remember that not all the money is coming directly through the federal government, so you want to take a look in multiple sources. Some of these grants may have passed, but more is coming, and you want to prepare now. Determine whether you can do the application yourself. Determine whether you're going to need outside help. Either way, you need to prepare your internal staff. Now, I'm going to leave you with my contact information if you need any information on this topic or anything else you want to connect with me about. And there's $50 off code for attending today. And then we have a raffle as Will mentioned.

Will: Awesome. So for the details of the raffle, what we are going to be doing is we're going to be raffling away a few different things. It's actually going to be four winners in combination with Instrumentl's one-month subscription. But essentially, I'm going to be leaving a raffle entry link in the chat right now. And what you can do is if you enter this raffle before the end of tomorrow, you're going to get entered for Julie's federal grant writing course.

So two folks are going to receive a single federal grant class of their choice, and then one lucky winner is actually going to win the entire federal grant series. So if you want to go from start to finish with Julie and spend more time learning about her process and the methodologies that AGS has found, that would be the way to do so. We're also going to be raffling away a one-month Instrumentl subscription as well. So all you need to do is to go to the link in the chat, and what that will do is it will allow you to have a few different options as to how you can enter the raffle. You can start a free search on Instrumentl and start seeing if there's any ARP opportunities come up for your nonprofit. You can also complete the webinar feedback form, which is going to be in that link as well. And then you can also share with us, as well as AGS, in terms of what you learned in today's workshop. And that way, we'll announce the winner on this coming Friday as well.

And so, we're going to go ahead and open up to some questions now. And, as a reminder as well, if you enjoyed this session, we have another one next week on September 1. That's going to be a Grant Writer: Ask Me Anything session with three different consultancies and nonprofit professionals. And so be sure to check that out if you are looking for more training like these.

The first question we have from Ashley is how big does your organization have to be, or how many clients must you serve in order to be eligible for these sorts of funds?

Julie: So I would tell you that the size kind of depends on the agency. But in general, if you're looking at a human service organization, it is not unusual to see organizations serving, you know, 100 to 350 for size. If you're a mental health center--we deal with a lot of rural mental health centers for example--they serve 6 or 700 in a year. So it kind of depends on your service area. What that's really determined by, as I talked about earlier, can also be done by budget level. It's not unusual to be one million and above. It's a little bit more unusual to be under one million per budget.

Will: Awesome. The next question I have is from Tony. The sheer size and complexity of some of these grants seems to exclude some small nonprofits. Are there ARPA opportunities specifically for nonprofits that are available?

Julie: So I would tell you that nonprofits, yes. For small nonprofits, you're not going to find ones that are so specific unless you're serving a rural population. We see those a little bit more if you're a small nonprofit serving rural America, because they kind of understand that you are functioning on a smaller budget or a smaller staff size. That said, we've written head start grants, which doubled the size of an organization, too. So there are those opportunities that exist as well.

Will: And another question from Laura was, "Will funds be restricted to FPL or low income?"

Julie: No. That's an easy answer.

Will: And then Christine said, "Are any of these grants possibly open for NGOs outside of the United States," since I know we have some international folks today.

Julie: Yeah. Not for ARPA, because it is the American Recovery Plan Act. That said, there are two fairly substantial bills that are coming forward that I think organizations need to continue to take a look at. And always take a look at the CDC and NIH because they both do heavily international grants as well as the Department of State. 

Will: Margaret asked, "What is included in economic assistance? Is this available, for example, to school districts or workforce readiness?"

Julie: Economic assistance, less so. I would tell you that the federal government doesn't necessarily associate workforce readiness and economic assistance together. That said, a lot of the money that's coming directly to school districts can be used for college and career readiness. So, that's probably the term that you're probably looking more toward versus economic assistance, which they would consider to be more of, hey, you're hungry, let's feed you, and the fact that, for example, USDA is providing free meals for schools again this year.

Will: Sure. Michelle asked, "Is there some sort of flow chart or graph that outlines the main federal entities and the agencies that fall within them?"

Julie: That's a really good question. That's a brilliant question. But the answer is no. There's one that does each of the main entities and some of the entities have the ones that go underneath them. But I don't think there's a comprehensive one. That's a really good idea, though.

Will: Great idea. Carissa asked, "Are there any requirements on stakeholder discussion and input?"

Julie: Not requirements. But most of the time, you are more likely to see that in the mental health space. And, while not necessarily ARPA dollars, we are seeing significant dollars related to stakeholder and engagement and racial equity grants that are coming out. And those will have requirements. 

Will: Got it. Eric asked, "This is a more general question, but what advice do you have for someone new when it comes to tackling grant opportunities?"

Julie: Grant opportunities as a whole or federal grant opportunities?

Will: I think you can speak to both.

Julie: Okay. So I would tell you that a federal grant is just like a foundation grant, but bigger and more complex. So, federal grants really need a lot of project management experience to get all the pieces done on time. What I would tell somebody who's brand new to grants is really try to tackle pieces of it. Don't be overwhelmed by all that you have to do. Learn about your agency and learn to write about what it does in terms of services well to describe that. It is, in many regards, 8th grade English class. I tell my kids what I do, and they're like, oh, mommy, that's just writing a paper for school. Yes, it is, because you've got your topic sentence. You got all of those supporting details. And if you don't defend your topic sentence, you're not going to get funded.

Will: And the other thing that I'd add on top of that is to feel free to tune into all of these free workshops. We have all of our libraries here as well. We have ten plus hours at this point, and they all feature excellent teachers like Julie. So it's always great to surround yourself with those who've been in this field for so much longer, so you can learn from their best tips.

Julie: And while I do grant training that people can pay for, there are several groups like Instrumentl that are bringing in top notch trainers, and they're offering these for free, so take advantage of them.

Will: Jane asked, "My county was allocated $19 million to use or give out as grants from ARPA. Are these typically the same monies that are in the stimulus, or are they separate grants?

Julie: That's money from the stimulus. Yes.

Will: Got it. Anne asked, "Is there a good way to tell if a closed-funding opportunity will be posted again, and when? This was in relation to when you talked about keeping an eye out for when they might reopen stuff."

Julie: Okay. So here's some fast advice for that. One, is if you take a look at the closed opportunities specifically, you want to see how many times it's been offered and when it's been offered. And if it's been offered every single year around the same time, chances are it's going to be offered again. I then go back to the department's website and see if they have an allocation in their bill. But you're really starting to dig into advanced grant stuff here to see whether it's in their appropriation and allocation. So, for example, some of the stuff that comes out of HRSA actually is on a three-year cycle. So, look at those closed-out opportunities and see, okay, are they really going to provide that once again next year, or is that really going to be three years later? So there's a two year and three-year cycle with HRSA, especially.

Will: Awesome. This is from an organization, the GNLD organization. They asked, "Can you provide some advice when it comes to requesting an FOIA for a closed funded grant for positioning for future applications?"

Julie: Yes. So often called FOIA, that's the Freedom of Information Act, you first start out by reaching out to the main program officer for that grant program and ask them what their process and procedure is. It is not uncommon for them to either: A, tell you that they don't do it, in which case your life gets more complicated because they can do it, but their office may not necessarily do it, but most of them will tell you this is what we can provide to you and here's our process. And there's kind of a standard cheat that each entity gives you.

Will: The last question we'll take today is from Alana. This is a long one, so I'll try to break it down for you. If a funding opportunity mentioned something like "especially in rural communities," but doesn't make rural status and eligibility requirements and instead awards three priority points for rural status, is it fair in a competitive cycle that this is going to be a deciding factor?

Julie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.
Will: Awesome. Well, that pretty much wraps it up for all the questions for today. Thank you so much for hopping on today, Julie, and sharing with our community. And, as mentioned, be sure to enter the raffle for Julie's course as well as the overall raffle. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the replay, which will be sent later today, as well as the transcription that will be going up in the next week or so. And we'll see you guys next week for our Ask Me Anything session. Alright, see you guys. Bye now.

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