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"The" Catalog

Your project needs a grant, but you need to know whom to ask for that grant. One of the best sources to help you research and track federal grants is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) at While it doesn’t cover every federal grant, and it sometimes lags behind in posting the newest grants, it does provide a good deal of information about most federal grants.

Links to details about the grants are provided, and you’ll have a comprehensive, free, grant-researching tool for your use. Currently, the CFDA lists 15 types of assistance, seven of which are financial and eight of which are not.

Formula Grants. These grants are given for projects that are ongoing, rather than those involving a one-time project. Money is allocated to the states or departments within in a state by means of a distribution formula, hence the name “formula” grant.

Project Grants. These grants are one of the main sources for one-time or specific projects that need funding for a certain time period. The funds can be used for such projects as research, training, demonstrations, evaluation, and technical assistance.

Direct Payments for Specified Use. While probably an unlikely source for buying goods or services, this funding can usually go toward starting or continuing a particular activity or program. Performance standards for the activity are monitored and evaluated to be sure that the funding is successfully promoting the activity. That’s the “specified use” referred to in the grant’s title. In other words, it can’t be used for a different project.

Direct Payments with Unrestricted Use. Most of this assistance goes toward such things as retirement, pension and compensatory programs for qualified people, and there is no restriction on how the recipient can spend the money received.

Direct Loans. Just as with any other loan, an amount is extended, and arrangements are made for repayment, with or without interest. Time requirements/limits are usually included in the terms of the direct loan.

Guaranteed/Insured Loans. In these, the federal government indemnifies lenders against full or partial defaults occurring with borrowers.

Reimbursement for losses occurring under certain circumstances is the basis for this assistance. Premiums may be required, and federal or private carriers may be involved.

Sale/Exchange/Donation of Property and Goods. The federal government has real property and personal property that it, from time to time, sells, exchanges or donates. This category of assistance is one that should be checked periodically to keep up to date with what might be available to your agency. Be prompt in acting if you find something with potential.

Use of Property/Facilities/Equipment. Using federal property or facilities is sometimes permitted and is especially beneficial for situations where temporary access or use is enough to carry out a project or event.

Provision of Specialized Services. These are programs in which federal staff members are available for projects that benefit a community or group. Generally in these situations, the assistance goes beyond mere consulting to actually performing certain tasks.

Advisory Services/Counseling. This assistance offers the help of a federal specialist for consultation and is especially applicable to such events as conferences or training seminars.

Dissemination of Technical Information. There are public information services offered by the federal government, but this assistance goes beyond that to more specialized or technical information available from clearinghouses and other sources where the information is held.

Training. This assistance covers times when nonfederal employees can be trained in certain programs or activities offered through federal agencies.

Investigation of Complaints.
Here, funding is allocated to investigate claims from outside the federal realm if they involve violations of federal law or policy.

Federal Employment. This assistance is available for programs that cover recruitment and hiring of federal civilian personnel.

Certainly not every one of these 15 categories will be applicable to your agency’s needs or projects, but there might be some that are. As you explore the Web site and click on the various categories, locate those assistance programs best suited to your agency’s needs. You can also use the index on the Web site or search for keywords to help you target the better choices for your project.

Study carefully the type of assistance, its objectives and permitted uses, the requirements your agency must meet to be eligible for the assistance, and the time and method of applying. Deadlines are important. You might have a good project, but unless you meet the deadlines imposed by the program, you won’t be funded.

As you narrow down your potential sources of funding, look at the “information contacts” listed for each to glean the address, phone number and perhaps e-mail address of the key people to contact for information, clarification, or other problems. You might also discuss with them the applicability of the assistance to your program to be sure you qualify and the availability of funds or help.

While they cannot tell you whether you’ll get the grant or assistance, they can help you determine if you are on the right track to the appropriate source for your project. Only after you’ve done the groundwork are you ready to file your application for the grant or assistance. Be sure to do your homework.

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., is a lawyer who writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2006

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