I am constantly asked this question by my online students, new grant writers, and new nonprofit organizations. Whether you’re a full-time grant writer, an occasional grant writer, or a grant writer working under the directive of "and other duties as assigned," it’s important to have a grant application announcements (also known as Notices of Funding Availability, or NOFAs) calendar or spreadsheet. Remember, the time from when a grant application is released to when it is due is your writing time frame, and it ranges from 30 to 90 days. In this blog article, I’ll give you my take on whether or not there is a grant writing season and why it's an important factor for your organization to consider.
Federal Grant Writing Season
First, let’s look at the federal government. Uncle Sam’s fiscal year ends September 30. According to the National Institutes of Health (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), the last half of the federal fiscal year (April to September) is when the largest number of grants are awarded; this time frame reflects all of the 26 federal grantmaking agencies. In order for a grant award to be made in the last half of the fiscal year, the actual high-volume NOFA release and heavy grant writing months are October through March. If you’re a veteran grant writer, then you're probably nodding with recognition because you've often found yourself with grant application due dates on or around major federal holidays. Do you remember those critical application due dates and the grant writing frenzy around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and President’s Day? I do!
States' Grant Writing Season
Second, let’s look at the fiscal year for the states and territories. The fiscal year for all but four states ends on June 30. Alabama and Michigan both have a fiscal year that ends on September 30, New York on March 31, and Texas on August 31. Three U.S. territories have September 30 fiscal year end dates: Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. When it comes to state funding agencies, you'll likely experience the heaviest grant writing period from July to December.
What Should Your Grant Writing Spreadsheet Look Like?
So, to answer the question: yes, there is a grant writing season. Taking into consideration when federal, state, and foundation grantmaking agencies tend to release their funding announcements and have their due dates can help you anticipate your grant writing workflow throughout the year. It can help you determine when you will be most in need of human and organizational resources to handle the grant writing.If your organization happens to apply for all three kinds of grants, it would be safe to say that the spring months will have less grant writing activity and will thus be the best time to encourage time off. Making use of a spreadsheet like the one above to organize your grant writing and grants management efforts can help your organization ensure that is has sufficient time and manpower to submit the strongest possible grant application and increase its chances of a win.