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How to Apply for a Competitive Grant

ACL grant opportunities are posted on and ACL’s Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) page. If your organization is interested in submitting an application, please review the following steps and tips.  Please note that as of December 31st, applicants will need to begin applying for federal grants using Workspace which is the “new” standard way for organizations and individuals to apply for federal grants.

1. Register and Get Ready

Register and get ready at least one month before funding opportunity opens.

Every applicant organization and sub-recipient organization must have the following four registrations in place to submit a grant application:

  1. Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
  2. DUNS Number registration;
  3. System for Award Management ( registration; and
  4. registration

All four registrations are free, but the process can take one month or longer. If you plan to apply for an ACL grant, do not delay. Get registered today!

TIN Number

Corporate entities, agencies, institutions, and organizations must have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), which can be obtained free of charge from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you need a new TIN, allow 2-5 weeks for it to become active. Individuals applying to the Switzer Fellowship Program may use a social security number instead.

DUNS Number Registration

Registration can typically be completed in one day. Go to the D&B DUNS Numbers website. Select the country or territory in which your organization is physically located (ACL only funds entities in the United States). Complete and submit the form. You will need basic information about your organization, including physical and mailing addresses, name and title of the chief executive, primary Standard Industrial Code (SIC), whether the organization is minority-, woman- or veteran-owned, number of employees, and annual revenue. A DUNS number should be emailed to you on the same day.

System for Award Management (SAM) Formerly Central Contractor Registry (CCR)

Initial registration on can take between three days and two weeks. Note than registrations must be updated every year, which can take five days. View user guides, frequently asked questions, and other support tools in the HELP section of the SAM website.

  1. Visit the System for Award Management website.
  2. Select Start a New Registration and complete the form, which will take about an hour.
  3. You must have your DUNS number and other information about your organization.
  4. You will have to designate an E-Business Point of Contact (E-Biz POC), who will identify a special password called the MPIN. The MPIN will give the E-Biz POC the authority to designate employees of your organization as Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) who can submit applications on behalf of the organization. Soon after registration, the E-Biz POC will receive an email requesting approval of designated AORs. If your organization already has an EIN (Employer Identification Number), this step can be completed in three days. If not, this step could take up to two weeks.
  5. To keep a registration active, renew it at least once per year. If a registration expires, you cannot submit a grant application until it is renewed. is a central storehouse of information on more than 1,000 grant programs. It offers access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards. All discretionary grants of the 26 federal grant-making agencies are on

One day after receiving notification of final registration, an approved Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) can register your organization with You can complete this registration in three weeks.

  1. Visit the Register section of
  2. You must know your organization’s DUNS number and be a SAM-approved AOR to register.
  3. When an AOR registers with, the E-Biz POC receives an email prompt to log in and approve the AOR.
  4. When registration is complete, the submitting AOR will receive a confirmation email.
  5. registration must be updated every year. Passwords must be updated every 90 days.

2. Find a Funding Opportunity

A synopsis of all competitive ACL FOAs or Program Announcements (PAs) are posted on—the same website where you will submit an application. When ACL’s FOAs/PAs are announced, they are posted in the Funding Opportunity Announcement section of ACL’s website.

Search for open opportunities on using a funding opportunity number, category, agency, or other criteria. If you seek a specific opportunity, the funding opportunity number is the fastest search method. All FOAs on ACL’s Funding Opportunity Announcements page have unique identifying numbers to help locate them on

Download the Instructions and Application from The package includes everything you need including required forms, to complete an application. Save the package to your computer and complete it offline. Required Software

Adobe Reader 
Applicants must have a version of Adobe Reader to view and complete the application forms. Users can identify and download compatible versions by visiting the Adobe Software Compatibility page.

Creating PDFs 
Applicants may choose to submit applications in PDF format. has published a list of recommended PDF Guidelines to assist you in obtaining the necessary software. To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind. The free Adobe Reader software used to complete an application cannot create PDFs.

For help with, please visit the support page.

3. Understand the Funding Opportunity Announcement

All ACL FOAs are organized by the following sections. This list provides a general description of the content typically found in each section. It is not exhaustive.

  • Section I: Funding Opportunity Description
    • Includes a complete description of the program or project activities and area of interest; describes the funding opportunity; and provides the statutory authority and governing program regulations, if any.
  • Section II: Award Information
    • Includes the anticipated funding amount and number of awards; length of the project periods; and, for cooperative agreements, a description of ACL’s anticipated substantial involvement in the funded project.
  • Section III: Eligibility Information
    • Describes what types of entities are eligible to apply, any cost-sharing requirements, and responsiveness or screening criteria.
  • Section IV: Application and Submission Information
    • Outlines all application and submission requirements. This includes requirements of the project description and budget; guidance on formatting; application submission instructions; required forms; assurances and certifications; funding restrictions and intergovernmental review requirements; and other submission requirements, such as letters of intent, if applicable.
  • Section V: Application Review Information
    • Lists criteria that reviewers will use to evaluate and score applications, information on the review and award selection process, and anticipated announcement and award dates.
  • Section VI: Award Administration Information
    • Provides information on award notices, administrative and national policy requirements, and post-award reporting requirements.
  • Section VII: Agency Contacts
    • Provides a program office contact and a grants management contact.
  • Section VIII: Other Information
    • Includes additional information such as helpful websites and an application checklist.
  • Attachments

Applications are scored and ranked by a panel of independent, objective reviewers with expertise in relevant disciplines. At times, panels will include federal staff. All criteria used by review panels are published in the FOA.

4. Decide Whether to Apply

Writing a grant application is a formidable task that can take many hours. Before you begin, be sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  1. Have I read the FOA completely and carefully? Do I understand it?
  2. Is my organization eligible to apply, based on the eligibility criteria described in the FOA?
  3. Does my organization have the technical expertise, personnel, and financial capacity to successfully implement the project goals and expectations? Does my organization’s mission align with the goals presented in the FOA?
  4. Do all stakeholders in my organization support applying for this grant?
  5. Is my organization prepared to do what it takes to successfully implement the project within the budget we propose? Consider the administrative requirements that come with federal funding, such as required reports, self-evaluations, participation in national evaluations, etc.

5. Write a Strong Application

Most FOAs require that applications include a description of:

  • Goals and objectives that are clearly defined and specific;
  • The need, including the need for the service or activity that the grant will support as well as your organization’s track record in fulfilling such needs;
  • Approach and impact, clearly showing how you plan to achieve the purpose of the grant program and, as possible, supporting data;
  • Resources and capabilities, which describe the knowledge, staffing, and fiscal capacity that your organization has in order to carry out the proposed project and meet the goals of the grant program; and
  • Budget, which is a realistic plan aligned to the proposed goals and objectives. It includes a narrative that justifies the costs.

Be concise and precise in describing your proposed grant activities. Remember, applications must adhere to the page limits stated in the FOA.

6. Submit an Application

Complete the Application, including all required forms, assurances, and certifications. When complete, save the application to your computer.

  • Be sure to click the Check for Errors button, which will validate your application and activate the Save and Submit button.
  • Save and Submit only after you have double-checked your application for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with the page limit. After you click Save and Submit, you will enter your username and password. Assuming you are registered with, you can click the Sign and Submit button to authenticate and submit your application.
  • Watch your E-mail. You will receive a series of e-mails from that will help you track your application. You can get the same information by logging into your account at

Before You Hit Send

Your submission is final. You can’t make edits or append any documents after submission. Be thorough in your review of your application, but do not wait until the last minute to submit. Late submissions are not accepted. Applicants should make every effort to submit their applications at least 48–72 hours before the application deadline.

Verifying Receipts

You will want to verify that and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living received your submission on time and that it was validated successfully. To see the date/time your application was received; follow the instructions on’s "Track My Application" page. For a successful submission, the date/time received should be earlier than 11:59 p.m., Washington, D.C., time, on the deadline date, AND the application status should be: Validated as "Received by Agency," or "Agency Tracking Number Assigned."

If the date/time received through is later than 11:59 p.m., Washington, D.C., time, on the deadline date, your application is late. If your application has a status of "Received" it is still awaiting validation by Once validation is complete, the status will either change to "Validated" or "Rejected with Errors." If the status is "Rejected with Errors," your application has not been received successfully.

Some of the reasons may reject an application can be found on the FAQ page. Sometimes the problem relates to an Adobe Reader error. For more detailed information on troubleshooting Adobe errors, you can review the Adobe Reader Error Messages document. If you discover your application is late or has been rejected, please see the instructions at Note: You will receive a series of confirmations both online at and via e-mail about the status of your application. Please do not rely solely on e-mail to confirm whether your application has been received timely and validated successfully.

7. Understand the Review Process

Every grant application receives a comprehensive review, conducted by a panel of independent subject matter experts. Each application is reviewed by at least three reviewers, who separately score the application according to review criteria spelled out in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). A panel chairperson, or moderator, oversees each review panel.

After all applications are reviewed, reviewers meet to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each application and arrive at a consensus score. For each application, the panel develops a summary report that describes the application’s strengths and weaknesses.

Review Criteria

Each FOA includes detailed review criteria that will be used to evaluate and score applications. Applications are scored by assigning a maximum of 100 points across the following criteria categories:

  • Project Relevance & Current Need
  • Approach
  • Budget
  • Project Impact
  • Organizational Capacity

In each FOA, you will find specific sub-criteria relevant to the goals and expectations of the specific opportunity. Note: review criteria may be supplemented or modified, as appropriate, to address the priorities and goals of a specific funding opportunity.

Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS)

FAPIIS Public Access - Search Page

As required by 2 CFR 200 of the Uniform Guidance, effective January 1, 2016, ACL is required to review and consider any information about the applicant that is in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System before making any award in excess of the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $150,000) over the period of performance.  An applicant may review and comment on any information about its organization that a federal awarding agency has entered. ACL will consider comments by the applicant in addition to other FAPIIS information when making a judgment about the applicant’s integrity, business ethics, and record of performance under federal awards when completing the review of risk posed by applicants as described in 2 CFR § 200.205 Federal Awarding Agency Review of Risk Posed by Applicants.

As required by 2 CFR 200 Appendix XII of the Uniform Guidance, non-federal entities (NFEs) are required to disclose in FAPIIS any information about criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings, and/or affirm that there is no new information to provide. This applies to NFEs that receive federal awards (active grants, cooperative agreements, and procurement contracts) greater than $10,000,000 for any period of time during the period of performance of an award/project.


The Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 (Public Law 110-417) was enacted on October 14, 2008. Section 872 of this Act required the development and maintenance of an information system that contains specific information on the integrity and performance of covered federal agency contractors and grantees. FAPIIS was developed to address these requirements. It provides users access to integrity and performance information from the FAPIIS reporting module in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS), proceedings information from the Entity Management section of the System for Award Management (SAM) database, and suspension/debarment information from the Performance Information section of SAM.

Federal Regulation Citations

2 CFR §200.205 Federal Awarding Agency Review of Risk Posed by Applicants.

a) Review of OMB-designated repositories of government-wide data. (1) Prior to making a Federal award, the Federal awarding agency is required by 31 U.S.C. 3321 and 41 U.S.C. 2313 note to review information available through any OMB-designated repositories of government-wide eligibility qualification or financial integrity information as appropriate. See also suspension and debarment requirements at 2 CFR part 180 as well as individual Federal agency suspension and debarment regulations in title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

(2) In accordance 41 U.S.C. 2313, the Federal awarding agency is required to review the non-public segment of the OMB-designated integrity and performance system accessible through SAM (currently the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS)) prior to making a Federal award where the Federal share is expected to exceed the simplified acquisition threshold, defined in 41 U.S.C. 134, over the period of performance. At a minimum, the information in the system for a prior Federal award recipient must demonstrate a satisfactory record of executing programs or activities under Federal grants, cooperative agreements, or procurement awards; and integrity and business ethics. The Federal awarding agency may make a Federal award to a recipient who does not fully meet these standards, if it is determined that the information is not relevant to the current Federal award under consideration or there are specific conditions that can appropriately mitigate the effects of the non-Federal entity’s risk in accordance with § 200.207 Specific conditions.

See 2 CFR § 200.205 for full citation.

Last modified on 05/01/2024

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