Strategic Solutions:

A Beginner's Guide to Federal Funding Research

Samantha Benthien | July 26, 2023 

Securing competitive federal funding for your projects or initiatives can be a pivotal step towards realizing meaningful impact.

However, navigating the complex landscape of funding opportunities requires a strategic and informed approach. This article presents methods for researching relevant competitive funding opportunities, equipping you with the essential tools and techniques to enhance your search results. With these strategies at your disposal, you can increase your success in identifying funding sources that align with your objectives and priorities.  


1. Define Your Funding Category.

Before you can start your opportunity search, you must identify a specific area or project that needs funding. Ensure that you understand the objectives, target audience, and the impact you aim to achieve. Determine the type of funding you need (grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, etc.) to help narrow the field of search. Develop a list of key words related to your project to use when researching.


2. Utilize Databases.

Make use of grants databases like,, or to search for federal funding opportunities based on your field of interest. Regularly search the funding databases for new opportunities and set up custom alerts to receive notifications matching your research interests.


3. Explore Government Agency Websites.

Websites of federal grant-making agencies, agency databases, and funding portals are excellent places to begin and help narrow the scope of your research. Visit the websites of agencies that align best with your priorities and look for their funding sections and specific program announcements. For example: 

If your project is related to healthcare, explore the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), or Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) websites.  

If your project is related to clean energy, explore the Department of Energy (DOE) website and EERE, OCED, or S3 eXCHANGE application portals. 

For local governments, regional organizations, and small-scale projects, search for State and local agency websites to find opportunities that prioritize projects in your area.  


4. Review Previous Award Recipients.

Research past awardees in your funding area of interest. This can provide insights into the types of projects that receive funding and the evaluation criteria used by funding agencies, allowing you to discern if this opportunity is right for you.


5. Contact Program Officers.

Reach out to program officers at federal agencies to inquire about potential funding opportunities and discuss your research ideas. You can find the contact information on under each opportunity. Establish and build relationships with funders to increase your project’s visibility and receive personalized feedback on your proposal.  


6. Stay Updated on Policy Changes.

Keep yourself informed about policy changes and government initiatives that may lead to new funding opportunities. Agency press releases and relevant news sources can be a valuable way to understand the current landscape and funding trends.


7. Network with Peers and Colleagues.

Connect with professionals in your field and attend conferences or workshops to learn about current funding opportunities. Often, word-of-mouth can provide valuable insights about an ongoing program, funding agency, or forecasted opportunities.


8. Subscribe to Newsletters and Alerts.

Sign up for newsletters and alerts from federal agencies and funding databases to keep informed about the latest funding announcements and updates. Subscribe to industry-specific newsletters that highlight federal funding opportunities. Additionally, most agencies have social media accounts that can notify you of new opportunities, dates of webinars, and application resources.


9. Attend Program Webinars.

Agencies frequently host webinars that highlight key information on funding opportunities and include live Q&A sessions. If you have found a potential opportunity but are unsure of pursuing it, webinars are a great resource for getting your questions answered to help you decide whether you should apply. 


10. Collaborate with Experienced Applicants.

Engage with individuals or organizations that have written successful applications for federal funding to learn about their experiences. Discuss how they managed the application process and what strategic measures helped maximize their chances of success. Consider partnering with CFS for additional support in researching and identifying opportunities.  


Remember - the key to successful funding research is being proactive, persistent, and thorough. Finding the right opportunity requires a systematic approach and a dedication to staying informed. With a strategic approach, developing the skill to confidently navigate the funding landscape will assist you in identifying competitive funding that achieves goals and opens doors to new opportunities, ultimately making a lasting impact.