In a workshop I did recently, I received an interesting question from a participant: How do funding cycles differ, and what affects grant deadlines? To answer this question, let’s look at funding cycles for the four types of grants and note their similarities and differences.

Federal grant programs receive an appropriation each year in the federal budget, which follows a fiscal year that runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The amount of this appropriation is divided among funds designated specifically for grant programs, as well as funds that might be set aside for purposes such as administrative costs or research projects.

Anyone who has spent any time pursuing federal grants knows that, generally, the deadlines remain the same each year. In some grant program RFPs (requests for proposals), the only difference between last year’s RFP and this year’s RFP is the grant deadline, and that might be a change of only a day or two!

This points out one of the positive aspects of grant seeking. Generally, grant seekers will find the same deadline for grants each year, which enables them to plan in advance for the grants that are most viable to pursue and determine a timeline for putting together fundable grant proposals.

State grants usually are funded in one of two ways—through a state Legislature voting to include initiatives in the state budget, or through “pass-through”programs, meaning the funds actually come from the federal government and are distributed to states.

Although the dollars might originate at the federal level, you’ll commonly find that each state’s grant program looks different, with a different title and a different RFP. The most common technology grant program that illustrates this point is the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF), which has a different configuration in every state. For example, in some states, TLCF funds are broken up into several initiatives with different deadlines, while in others, there is a single TLCF competition each year.

Again, generally you’ll find that state grant competitions are run around the same time each year, with many deadlines remaining relatively unchanged from year to year.

Because many federal and state programs rely on appropriations, this process sometimes can delay a grant program from starting up for the new fiscal year, which can result in the deadlines being pushed back. If appropriations are smaller than expected, it might be necessary to cancel a new grant competition for the fiscal year and use the funds to support ongoing programs instead. If funds are not received through the appropriations process, grant competitions might not come to fruition at all during a new fiscal year.

Funding cycles for foundations and corporations can be different. Generally, most corporations have fiscal years that start on Oct. 1 and end on Sept. 30. Consequently, many corporations are going through the budgeting process in the first four months of the year. It’s not unusual to find corporations requesting proposals in the spring for programs that will start in September. School district personnel need to be aware of this and plan to approach corporations accordingly.

My experience has been that foundations seem to have the largest number of deadlines during any given year. A board of trustees usually makes funding decisions at foundations. Some foundation boards meet every month and will consider proposals on a monthly basis, while others meet on a quarterly basis and review requests then. Either case shows that, in general, waiting for the next foundation deadline to come around is a short-lived process.

As is always the case when talking about grants, do the research and familiarize yourself with the funding cycles. This knowledge will enable you to know when upcoming deadlines are and to plan accordingly, up to a year or two in advance.