I recently attended a session titled “E-trends in the Federal Grants Arena” at the American Association of Grantwriting Professionals conference. The presenter was Rebecca Spitzgo, the program manager for Grants.gov, who discussed several changes that are being made to the program.

By now, I would imagine that most district proposal writers are familiar with the Grants.gov program. For those of you who are not, it is a cross-agency initiative spanning 900 programs from 26 federal grant-making agencies and more than $400 billion in annual awards. It is a unified “storefront” for all federal grants customers to find grant opportunities and apply for grants electronically. The program is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the largest provider of federal grants.

The most interesting piece of information presented during the session was that, according to Ms. Spitzgo, fewer and fewer federal departments and agencies will be posting their grant competitions in the Federal Register. Instead, Grants.gov has a goal in fiscal year 2006 of posting 100 percent of all federal funding opportunities on the “Find Grant Opportunities” section of the Grants.gov web site.

What does this mean? Any district proposal writer who is considering applying for any federal grants should subscribe to the Grants.gov eMail notification system. Go the web site (www.grants.gov) and click on “Find Grant Opportunities,” then click on

“Register for eMail Notification of Grant Opportunities.” You’ll see a list of options for the types of opportunities you can choose. I would suggest selecting “All Grant Opportunities.” This way, you can think “outside the box” and not just look for grants from the U.S. Department of Education, but also find other opportunities that might match projects you wish to implement.

Ms. Spitzgo also announced that the Fedgrants.gov web site will be shut down. The purpose of this site was to enable users to search for federal grant opportunities online, but this now will be done by using the Grants.gov web site. There also have been several changes made to the “Find” section of the Grants.gov web site. This section has a new look, and all modifications made to the site will be shaded to identify what has changed.

For those folks who think they can wait until the last minute to register with Grants.gov so they can submit their grant application through the web site, think again: The Central Contractor Registry is now verifying EIN numbers when organizations register. According to the web site, this could delay the rest of the grant application process by 24 to 48 hours.

Finally, Ms. Spitzgo spent a few minutes discussing the two most common errors people make when using the Grants.gov web site to submit their proposals, resulting in the rejection of these proposals. The first reason took me by surprise, as it is too simple:

People put the wrong DUNS number on their grant application! So, be sure to double-check your DUNS number before hitting the “Submit” button.

The second most common reason proposals are rejected is because of viruses in the attachments that people send. It would be a shame to spend all of your time putting a proposal together, only to have it rejected because of a virus! Before you submit your proposal, send a trial version to another individual to see if any viruses show up.

If you send your proposal and you get a notice back from the Grants.gov site explaining that your proposal was rejected owing to a virus, contact the program officer and see if it’s possible for you to resubmit your proposal. Ms. Spitzgo explained that permission to resubmit under these circumstances would have to be authorized by a program officer–but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.