A Personal View of Grantseeking During the Federal Shutdown

November 26, 2013 | By admin | Post a Comment

businessman-with-the-notebook-2-1362247-mIn case you noticed last week that the posts to Funding Attractions were somewhat sparse, there was good reason. We here at Thompson were converting our networks with those of our new owner, Columbia Books and Information Services, based in Bethesda, Md. Not to worry, though, because we believe this partnership will truly benefit you, our readers, by keeping you informed and up-to-date on how to stay compliant in the suddenly rapidly changing grants world.

As a change to our usual blog posts, I’m pleased to feature a post written by our editorial assistant, Brennan Knight. He has worked with us in the grants group, providing much of our background research and data entry. The following is his first-person account of how the federal government shutdown last month affected his duties:

“When the government shut down in October, we knew the effects would be widespread, but we didn’t know how far they would reach. I, for one, didn’t expect my job to be affected in any way.

However, a few days into the shutdown, the emails I regularly received from Grants.gov featured fewer grants every day until the emails stopped coming all together. Suddenly, the grant listings I needed were gone, and I had nothing to replace them until my supervisor suggested that I search for grants from the private sector.

Having been spoiled by the ease of access provided by Grants.gov, I found looking for grants from private organizations, foundations and businesses to be somewhat cumbersome. Web page upon web page had to be navigated in pursuit of the promise of information about the grants these companies said they provided. Even when I found web pages dedicated to the grants provided by these private organizations, I rarely got information on how one could apply for the grant and other information, such as when applications are due or how much money these grants award. More often than not, the pages dedicated to the grants served only to highlight what recipients of the grants had done or showcase the granting organization’s generosity.

Out of the 50 or so sites I visited, only about a fifth of them had the information I wanted. As challenging as this was, one thing was clear the whole time: the private sector still had funding opportunities. Without the government updating its Grants.gov website, there was a sudden dead end for grant funding, save these private foundations and corporations.

For me, the government shutdown had minor ramifications. True, it made my job a little harder, but that’s a minor problem when compared to program managers who need the funds provided by grants to deliver a valuable program or conduct research for the greater public good. For these people, the government shutdown was a trial of faith, faith that the federal government was always open. When the shutdown became a reality, they found the government somewhat wanting.

That said, I certainly returned back to Grants.gov as I’m sure people other grantseekers did once the government was reopened and websites were up and running again. However, it became apparent that the government was not the only provider of grants. Grants offered by the private sector remained in the public’s attention as feasible funding opportunities, and still do.

I’m not going to say that the private sector was a savior for a lowly seeker of grants, but the fact that the private sector grants were there, that they will always be there, during a government shutdown or even when the government is functioning, makes them a reliable source of funding opportunities. I, for one, will remember the temporary absence of government grants and the presence of the private grants that filled this absence.

The shift in my focus from government grants to private grants may progress even further early in the new year. The recently raised, debt ceiling is anticipated to last only until Feb. 7, 2014. If Congress cannot agree on a strategy to address the debt ceiling again, another shutdown could occur. The government’s grant websites will go offline again, leaving the private sector as the more logical provider of funding opportunities during that time.

With the last shutdown still fresh in the public’s mind, grantseekers may be well-advised to keep sharpening those search skills in the private sector. Having a private sector grantseeking strategy together with a public sector grantseeking strategy will help keep wary grantseekers busy when federal grants are not an option.”

What about you, reader? Was your search for grants disrupted by the government shutdown? Have any tips for circumventing this problem? Let us know!

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