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NIFA Frequently Asked Questions - Applying for a Grant

General | Applying for a Grant | Grant Management



Requests for Application (RFAs)

Preparing to Apply

General Questions

Electronic Submission


How do I know if I am eligible or my organization is eligible to apply for a NIFA grant?

Eligibility for any NIFA grant program is determined by the authorizing and annual appropriation legislation. For competitive grants, you can check the "Eligibility" section of the appropriate Request for Applications (RFA) (located in Part III, A). For formula-funded grants and special line-item grants, NIFA notifies eligible grant recipients directly.

Does NIFA accept unsolicited grant applications?

No. NIFA receives annual appropriations that require the agency to fund very specific areas of agricultural research, education, and extension. Therefore, NIFA cannot accept or consider unsolicited grant applications for funding.


Requests for Application (RFAs)

What is a Request for Applications (RFA)?

NIFA announces funding opportunities by publishing requests for applications (RFAs). RFAs provide potential applicants with detailed information about particular funding opportunities (including purpose, eligibility, restrictions, focus areas, evaluation criteria, and regulatory information) and instructions on how to apply.

How do I know when to expect publication of an RFA?

Most programs publish RFAs on an annual basis during the same month each year. NIFA uses listservs and its bi-weekly publication, NIFA Update, to notify potential applicants that an RFA has been published. The agency sometimes issues press releases when a new funding opportunity is accepting applications.

How are RFAs or funding opportunities announced?

RFAs are announced in the "Funding Opportunities" section of the NIFA Web site and made available through the government-wide grants.gov Web site. Occasionally, when legislatively required, RFAs are published in the Federal Register, but these RFAs are posted on the NIFA Web site and grants.gov Web site as well.

Where can I get a copy of an RFA and the application forms necessary to apply for a funding opportunity?

You can access RFAs and application forms in the "Funding Opportunities" section of the NIFA Web site. You can download grant application forms directly from the Application Forms page. If you need a hard copy of an RFA or application form, you may contact the Proposal Services Unit at 202-401-5048 or e-mail .

Who should I contact if I have a question about a specific RFA?

If you have a programmatic question, please contact the individual(s) listed in the Agency Contact(s) section (Part VII) of the program's RFA. If you have an administrative question, please contact the Awards Management Branch, Office of Extramural Programs, at 202-401-4986.

Where can I send comments about a particular RFA to be considered in the development of the RFA for the next fiscal year?

Interested parties may e-mail written stakeholder comments to or mail comments to:

Policy and Program Liaison Staff
Office of Extramural Programs
STOP 2299 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20250-2299


Preparing to Apply

Do I have to register with Grants.gov before submitting an application through Grants.gov?

Yes. And before preparing an application, we strongly recommend that you confirm that your institution is registered with Grants.gov. If your institution has a grants office, they should be able to confirm your institution's registration status. For more information on registration requirements, please visit the Register page.

How long does the registration process take?

The entire registration process can take up to 1 month to complete.

Does NIFA require any agency specific registration in addition to the required Grants.gov registration?

No. NIFA requires no separate registration beyond the Grants.gov registration.

What is involved in the Grants.gov registration process?

Applicant organizations need to complete a one-time only registration process for Grants.gov that includes obtaining a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, registering in Central Contractor Registry (CCR) and registering in Grants.gov. Details for Grants.gov registration can be found at the Grants.gov Get started web page.

Please note that this is a one-time only registration for all Federal agencies using Grants.gov. So if your organization has already completed the Grants.gov registration process to submit electronically for another Federal agency, a separate Grant.gov registration is not necessary for NIFA submissions.

Part of the Grants.gov process is registering in the Central Contractor Registry (CCR). What is the CCR and how does an applicant organization know if they have successfully registered in the CCR?

For details, go to the CCR Register section of the Grants.gov site). Grants.gov requires that applicant organizations obtain a DUNS number and register with the CCR. CCR is a government-wide registry for vendors doing business with the Federal government. Grants.gov uses CCR to establish roles and IDs for those electronically applying for grants. In the future, the government anticipates requiring all grant applicants to use CCR whether applying for grants electronically or otherwise. To register in CCR, one needs a DUNS number.
To register in CCR:

  • Go to www.ccr.gov
  • Click the Start New Registration link
  • Complete the Registration Worksheet
  • Complete the Registration Acknowledgement and Point of Contact Information

To find out if you are already registered in CCR, go to the Central Contractor Registration and enter your DUNS number.

I will be the project director on the proposal. Do I need to register with Grants.gov?

Project directors do not need to register with Grants.gov, unless they are also the person authorized to submit an application on behalf of their organization. For example, the project director for a company submitting a proposal to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program may also be the person authorized to submit applications.

What software do I need to apply through Grants.gov?

You will need to download Adobe Reader. The Download Software page includes Adobe Reader, system requirements and other information. Adobe Reader 8.1.3 is recommended.

For NIFA applicants, software to create PDF files is needed. On the Download Software page you will find a variety of information and tools. This includes a link to Convert Documents to PDF.


General Submission Questions

What process does NIFA use to evaluate proposals submitted for competitive review?

NIFA reviews proposals submitted to individual competitive programs using a peer review process. For more information on the peer review process please visit the NIFA Peer Review Process for Competitive Grant Applications page.

How do I know when my application is due and where I should send it?

Program-specific deadline dates are identified in the "Submission Dates and Times" section (Part IV, C.) of RFAs. Addresses for application submission (both express mail and regular mail) are identified in the "Other Submission Requirements" section (Part IV, E) of every RFA. All applications are processed by NIFA's Proposal Services Unit.

What are indirect costs?

Indirect costs are those costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project. Examples include depreciation and use allowances for an organization's building and equipment, operation and maintenance expenses, sponsored projects administration, and departmental administration.

May I include indirect costs in my application budget?

Yes. Some competitive financial assistance programs supported by NIFA allow indirect costs. However, for some of these awards the amount is limited by legislation to 30 percent of the total federal funds provided under the grant award for FY 2012 until amended. This amount varies by fiscal year. Applicants should consult the "Funding Restrictions" section (Part IV, D.) of the RFA for a particular program to determine the amount of indirect costs that they may request or contact the National Program Leader referenced in the RFA under “Agency Contacts” (Part VII).

How do I obtain an indirect cost rate agreement?

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been designated by the Office of Management and Budget as the cognizant agency responsible for negotiating indirect cost rate agreements for a significant number of organizations receiving federal financial assistance awards. An organization's office of sponsored research or business office can assist the applicant in applying the correct rate. If an organization does not already have a DHHS-negotiated indirect cost rate, please contact NIFA's Office of Extramural Programs at 202-720-9181.


Electronic Submission Questions

Where can I find the information I need to complete and submit a NIFA application via Grants.gov?

  • The relevant Request for Applications (RFA) from the NIFA Web site; or
  • the NIFA Grants.gov Application Guide, which is posted along with the electronic SF 424 R&R application package on Grants.gov.

What type of notification will I receive after submitting an electronic application via Grants.gov?

The Authorized Organizational Official (AOR), who submits the application, will receive a series of four e-mails after submission. It is extremely important that the AOR watch for and save each of these e-mails. Please note that Grants.gov validation of the application can take up to 2 business days from application submission. Validation will be indicated by e-mail Number 2. E-mail Number 4 will indicate that the application has reached NIFA. Specifically, the e-mails indicate:

  • Grants.gov Submission Receipt Number
  • Grants.gov Submission Validation Receipt
  • Grants.gov Grantor Agency Retrieval
  • Receipt of Grant Application at USDA

Receipt of the above four e-mails does not indicate the application has been accepted for review. The AOR will be notified in up to two subsequent e-mails if the application has been accepted or not-accepted for program review. If accepted, the application will be assigned a NIFA application number (e.g., 2009-XXXXX). This number should be cited on all future correspondence.

If I am required to submit a Conflict of Interest List with my Grants.gov application package what format can I use?

Applicants are encouraged to complete and submit the Conflict of Interest Template as part of their electronic application. All Conflict of Interest Lists for a given proposal must be combined into one document and converted to PDF. Attach this PDF file to the NIFA Supplemental Information Form Field 8 - Conflict of Interest List.

If I am required to submit Current and Pending Support documentation with my Grants.gov application package what format can I use?

Applicants are encouraged to complete and submit the Current and Pending Support Template as part of their electronic application. This must be converted into a PDF document. For key personnel, individual corresponding Current and Pending Support PDFs should be attached to the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile.

If I am required to submit a Project Summary/Abstract with my Grants.gov application package what format can I use?

Applicants are encouraged to complete and submit the Project Summary/ Abstract Template as part of their electronic application. This must be converted into a PDF document.

Where can I find help with the SF 424 (R&R) forms?

You may obtain help from the following:

  • Grants.gov can provide help with the functionality of the Adobe Reader that is necessary to view and submit electronic grant applications.
  • The NIFA Grants.gov Application Guide can assist with agency-specific questions related to the preparation and submission of applications to NIFA.
  • Our main electronic grants transition page has some related information
  • E-mail .

How do I ensure that I am applying to the correct NIFA funding opportunity?

Verify that the pre-populated funding opportunity name and number match the program to which you intend to apply. The Program Code Name and Program Code, in block 2 of the NIFA Supplemental Information Form are critical to ensuring the correct routing of your application. Enter them exactly as they appear in the RFA.

There are a number of places where an attachment must be attached to the application. What type of attachments will NIFA accept?

NIFA will accept only Portable Document Format (PDF) attachments with electronic application submissions. On the Download Software, users will find information on PDF-related tools and software, including a link to Convert Documents to PDF. Files not in PDF format will not be reviewed by NIFA.

Will applicants have to generate the PDFs?

Yes. For help, visit Grants.gov's Convert Documents to PDF page. Files not in PDF format will not be reviewed by NIFA.

What date does NIFA use to determine if applications have met the deadline?

The date and time the application was received by Grants.gov will be the date the application is considered received by NIFA. All applications must be received by 5 p.m. ET of the funding opportunity deadline date.

How do I know my application was received by the deadline date and time?

After submitting an application to Grants.gov, it provides users with the electronic equivalent of a postmark stamp on a confirmation screen. It contains the date and time the application was received by Grants.gov. Applicants should print out this page for their records.

When do I need to submit my application?

Applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by 5 p.m. ET on the date indicated in the Request for Applications (RFA) for the program to which you applying.

What contingency plans are in place in case the Grants.gov and NIFA systems have technical problems on a submission/receipt date?

Grants.gov and NIFA are taking steps to reduce the risk of technical problems (e.g., increased Grants.gov capacity, ongoing discussions with Grants.gov regarding volume and file size, system testing, and agency pilots). If problems do arise, agency policies are in place to accommodate emergencies, much as we do now with natural disasters such as hurricanes.

If a resubmission is required because of Grants.gov system problems, will the application be considered "late"?

No, just as we do not hold people responsible for documented problems by the current paper delivery service. A case number should be obtained from Grants.gov to support any problems with submissions.

Should I look for an opportunity by entering the CFDA number on Grants.gov?

We recommend that if applicants know the specific program to which they are interested in applying, they should search by Funding Opportunity Announcement number rather than CFDA. Additionally, each NIFA program has a funding opportunity page that provides a link to the appropriate Grants.gov grant opportunity page. The funding opportunity number is also in the program specific request for applications (RFA).

What is the difference between the checks that Grants.gov performs on the application and those performed by NIFA?

Grants.gov validations include checking to make sure no viruses are attached to the application and ensuring the DUNS number is correct. At the NIFA level, the application is checked against business rules - such as whether you have an assurance number if the human subjects question is marked "yes".