Frequently Asked Questions

Question of the Week


As this year’s federal grant season comes to an end, what should I be doing next to prepare for next year’s grant season?


Summer is the perfect time to tackle three important tasks to prepare for next year’s grant season.

  1. Review solicitations from the previous grant season to identify future opportunities. A good place to start is to review the solicitations in the Past Funding Opportunities in SJI’s Funding Toolkit.  Solicitations rarely change significantly from year to year to so the time invested in reading old solicitations will pay off in the future.

  2. Identify partnerships you need to build to expand your application opportunities. Courts are not eligible for every grant opportunity nor are they always the strongest applicant choice.  But there are many solicitations where the court can be the beneficiary of funding, directly or indirectly.  Courts can and should partner with other organizations.  Now is the time to reach out and begin those conversations, especially when building a relationship with an organization that would be a brand-new partner.

  3. Collect data now to build your statement of need for next year’s applications. Every solicitation requires a statement of need.  If you don’t have current data (i.e., data that is less than one or two years old) that makes a compelling case that your court/community is in need, use the summer to build this evidence.  Your statement of need can be strengthened by conducting surveys, hosting focus groups to collect qualitative data, or using an intern or staff to gather data that you may not already have.  These activities often take months to complete. Using the summer months to start building your case will pay dividends in next year’s grant season.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I provide an in-kind or cash match, if it is not required, to improve my odds of being awarded the grant?

Unless the solicitation specifically requires a match or indicates providing a match will be considered as part of the application review process, there is no advantage to voluntarily offering a match.  Furthermore, if your budget indicates you will be providing a match, you will typically be required to document the match in your financial reporting.

A more effective approach is to outline, in your program narrative, how you will be leveraging existing resources to support your project. Providing this type of information indicates that you are thoughtful about using existing resources and coordinating various initiatives. By providing this information in your program narrative, versus your budget, you avoid committing to the record-keeping associated with tracking a match.

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Are there examples of publicly available funded grant applications that I can review?

Some grant programs release samples of applications that have been previously funded.  Reviewing these applications can be a useful starting point but it is important that you review the current requirements in the most recent solicitation as the required questions may change from year to year.

Sample Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP)

Sample Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation applications (CTAS)

Sample Drug Court Applications

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What is the difference between a grant award and a cooperative agreement?

The federal government makes awards for financial assistance through both grants and cooperative agreements.  A cooperative agreement is distinctly different from a grant in that it provides for “substantial involvement” between the Federal agency or pass-through entity and the grant award recipient.

In general terms, “substantial involvement” refers to the degree to which federal employees are directly performing or implementing parts of the award program. In a grant, the federal government provides oversight and monitoring but is not directly involved in the project. In a cooperative agreement, federal employees participate more closely in project activities, often working side-by-side with the grantee. The specific ways this involvement is integrated varies by Federal agency.

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I’m reading a solicitation and it says eligibility is limited to “Units of Local Government”? Are courts considered “units of local government?”

Solicitations from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention frequently provide the following definition:

A “unit of local government” means—

  • (a) Any city, county, township, town, borough, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a state.
  • (b) Any law enforcement district or judicial enforcement district that—
    • (i)  Is established under applicable state law, and
    • (ii) Has the authority to, in a manner independent of other state entities, establish a budget and impose taxes.
  • c) For the purposes of assistance eligibility, any agency of the government of the District of Columbia or the federal government that performs law enforcement functions in and for—
    • (i) The District of Columbia, or
    • (ii) Any Trust Territory of the United States.

If you are unclear if your court is eligible to apply based on the funding announcement or the guidance provided, it is best to pose the question to the funding agency directly.  Each solicitation lists a contact for questions.  Email your question to the appropriate contact to receive official guidance on eligibility.

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What is the difference between a subaward and a contract?

If an outside entity will “carry out part of the project or program,” the agreement between the recipient and the outside entity is a “subaward.” If, instead, a recipient agrees to provide funds to an outside entity, and, in exchange, the outside entity will provide the recipient with goods or services ancillary to the award, rather than “carry out part of the project or program,” the agreement is a “procurement contract (or procurement transaction).”

Examples of subawards:

  • A recipient receives grant funds to provide a suite of services (e.g., substance abuse treatment, victim services, training, peer recovery support) and agrees to pay award funds to an outside entity to provide some of these services.
  • A recipient receives grant funds to develop (or improve) a particular product (e.g., training materials, a curriculum, a resource guide, a new technology) and agrees to pay award funds to an outside entity to develop or improve one of the products.
  • A recipient receives grant funds to conduct research or analysis and enters into an agreement to pay award funds to an outside entity to conduct part of the research or analysis.

Examples of contracts:

If a recipient is purchasing or leasing an item from an outside entity that makes the identical (or virtually identical) item widely available to others (e.g., to the mass market), the purchase or lease of the item by the recipient is considered to be a “procurement contract under an award.”

Some examples of items that frequently fall into this category: 

  • Office equipment for use by recipient employees (e.g., laptops, printers/copiers)
  • Office supplies for use by recipient employees (e.g., paper, toner)
  • Software licenses for widely available programs such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat
  • Purchase of a license needed to include copyrighted material in training materials to be produced and distributed in connection with an award
  • Cell phones for use by recipient employees
  • Body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers employed by the recipient

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Where should I put my references for research or data I am citing in my application?

Footnotes are the most common approach if the funding agency does not provide specific guidance in the solicitation or notice of funding opportunity.  However, it is more appropriate to include an attachment for your references if you are submitting to an agency that is a research organization (e.g., National Institute of Justice, National Institute on Drug Abuse) or you have several citations.

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Where do conference registration fees go in my budget?

Conference registration fees should go in the “other” category of your budget for all Office of Justice Programs grants.

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The instructions say that my program narrative has to be double-spaced. Do tables and footnotes have to be double-spaced?

As a general rule, your application must be double-spaced, use Times New Roman font at 12pt and have 1-inch margins.  The following may be single-spaced:

  • Tables
  • Callout boxes
  • Footnotes
  • Logic Models
  • Abstract
  • Letters of Support

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Need Help?

Send us your funding and grant questions. Experts will provide answers as well as references to additional resources.