Frequently Asked Questions

Planning for Grant Season

Identify Funding​

SJI website’s was recently updated to incorporate descriptions of funded projects under each of the priority investment areas.  Not only is this a great way for courts to gain a better understanding of SJI’s priority investment areas, but past projects may spark new ideas and innovations.  The descriptions can be found in the priority investment section of SJI’s website.

Pursuant to the State Justice Institute Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10701, et seq.), Congress authorizes SJI to award grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to the following entities and types of organizations:

  • State and local courts and their agencies
  • National nonprofit organizations that serve the judicial branch of state government or train

judges and support personnel of the judicial branch of state government

  • Nonprofit organizations with expertise in judicial administration, institutions of higher education, individuals, partnerships, firms, corporations (for-profit organizations must waive their fees), and private agencies with expertise in judicial administration. Awards to these entities will only be made if these entities can best serve the objectives of the project.

SJI is prohibited from awarding grants to federal, tribal, and international courts.

There are several questions you should answer to determine the “fit” of the grant opportunity for your court.  These initial questions include:

  • Does the funding opportunity align with your needs?
  • Is your agency and your project eligible for the grant?
  • Can your agency meet the mandatory requirements?
  • When is the grant application due?  Do you have enough time to put forward a quality application?
  • What percentage of applications will be funded? If you are new to grant writing, you should primarily be looking for funding opportunities where the expected number of awards exceeds 20.

To get started with, you will first need to register for a account. There are several different types of accounts based on your role within your organization. This video walks new users through the different types of registration options and the steps to complete registration. If you prefer written instructions, you can find the online user guide here.

Once you are registered for a account, you can search for funding announcements of interest to you.  This video walks you through how to use the search feature of

Are you interested in additional information about how to use  The YouTube Channel has over 50 up-to-date videos that; walk users through the steps to search for opportunities on, create a workspace, add applicant team members to the workspace, complete application forms, and various other assistance tools. Most videos are under three minutes.

Subscribing to the grant programs or funding agencies relevant to your work through is an efficient way to ensure you won’t miss any funding announcements.  You will need to establish a account.  Once you have an account, you may want to track funding announcements from:

 Department of Justice

  • Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Office for Victims of Crime

  Health and Human Services

  • Administration for Children and Families
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

You may consider following additional federal agencies, based on your interest.  In addition to following these agencies on, you may want to sign up for agency alerts on their websites and follow the agencies on Twitter. 

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.

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.

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.

Project Development

The “violent offender” prohibition does not apply to BJA grants awarded with veterans treatment court funds. Grantees are required to follow the 10 Key Components, which include targeting the correct level of risk and need and considering safety and impact on treatment and interventions for all Veterans Treatment Court participants.

The SJI website was recently updated to include descriptions of projects funded under each of the  Priority Investment Areas.  These descriptions can be found here

Congratulations on the end of grant season.  Now is a good time to do the following while you wait:

  • Write thank you notes to the project partners included in your applications, recognizing them for their support and providing a general timeframe for when award announcements will be made.
  • Organize your files so you have final copies of all the applications you submitted in one place.
  • Make a list of any new organizations or entities you would potentially like to partner with in the future and schedule time to meet with them in the early fall to begin conversations.
  • Schedule a planning meeting in the fall so that you can begin to identify priorities for next grant season.

The most common roles of a project director include:

  • Project management, including tracking deliverables, deadlines, and budgets
  • Facilitation, including system coordination facilitation and group/meeting facilitation
  • Managing communication with external and community stakeholders
  • Data collection and monitoring performance measures
  • Gathering information and distributing it to the project team

The following should be considered when selecting an appropriate research partner:

Education and Experience:  Your research partner should have graduate-level training as well as specific experience working with criminal justice practitioners and court-based programs. While experience working in a criminal justice/court setting is not a requirement for a research partner, it can be helpful.  

Philosophy: Researchers approach evaluation in different ways.  It is important to select a research partner that can work effectively with the project team. It is important to understand if the research partner plans to be actively involved in the implementation of your project and if he or she views themselves as a member of the team or as an external expert who maintains distance. Understanding the research partner’s approach to the project will help you assess “fit” with your team and your project.  Consider the following questions when selecting a research partner: (1) Can you call the research partner to discuss implementation problems or does the research partner see this as inappropriate? (2) Does the research partner plan to interview program participants and project staff? 

Communication Skills: Research partners must be able to communicate with a wide variety of individuals throughout the project, including judges, court staff, prosecutors, law enforcement leadership and line officers, probation and parole, treatment providers, and court users/participants. Select a research partner who is personable and engaging and able to clearly present findings and conclusions both orally and in written form.

There are two approaches applicants take to finding a research partner if they select their partner before they submit the grant.  The first approach is to find a research partner at a local college or university. Geographic proximity to your project can be an advantage as the evaluator will be familiar with your local community and the resources available to your agency.  This can also reduce travel costs and the college or university may have interns that can be assigned to work in your agency to assist with data collection. The other approach is to find an individual or an agency with prior evaluation experience in the area associated with your project.  So, for example, if you are evaluating a drug court, you may wish to select an evaluator with extensive experience evaluating drug courts nationally. You can often locate these individuals through an internet search, asking national associations for recommendations, or asking your colleagues for suggestions. Partnering with individuals who have extensive experience in a topic can provide a level of expertise you may not otherwise have locally.

Some grant programs award extra points if you have a research partner.  There are additional benefits to adding an evaluator to your next grant proposal, as well.  Below are some of the most common benefits:

  • Research partners can bring an independent and objective voice to your work, which can be helpful if you have a lot of project partners.
  • Researchers may have worked with other grantees within the grant program before and can offer advice, based on experience, on how to be successful in your project.
  • Research partners are experienced in working with multiple data sets and often have a great deal of experience addressing privacy and confidentiality issues that may arise.
  • Research partners are trained evaluators who can help you think about how to measure the impact of your program, which can be a key component of sustaining your project.

Always start by asking for samples from your organization or partner organizations or units of local or state government you work with.   Otherwise, a general template to follow can be found here.

Below are some useful guidelines to follow as you collect and present data in a grant application:

  • If you are preparing a local or regional application, your application should provide local or regional data as well as some state-level data to provide context.  Local applications should not rely solely on state-level data.
  • Use a combination of raw numbers AND percentages when presenting your data. Using percentages helps the reviewers put your raw numbers in context.
  • The majority of your data should come from reputable sources such as government agencies, national associations, or peer-reviewed journals.  However, it is okay to conduct your own surveys to gather information when there is no other source.
  • Your data should be no more than three years old if possible.
  • Unless otherwise required in the application, two to three paragraphs of your strongest data points is sufficient to demonstrate need.
  • Consider presenting some of your data in a table to break up the information into manageable pieces and maintain the reader’s interest.

Participating in technical assistance opportunities aimed at leading your court or your justice system through a needs assessments process can be a very effective way to prepare for the grant season.  There is not a single place to locate these types of opportunities but subscribing to email alerts from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the U.S. Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a great way to be alerted to many opportunities.

One example of an opportunity that may meet some of your planning needs closes November 13th.  The GAINS Center is soliciting communities for two separate Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) workshops to be held between January and June 2021.  There are no fees for registration, tuition, or materials associated with these workshops. The GAINS Center will cover all costs associated with pre- and post-workshop planning and coordination, facilitator time, data collection and analysis, and report development.  The application can be found here.

Grant Writing

Proposal Preparation

Federal agencies have a financial guide that serves as the primary reference manual for financial and administrative management of grant awards. The applicable financial guide should be used as the starting point for all recipients and subrecipients of grants and cooperative agreements in ensuring the effective day-to-day management of awards. The most current DOJ Grants Financial Guide can be found here.

On September 10, 2021, OJP alerted FY 2022 applicants that some OJP grants will be awarded after September 30 OJP does not anticipate making awards later than December 31, 2021.  The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) anticipates issuing most, if not all, of its grant awards by September 30, 2021, and anticipates providing notice to successful applicants no later than October 31. 

An applicant that demonstrates that their project or community meets one or more priority considerations of a federal agency typically receives extra points during the peer review process. This does not guarantee your application will be funded but can make a meaningful difference in the selection process.  

In FY 2021, many Office of Justice Program funding announcements give priority consideration to applications that a) address challenges that rural communities face, b) that demonstrate that the individuals who are intended to benefit from the requested grant reside in high-poverty areas or persistent-poverty counties, and/or c) applications that offer enhancements to public safety in economically distressed communities.

If your application or community meets one or more priority considerations, it is essential that you follow the instructions outlined in the funding announcement and provide documentation.  If there are multiple priority considerations, it is important to provide documentation for each priority consideration.

Federal agencies use applicant webinars to walk potential applicants through a solicitation. These webinars are optional but a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of each grant program. If a grant program is new to you, it is a great idea to participate in the applicant webinar or, at a minimum, listen to recorded version.  If you are interested in any of last year’s applicant webinars, links to the recordings can be found below.

Bureau of Justice Assistance’s FY 2020 Applicant Webinars

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention FY 2020 Applicant Webinars

Reducing Risk for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System Solicitation

Opioid Affected Youth Initiative Solicitation

Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Solicitation

Juvenile Justice System Enhancements Solicitation

Family Drug Court Solicitation

Office for Victims of Crime FY 2020 Applicant Webinars

Improving Outcomes for Child and Youth Victims of Human Trafficking

Enhancing Services for Older Victims of Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Enhancing Community Responses to America’s Addiction Crisis: Serving Our Youngest Crime Victims

The degree of detail needed will vary depending on the nature of the project.  However, it is essential that every expenditure be explained thoroughly.  A sample budget narrative can be found at the following link:

Federal grant writing becomes easier over time as you have more material and examples to borrow from to pull together your proposal.  A reasonable schedule for a first-time grantee might look something like this:

  • Completing the required registrations – 1 day (spread out over multiple weeks)
  • Reaching out to partners and coordinating the proposal (if needed) – 1 day
  • Writing the first draft of the budget – 2 days
  • Collecting letters of support/Drafting the required MOUs – 2 days
  • Writing first draft of the proposal – 7 days
  • Reviewing the first draft against the requirements – 1 day
  • Corrections and changes – 2 days
  • Completing the attachments – 2 days
  • Re-editing the final proposal – 2 days
  • Final corrections and changes – 1 day
  • Final proofing of all materials – 1 day
  • Submitting the proposal – 1 day

Grants involving a larger number of partners may take longer to prepare due to the coordination required.

One of the most common problems grantees have related to their match is failure to document or account for the match, whether it is a cash or in-kind contribution.  You will need to maintain appropriate records related to your match which may include receipts, timecards, invoices, etc. as documentation.

Common problems related to matching to avoid include:

  • Using other federal funds as match, where the funds are restricted and cannot be used to match other federal grants. Most federal grants cannot be used as a match on another federal grant.
  • Match deemed unnecessary to operate the grant.
  • Match amounts that are unreasonable or excessive.
  • Claimed match not in the approved grant budget.
  • Match claimed on Federal Financial Report (FFR) is based on estimates, not actual amounts incurred.
  • Match expense incurred outside of grant award period.

Often, federal solicitations do not provide much information about the requirements related to letters of support.  Below are some tips that may be applied when there are no specific directions.

  • Letters should be addressed to the current Director of the applicable Federal agency. The signed letters should be included as a single electronic attachment – there is no need to mail a copy of the letter(s).
  • If you are including letters of support from project partners, the letters should explain each partner agency’s anticipated role in the proposed project. Some Federal agencies also require that the letter state the percent of time partner agencies will contribute to the project. Make sure you read the instructions carefully for any requirements of this nature. 
  • Unless otherwise articulated as not allowable, a single letter of support signed by multiple agencies is an acceptable alternative to multiple letters.
  • Letters of support from your Congressional delegation are welcomed and present an excellent opportunity for you to educate key public officials about your proposed project. However, these letters do not impact your application’s score and do not factor into decision-making.

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.

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.

Proposal Submission

Historically, grant awards have been announced by the end of the fiscal year. In 2021, many solicitations were released later in the spring and early summer with due dates in July or later. Applicants should expect that many of these grants will not be announced in this fiscal year because of the time it takes to complete peer review and make the awards. Award announcements in October or early November may be the norm in 2021.

Being asked to update your application or submit a missing form is not a guarantee that your application will be funded, but it does mean that your application has made it past the initial review and is being closely evaluated. 

Once you get into JustGrants, you can update most data fields associated with the SF-424 (e.g., requested funding amount, project title, type of applicant). The only data that cannot be edited directly in the application are the entity identifiers (e.g., DUNS).  Therefore, it is okay to put a “placeholder” budget amount to meet the deadline and change it later.

For technical assistance with submitting the SF-424 and SF- LLL in, contact the Customer Support Hotline at 800-518-4726, 606-545-5035, at customer support webpage, or email at The Support Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except on federal holidays.

For technical assistance with submitting the full application in DOJ’s Justice Grants System (JustGrants), JustGrants Service Desk at or at 833-872-5175. The JustGrants Service Desk operates 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST Monday – Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and federal holidays.

An applicant that experiences unforeseen or JustGrants technical issues beyond its control that prevent it from submitting its application by the deadline must email the National Criminal Justice Reference Service Response Center (Response Center) at within 24 hours after the application deadline to request approval to submit its application after the deadline.

DOJ’s JustGrants team is offering multiple webinar sessions on the application submission process. If you are unable to attend a live webinar event or if you would like to revisit the materials, a presentation slide deck from the February 22, 2021, session has been posted for your reference. Additionally, a recording of the February 11, 2021, session is available.

It is so disappointing to find out you didn’t win a grant award, especially if you worked really hard on your application. Below are a few tips for next steps. 

  1. Go back and review how many awards were anticipated. If the answer is fewer than 10 awards were anticipated, you were applying for a very competitive grant program where they may have received over 100 applications. It may be a good idea to consider if your project could fit into a less competitive grant program next funding season.
  2. In the next two months you will receive written feedback from the peer reviewers.  It’s important to carve out the time to review your application against the original solicitation questions and the peer review feedback.  It’s normal not to agree with all the peer review feedback but it’s important to use the feedback to identify ways you can strengthen your application.  
  3. Make the time to revise your application if you are applying for a grant program that is a good fit for your project. The most common issue you will identify when you review your application and the peer review feedback is that you skipped a question or provided an incomplete answer.  Many applicants are successful winning a grant award with their second submission if they use the peer review feedback to fully revise their application.

Federal funders are typically completing their review of applications between April and August.  As part of the review process, a Federal agency may identify an error in your budget or something about your budget that needs to be modified.  Funders do not have the resources to request adjustments to applications that are not under strong consideration for being funded so it is a positive sign if you are asked to make an adjustment to your application.  However, you’ll have to wait until awards are announced to be certain you will be funded.

Award Acceptance

The Cass County, Michigan, 43rd Circuit Court recently posted a press release regarding a federal grant award that can serve as a template for a similar press release you could use to announce your award.

Unless otherwise specified in the solicitation, grant awards are announced before the end of the federal fiscal year which concludes September 30th.  The majority of federal grant awards are announced in September.

Grant Administration

Award Management

We have created a template of a sub-award monitoring policy and a subrecipient monitoring form that you can modify as you build your procedures. Additional information can be found in the webinar, “You won the grant. Now what?

Supplanting occurs when a state or unit of local government reduces state or local funds for an activity specifically because federal funds are available (or expected to be available) to fund that same activity. When supplanting is not permitted, federal funds must be used to supplement existing state or local funds for program activities and may not replace state or local funds that have been appropriated or allocated for the same purpose. Additionally, federal funding may not replace state or local funding that is required by law. If a question of supplanting arises, the applicant or grantee will be required to substantiate that the reduction in non-federal resources occurred for reasons other than the receipt or expected receipt of federal funds.

Congratulations on your new award!  There is a lot to do with a brand-new grant award but the first five things you should do are as follows:

Celebrate first.  It’s exciting to win a new grant award!  And then…

  1. Read the Notice of Funding Award (or the equivalent award document) thoroughly and ensure that both your finance department and your legal staff receive a copy and review it as well.  Once everyone has reviewed, if you can comply with the requirements and any special conditions, have the authorized official sign the award document and return it.
  2. Work with your financial team to set up your budget in your accounting system so you can track expenses to your grant award.  But remember, you cannot expend funds until you have received financial clearance from the granting agency.
  3. Send out a press release about your project acknowledging your partners and your funder.
  4. Sign up for any mandatory financial training required by the funding agency.
  5. Meet with your agency leadership to review any hiring needs if your grant includes new personnel.  While you cannot expend grant funds until you have financial clearance, you should not delay in planning for your new hires.

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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