There are several techniques you can use to try to home in the grants that are of greatest interest to you.
To narrow down your search to a specific grant announcement or to search only within a specific time period, use the Advanced Search option. This is a useful capability that would make it easier for you to set up a system whereby you search for your specific terms of interest perhaps weekly. Searching weekly is a good idea because it keeps you on top of what is happening and gives you the greatest possible time to meet application deadlines.
The illustration provided below shows what you will see when you click on the Advanced Search option on the Federal Register. See the article Quick Guide to the Federal Register if you have not reviewed that yet.
As you can see we first chose 2011 as our Volume, then Notices as our Section. We do this because grant announcements are typically referred to as Notices of Funding Availability by the government. Then, in order to see just the more current opportunities in announcements made since June 1 of 2011, we clicked the Specific Date option and chose the “After” button, then entered our date.
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Update May 2018
The Register offers both a simple search function and one that is more advanced. You can find the basic search box at the top of each page in the navigation area. Using the advanced search option allows you to refine your results by specific agencies, dates or other categories, which can help speed things up. The Register is updated regularly in terms of features and abilities. The latest addition as of this writing is the option to let users comment on a document while they are still on the site (as opposed to getting switched to another site (regulations.gov) for comment.)
July 2017 Update Want to take a look at executive orders — from this administration or the last? Curious to know what the government has published about climate change over the last year — including two documents open for comment? Those and more are available in the Federal Register. A special section on the opening page also lets you see what are current popular documents — i.e. what other people have recently been searching for or accessing. You can even voice your own opinion by responding to the Request for Comments on what our negotiating objectives should be with regard to modernizing NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico
Back to advanced search: Once again we enter our search terms and click Submit to see the results. In this case, since we have dramatically shortened our date range, we will see a considerably shorter list than when we searched all of 2011. Such an approach makes it reasonable to search more frequently and stay on top of new announcements. It will also save you from feeling overwhelmed when you see the response to your search.
Keep in mind that you do not have to rely solely on the information that is returned for your search.
If you find a grant opportunity that looks promising, save the file on your computer. Also, be sure to go directly to the web site of the particular agency making funds available. In many cases you will find the specifc announcement for the grant and perhaps additional useful information that was not included in the information you reviewed on the Federal Register there.
If you make this a weekly (or even daily!) habit, you will learn about new government funding opportunities as early as possible – and often long before your competition sees them. Becoming adept at using the Federal Register rather than relying on secondary sources could make a big difference in your ability to find and win grants.
November 2017 Update Are you a super geek about historical records pertaining to Federal Records and Presidential Papers? Not only can you find lots of information on the Federal Register website, you can also apply for a grant help you with your studies. And beyond just studying, grants are also available to help you collect, as well as preserve and publish relevant materials that are critical to understanding the history of our country. Grants for these purposes are available through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is the grant awarding partner of NARA — the National Archives and Records Administration. And there are private organizations that offer grants to help people researching the materials in Presidential Libraries.
If you are determined to learn to use the Federal Register there are ways to do that. One of the best is to read the online tutorial available on archives.gov. You can go through the whole thing from the beginning or you can choose from a list of topics. These include all the types of documents available, Research Tools, The Rulemaking Process from Start to Finish, how to do online research, and How to Enroll in a Federal Register Workshop. These are probably of most interest to those interested in working in the government and lawmaking.
The Federal Register site also makes a number of other tutorials available. For example, ever tried to understand the Electoral College? If you're interested, particularly in an election year, you can take this tutorial for free. And if you wonder where and how new Rules come about, there is a tutorial about the Rulemaking Process. Could be a yawn, but you never know what you might find by browsing around the latest rules and notes o federal agencies… However if you just want to find funding opportunities that are relevant to you, your time will be better spent checking out our step-by-step search tips in our guide to grants.gov.
You can also learn more about How to Find Grants elsewhere on this site, perhaps with languages and processes that are easier to deal with than the Federal Register. We would highly recommend that you start with that article and then check out Types Of Grants And Where To Find Them. You may discover that what you are really looking for is not a government grant at all but when from a private company or non-profit organization.
With a new president who is so far an active rule maker as well as one requiring that two regulations be deleted for every new regulation put in place, the Federal Register may become much more interesting. You can see information and rules regarding “Immigration and Border Control” for example. Or, say you are a nonprofit looking for a place to use to shelter the homeless — you can take a look at the Department of Human Development’s explanation of what is “Federal Property Suitable as Facilities To Assist the Homeless.” If you question what the truth is about a new ruling or want to see comments attached to rules and executive orders, this is the place where you can see the original documents rather than have them interpreted through reporters' potential biases.
There is a wealth of information in the Federal Register about current, new and proposed of rules of many kinds. American citizens have the right - and often the desire - to participate in the making of rules that affect them. When you look at Federal Register documents, each one will tell you whether you can submit comments and how. For example, the list under “Popular Documents” on the home page can lead to some interesting reading. One of the items we noted today (Oct. 26, 2016) is about Payday, Vehicle Title and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans. Clicking on that title takes you to a new rule proposed by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. The new ruling would increase the consumer protections required from these types of lenders, some of which have had questionable dealings in the past. (You can learn more about the pros and cons of different types of loans to individuals in Personal Loans.) If you have strong arguments in favor of or in opposition to the rule you can submit comments. Contact information is provided for email or regular mail as well as personal delivery. You should never include personal information in your comments as they do become part of the public record.
Because it can all be very confusing, the Office of the Federal Register provides workshops in Washington DC and in other cities around the U.S. You can get the dates and locations on archives.gov. You can also call to register at 202-523-4534.