Grant Writing Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an EIN?
EIN stands for Employer Identification Number.  The IRS issues an EIN to all incorporated businesses that have employees and pay taxes.  Funders require an EIN to make sure that all organizations (as opposed to individuals) are recognized by the IRS. 

Mount Mercy’s EIN is: 42-0681046

2. What is a DUNS number?
The Data Universal Numbering System, abbreviated as DUNS or D-U-N-S, is a proprietary system developed and regulated by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) that assigns a unique numeric identifier, referred to as a "DUNS number" to a single business entity.

Mount Mercy’s DUNS number is:  073499584

3.  What is a 501(c)3?
501(c) organization is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c). The most common type of tax-exempt nonprofit organization falls under category 501(c)3, whereby a nonprofit organization is exempt from federal income tax if its activities have the following purposes: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, or preventing cruelty to children or animals.

Mount Mercy was incorporated as a private, 501(c)3 nonprofit, catholic institution of higher education in 1996. 

4. What is SAM?
The System for Award Management (SAM) is the Official U.S. Government system that consolidated the capabilities of CCR/FedReg, ORCA, and EPLS. SAM is now the site where all of an organization’s federal grants can be tracked. 

5. What does CFDA strand for?
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) provides a full listing of all Federal programs available to state and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi- public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals.

6. Is a grant just like money? 
Most grants are “restricted” and can only be used to pay for specific costs identified in the approved budget. 

If the grant is restricted but is used to pay for something other than what the funder and the grantee have agreed upon in their contract or letter of agreement, the grantee will be considered in default and the funder has the right to have that money paid back to them. This is called “misallocation of funds” and is illegal in addition to causing great damage to the reputation of the grantee.

Most funders make it very clear what the grant can and cannot be used for; this is especially true for public funding i.e. funding that comes from public tax dollars.  However, if the award is “unrestricted” or meant for general operating costs, it can be used for anything the grant recipient sees fit such as salaries, utilities, maintenance, equipment etc. 

7. Does a grant contain any confidential information?
Yes.  In general, any personal information contained within a grant proposal such as salaries or medical information should be considered confidential and should not be discussed outside of the context of the grant, nor should this information be divulged to anyone that is not identified as part of the project staff. 

8. Where can I find the University’s annual audit?
You can obtain a copy of the most recent audit through the Grants Administration office.

9. Can we apply for more than one grant to the same funder in one year?
Depends on the funder.  Read the guidelines carefully to make sure what the policies are for each funder.  This is also why it is imperative that Grants Administration is notified before any application is submitted so we can coordinate and prioritize when applications are submitted to which funders because they are all submitted under the auspices of the same applicant i.e. the University.

In general, the following rules will apply: 

1) We should not submit more than one application to the same funder for the same funding source (although some funders may have different funding pools for different interests) in the same year.

2) We should not submit the same application to the same funder if the first one was rejected (unless the funder approves of it). 

3) We should make sure we haven’t received funding from the same funder in the past year. (Some funders require a grace period of two (or more) years after the most recent grant).   

10. I don’t have time to write the proposal. Will Grants Administration write it for me?
Grants Administration does write entire proposals at the discretion of the Office of the President or the Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations. But, unless authorized otherwise, Grants Administration’s role for faculty, staff and departmental projects and programs is to serve as a facilitator and resource for project planning, funder searches, grant writing and grant management.

You are encouraged to reach out to Grants Administration if you have a project that you think has potential but needs some help to move forward.  

11. How long does it take to put together and submit a winning proposal? 
This depends on the requirements of the funder and the degree to which the proposed program is ready to be implemented. Most federal programs like the National Science Foundation or the Dept. of Education will require extensive data support, coordination, logic models, budgets etc. so will require more time.  One estimate is to allow one year total for project planning, coordination, data collection with two months of that for writing and putting the proposal together. This is not full-time for any one individual (unless only one person is doing all of it!) but the ongoing work of a team working together on a timeline with benchmarks for completion of specific components. (see toolkits)

Other local foundations with online applications are far less demanding and may only take a week to a month to plan, write and submit a request depending on your experience, how many people are working on it and the degree to which the program is fleshed out and complete.  

The best rule of thumb is to plan well in advance of the submission deadline (finished and ready to submit two weeks prior to the deadline) especially when so many funders are using online portals and glitches are commonplace. Remember: funders do not accept late requests.

12. What constitutes a conflict of interest? 
A conflict of interest is a situation in which individuals associated with a Federally-funded project may have an opportunity to influence project business decisions in a way that leads to personal gain or improper benefit to themselves, their spouses, domestic partners, or dependent children. These types of conflicts could affect the project design, implementation, or reporting of project results.

13. What happens if a conflict of interest does exist?
Federal regulations require that MMU must, prior to any expenditure of awarded funds, report the existence of any conflicts of interest to the funding source and act to protect the research or project activities from bias due to the conflicts of interest. MMU Grants Administration will recommend what actions should be taken by MMU to manage, reduce, or eliminate such conflicts of interest. Examples of conditions or restrictions that might be imposed to manage conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Public disclosure to the agency of significant financial interests
  • Monitoring of research or project activities by independent reviewers
  • Modification of the research or activity plan
  • Disqualification from participation in all or a portion of the funded research or activities
  • Divestiture of significant financial interests
  • Severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts