Institutional Awards Process Explained

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The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) funds international exchange programs through institutional grants and cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations.
Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) are developed by ECA program offices and must be approved by the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs before being announced. Approved NOFOs are published on ECA's website and on Grants.gov.

What you need to know
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Who is Eligible to Apply?

  • U.S. public and non-profit organizations that meet the criteria listed in Internal Revenue code section 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3). These organizations must include proof of non-profit status at the time of the application. Typical applicants are non-profit organizations and educational institutions.
  • In order to be eligible for more than $130,000 in funding, organizations must demonstrate in their proposal narrative or appendices that they have existed as a legal entity for four years and have four years of experience conducting international exchanges.
  • Each NOFO has its own eligibility requirements, so please read carefully.
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What We Cannot Fund

ECA does not write grants to individuals, nor can we accept unsolicited grant proposals from an individual or institution through the institutional award process. This means that ECA cannot fund travel of any sort (including for conferences) or study unless it is part of an existing ECA-sponsored exchange program.

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ECA Grant Review

Once your proposal is received, the program office that issued the NOFO performs an initial review to make sure it meets eligibility requirements and analyzes the proposal against each of the criteria published in the NOFO. If the proposal passes that review, it is distributed to the regional bureaus, embassies, and other relevant elements within the department for comment. Once the comments are collected, a panel of department employees reviews the proposal and makes a recommendation to the assistant secretary. For additional insight into the criteria program offices and grant panel members employ when judging a proposal, visit "Making Your Proposal Competitive."

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Issuing the Award

Once the assistant secretary approves funding for a proposal, a Congressional Notification is forwarded to congressional oversight committees for a mandatory 15-day vetting period. ECA usually begins the work of issuing an award during this period. After the vetting period concludes and any outstanding issues are resolved, ECA sends the award to the recipient and the program can begin. Grants officers are responsible for reviewing the proposals (particularly the budget) and working directly with the recipient to clarify any issues or correct errors. They also work with the budget office to make sure funds are available to the recipient. Grants officers ensure that all costs are necessary and allowable, reporting is up-to-date, and all regulations and terms and conditions are followed. Program officers and grants officers work closely together to monitor the award recipient and the program to ensure the success of both the program and the partnership between the recipient and ECA.

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After a Grant is Awarded

All ECA grant recipients must enroll in the Payment Management System (PMS). This is an electronic, centralized payment system that allows you to draw down funds immediately, rather than submitting a request for funds. For more information, visit "Preparing Payment Requests". Reporting is another important post-award necessity. ECA staff closely review grantee reports to ensure that all costs are necessary and allowable and that all regulations, terms and conditions are being followed. Each grant agreement has its own reporting requirements, and failure to comply with an agreement's reporting requirements may jeopardize your eligibility for future awards. For detailed instructions for readying and submitting reports, visit "Preparing Reports."