How to request money from the Federal Government: Programmatic Appropriations & Community Project Funding

Submitting an appropriations request

Submitting appropriations requests to senators and representatives is an important part of our Migratory Bird Joint Venture DC Fly-In – it’s how we officially request the funding we advocate for during member meetings in DC. Physically showing up in DC is a critical part to the MBJV advocacy process. Yet, it is only one part of the puzzle. The second is to formally submit an appropriations request to each office you visited for $25 M for programmatic funding for 1234 North American Waterfowl Management Plan/Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (program title: Migratory Bird Management). A separate request must be submitted to every member of Congress that you visited. The request needs to come from a non-federal partner. 

Congressional offices have different timelines for appropriations requests, which are often open for 1-4 weeks after the President’s budget is released. You can usually sign up to receive notice on when appropriations are open by contacting your Senate and House representative offices directly. Appropriations requests must pertain to a government budget item. For instance, our MBJV request for $25M is for line item 1234 in the US Fish and Wildlife Service Budget. Project requests that do not have an authorized specific budget line item are best made via Community Project Funds (CPFs), rather than appropriations (see below for more on this). All requests that can be specified in an agency’s budget, for example Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Department of Agriculture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, should be submitted to individual Congressional offices sometime after the President’s budget is released.

The appropriations & budget process

Each year the President unveils a draft federal budget (usually in February or March) which identifies the administration’s priorities and informs how federal funds will be allocated in the following fiscal year. Actual budget decisions and adoption of a final budget is the responsibility of Congress. See graphic below for example from 2021. Once the President’s budget is released, appropriations committees in each chamber of Congress (each led by a majority and minority leader) allocate how federal money is spent on specific government programs. 

Only about 25% of the federal budget is spent on “discretionary” spending, which requires annual appropriation by Congress. The other 75% is “mandatory” (things like social security, Medicare, interest payments on federal debt) and not subject to annual budgetary decisions. Of the discretionary funding, about 50% goes to defense spending and the other half is where all other federal programs are funded (including the Departments of Transportation, Education, Interior, etc.). This is where advocacy for specific programs can affect spending decisions (i.e., appropriations decisions).

When submitting a request, offices may ask for the following information:

  • Appropriations subcommittee (Interior, Environment, and related agencies);
  • Type of request (Program);
  • Previous fiscal year appropriations AND president’s budget request (FY24: $16.8M and FY 25 President Request $17.6M);
  • Is a member of Congress circulating a sign-on letter for this request? (for FY 25 YES – Padilla (CA) on Senate side and Khanna CA-17 on house side);
  • Program Description and utility to local/regional offices. 

Community Project Funding

For projects that do not have a specific appropriations request, you may be eligible to submit a proposal for funding through your Senate or District office for Community Project Funds (CPFs, sometimes referred to as earmarks). Each representative may request funds for up to 15 projects. Senators have an unlimited number of requests they can submit for funding. Most requests fall below $2M. 

A CPF is defined as “any congressionally directed spending, tax benefit or tariff benefit that would benefit an entity or a specific state, locality or congressional district”. Funding is specified to a recipient and therefore not subject to competitive award processes. In order to find out more information about the CPF process, you need to contact your Senator and Representative office directly. Oftentimes, the CPF guidelines will be released alongside appropriations requests. While some offices have CPF forms, others may simply request that you submit your project directly to their office via email. Thus, it is important to reach out to your Representatives office directly in order to identify the process (see 2024 member requests). Staff at the SFBJV can assist you in navigating these requests in the Bay Area.  

* See helpful infographics on Federal Discretionary Spending (2022)