"This isn't your mother's grant application."
One of the first questions we often hear from newly elected officials is: “How do we successfully obtain grant money?"
Being able to show their constituents that they have obtained so-called "free" money is a feather in their cap. Rarely are local elected officials in a position of fully understanding just what is necessary to be awarded one or more of these competitive funds. They know they are out there and look to the manager to "make it happen." Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as one might think. Few administrative teams are able to devote the time and expertise required to be successful in the multifaceted world of obtaining grants on a regular basis.
Today's grant application process requires a lot of preplanning to ensure you have the required supporting documentation. Applications that are thrown together at the last minute are quickly eliminated in the review process. For example, if you have a comprehensive plan, when was the last time it was updated? It really should be reviewed at least every five years, but ten or more is quite common these days. So, if you apply for a grant that includes requirements for a comprehensive plan, you’re more likely to be considered if your plan is relatively up-to-date than if it’s been 15 years since your last update. That’s because the grant funders want to see that your application is consistent with your comprehensive plan and that it has been thoroughly vetted through community planning efforts.
The day-to-day oversight of a municipality can be very time-consuming for a manager and his or her staff. It is a daunting task to find someone who can wade through the mountain of information required to meet grant funding guidelines and get it correctly plugged into the online application portals that are now the industry standard. In addition, those grants that are of significant value are very competitive. If you don’t give your application the time and attention needed to win the grant award, you've merely wasted time that could have been spent more productively elsewhere.
A recent podcast featuring municipal professionals focused on this very issue. The panel highlighted the need to prioritize grant funding processes and to employ a strategy that focuses on addressing the community's long-term needs. This will put you in a better position to not only obtain needed funds but to continue to be successful in leveraging external financial support for your community. Furthermore, once you have solidified your ability to obtain and manage the funds correctly, you garner the respect of grantors, and they will anticipate a quality application from you and successful project implementation.
David Kratzer, Managing Consultant for Keystone Municipal Solutions, was one of three participants in this in-depth discussion. The podcast is available at: https://njhessassociates.com/podcast/the-art-of-obtaining-grants/. I encourage you to listen closely to the suggestions this panel provides and think about how it applies to your situation. Starting out with a long-term plan and setting the stage for success is just one way to be on your way to fulling the needs of your community. Tips for what to apply for, what contacts you should make, and what pitfalls lie ahead make this a "must listen" for any municipal official. Simply put, today's grants are not like the old days.
"Fire this thing up" and listen to the podcast. The KMS team is ready to assist you with its lineup of professionals.
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.