Get Up And Go

Before you begin, it is important to know what the grant makers expect, what they have funded in the past and how they like the information to be presented. Here are some helpful suggestions to get your enhancement project off the ground:

• Know your project and have a clear idea of how the project fits the requirements of the program. One of the most common reasons grants are denied is because the applicant does not have a clear and concise summary of what they want to fund or how enhancement funds will move the project forward. Too often applications appear to chase funds instead of embrace the “fit” between the need and the source. I frequently prepare a project summary that defines the project, how it will be funded, how the grant will satisfy the need to move it forward and identify those resources that have been assembled to implement the project. Using this approach will help you clarify your message and understand the fit between the enhancement program funds and your project.

• Learn as much as you can about how the program is reviewed and administered. Program administrators can provide great insight into how proposals are scored, evaluated and ultimately decided upon. In addition, program management staff can clarify ongoing reporting requirements and related responsibilities the grant recipient must assume if the project is funded.

• Research how funds have been awarded in the past. Remember, transportation enhancement funding can be applied to 12 different funding categories. The question is, how have these funds been used historically? I am reminded of a situation I experienced while listening to a regional planning commission discuss committing enhancement funds to a streetscape project.

The commission saw the project as a local concern with limited to no regional transportation benefit and the regional enhancement program had never been used to fund this type of project. The applicant stressed the project’s eligibility but the commission didn’t fund it, in part because they had no history of supporting this type of project.

This is not to say that you should avoid pursuing funding for projects where the use of funds are eligible but the agency has no history of using funds for that purpose. Instead, you must compensate for the novelty of the concept by working with the grant maker. In addition, look for data on common uses and ways funds have been used as well as how applicants have exceeded the local match requirements to make applications more competitive.

• Review past grants that have been funded. Don’t plagiarize past applications. Do examine them to see how questions have been answered, the type of supporting data that has been provided, applicant’s approach to justifying their need for financial support and how the project would be implemented.

• If possible, meet with staff responsible for managing the program. While virtually every agency that administers enhancement program funds can provide technical assistance to applicants, some agencies may have policies that prohibit staff from discussing specific proposals. For those that do not have this limitation, meeting with staff to summarize your proposal and confirm observations garnered from prior research of the program can be very helpful in validating your reasons for pursuing an enhancement grant. In addition, staff can provide helpful insights into how similar applications have been considered and make suggestions to bolster your application.

• Determine if the program is a good fit for the funding needs of your project. Make a decision on whether or not the fund is a good fit for your project. If it is, then use this insight to prepare a draft proposal.

• If possible, meet with staff to review a draft proposal. Following the preparation of a draft document, try to schedule time with program staff to review it and determine if information is complete.

• Share your appreciation. Assuming the proposal is funded, share your appreciation with staff that provided assistance. After all, they like to see projects funded and successfully implemented.

Data sources used to prepare this article include: Iowa Department of Transportation Funding Guide and Federal Highway Administration Web sites.

Jim Halverson is a senior project manager and grant writer for Howard R. Green Company (HRG). One of HRG’s most successful grant writers, Halverson has won funding on every grant he has authored for HRG clients. He recently presented a workshop on how to compete for EPA Brownfields grants at the EPA Brownfields 2004 Conference in St. Louis.

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