DOS AND DONTS STRAIGHT FROM THE FUNDING AGENCIES-Part III

Application Process:
 Make letters of inquiry brief (no more than 2 pages) but informative – stress the need for the project, your organization’s ability to carry it out, and the benefits which will accrue from it.
 Respond promptly if a foundation requests a full proposal based on a letter of inquiry.
 Check the web site of a funding agency thoroughly before e-mailing or telephoning so as to avoid asking questions which are clearly answered on the web site.
 Ensure that you have the latest version of the application and regulations.
 Check the math in the budget – although this is obvious, many applicants make mathematical errors.
 Pay attention to those agencies which require that a Letter of Intent be filed prior to a full application. In nearly all cases, there is a specific deadline for submitting this letter.
 Pay careful attention to the rating and ranking criteria when crafting a proposal. Incorporate the application language into the narrative.
 Be concise but thorough in the narrative.
 If there is a specific page maximum, be sure that you come as close to that as possible without exceeding it. You can rest assured that the other applicants will provide as much information as possible.
 Give a descriptive narrative with specific examples.
 Be crystal clear in your writing. Do not “beat around the bush”.
 Be complete and thorough in the narrative – do not leave the reviewer wondering what you mean. Answer the questions completely.
 Use good grammar and correct punctuation and spelling.
 Re-read the application at least twice.
 Give proper attribution for all information derived from others and cite sources for statistical data
 Answer the funding agency’s requests for additional information completely, cheerfully, and on time.
 Send letters of support with the application itself unless the guidelines state otherwise. However, some U.S. Representatives and Senators will only send support letters directly to the funding agency.
 If there is any doubt whatsoever about whether an application will reach the office of the funding agency on time, send it overnight or two-day guaranteed delivery.
 Send the application directly to the person named in the solicitation, with the correct number of copies.
 Check to see that the application arrived on time.
 Start on-line applications early so that you can get your questions answered before the deadline.
 Keep the user name and password for on-line applications in a handy place where they will not be lost.
 Do your best to stave off performance anxiety as the due date for the application arrives – this will impair your ability to do the best job possible.
 Do your best to be available for site visits when the funding agency wants to come. Only change the date if there is an emergency.
Project Administration
 Sign and return the grant acceptance documents promptly.
 Read the grant agreement carefully.
 Call the funding agency or foundation with any questions regarding the administration of the funds. They would rather have you call frequently than have a mess to clean up at the time of the audit. They are worried about those grantees who do not call.
 Ensure as much accuracy in financial recordkeeping as humanly possible. This is what the funding agencies will check first.
 Begin to implement your project as soon as you possibly can. Funding agencies do not like to give extensions and in many cases will not give them for any reason.
 If you are passing funds through to a sub-recipient, monitor their work closely. Your agency will be held accountable if anything goes wrong.
 Check to see what procurement procedures the funding agency requires for any purchases.
 Check periodically during implementation to be sure that the project is meeting the need and fulfilling the goals.
 For projects involving individual beneficiaries, be sure to get all of the pertinent information qualifying that individual or family (such as income verification) prior to approving or disbursing any benefits.
 Be completely cooperative during a monitoring visit and provide everything the funding agency asks for.
 Answer any monitoring findings completely and promptly. Funding for your next project will depend upon it!
 Keep accurate and up-to-date records as the project proceeds.

Free Resources to Search for Foundations

The Foundation Center is the source that I most commonly use when searching for funding from private foundations due primarily to the comprehensive nature of its information. This organization has been in existence for over fifty years and offers information on 98,000 foundations and 1.8 million individual grants. However, this is merely a matter of personal preference. To check it out, go to www.foundationcenter.org. The following is the free information available from this organization:

• A list of the one hundred wealthiest U.S. foundations
• A list of the amount of funding provided by subject area for each year, and the recipients receiving the largest amount of funding for each subject area
• Foundation Finder- the grant seeker may locate foundations by searching either by their name, location, or their employer identification number, which is assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
• 990 Finder- the searcher may locate a particular 990 by inputting either the 990 form type, organization name, location, Employer Identification Number, and/or year.
• Trend Tracker-the user of the service may specify up to five foundations at a time and receive information regarding how much those foundations have given over a seven-year period. This information is provided in bar graph, line graph, and table form.
• Search for Requests for Proposals- the grant seeker may search by subject or browse all of the requests for proposals listed. The website shows a summary of each RFP with a link to the original posted opportunity.
• Map showing grants by U.S. grant makers to groups abroad-this map is interactive and the researcher may click on specific countries to get information about the grants given in that country. • Common grant application forms used by various associations of grant makers throughout the country
• Research studies showing trends in grant making

What is the most useful component of the Foundation Center in your opinion?

Searching for Grant Funds

I have found that search resources and techniques are constantly changing and evolving. It is necessary for the grant seeker to continually stay abreast of new search tools in order to be able to locate all potential sources of funding. There are a considerable number of free search resources. Some of these are print materials which can be found in local and college libraries. However, online search tools have become the norm. Often, community foundations will share their search tools with local nonprofits. For example, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, located in Salisbury, Maryland, has a subscription to the Foundation Center Online. Nonprofits are welcome to come to the office and review this database, along with the extensive library.

Nonprofit organizations looking for foundation money will either need to invest in fee-based search tools or have a wonderful support system in the form of larger organizations which will allow them to borrow their search tools. Many of the search tools for federal and state grants are free. Local governments are in an enviable position. Since most of their funding comes from specific federal and state governments, it is much easier to identify the agencies which can help with their projects. Most of my clients are municipalities and counties, and I very seldom have to do an extensive grant search for them. For example, there are only certain agencies and programs that fund water and sewer projects located in my state. These include the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Maryland Department of the Environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Law enforcement agencies here receive the majority of their funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. Smaller law enforcement projects may also receive funding from local foundations, banks, businesses, and service clubs.

Fortunately, the grant seeker will find a plethora of search resources. This is due in part to the pervasive availability of electronic information. We are in the enviable position of having to spend a significant amount of time weeding out grant search tools and potential funding agencies, rather than having to work hard to ferret out this information. It is a matter of learning to work efficiently and utilizing those search tools which will give the most “bang for the buck”. This could also be expressed as “learning to work smarter, not harder”. Of course, the beginning grant writer will need to take time to learn which search tools provide the most reliable and easy-to-access information. Learning the art of discrimination in this area does take time. Do not be discouraged if you feel at first as if your energy is being scattered in a dozen directions. With patience and diligent work, the grant writer will learn how to make the most effective use of time when doing a grant search.

Being Realistic About Your Capacity to Carry Out a Funding Strategy

Once the strategy has been developed, it is necessary to analyze how your resources match up with the work you will have to do. I advocate doing everything possible to commit resources in order to not miss out on any available funding. In this section, I will be more specific about how you can determine your ability to take on the ambitious project of applying to multiple grant sources. Obviously, if your analysis shows that your organization is unable to carry out the strategy fully, it would be foolhardy to try to do so. You will need to look at the manpower, skills, capabilities, and experience contained within your organization. In addition, your budget needs to be large enough to give you the proper equipment and supplies with which to work. If lack of funds does not allow you to purchase modern technology which will make your job easier, it is more productive to think about how to improve that situation first. Building organizational capacity takes time. Throw away your preconceived ideas and see the big picture.

The advantages of making a structured analysis of capability are as follows:

• Being prudent about committing resources will allow the organization time to develop capacity naturally and without pressure.
• The funding will probably be approved eventually anyway.
• The organization will avoid any missteps which will give funding agencies a poor impression.
• The organization will be able to focus on “first things first” and build its strengths in order to prepare for a productive fund-raising effort/

If an organization tries to take on a major grant seeking effort before it is ready, the following chain of unfortunate circumstances is likely to occur:

• Staff will feel overwhelmed and therefore perform poorly.
• This will lead to a lack of credibility with the funding agencies.
• This will in turn impact your ability to get future grants.
• All of these unfortunate events will cause poor morale among the team.
• None of this has gotten the problem solved.

This can be summed up in one sentence-be ambitious and work hard and do things in logical steps as you are able.

Economic Development Administration Grants

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce gives economic development grants to communities. One of the major thrusts of EDA funding is public works projects in support of new commercial and industrial development which creates a substantial number of new jobs. In fact, the “name of the game” at EDA is “jobs, jobs, and more jobs!” The agency is interested both in projects which create new jobs as well as those which retain jobs which are in danger of being lost. Grants are generally made for up to 50 percent or more of the project cost, although EDA may contribute a higher percentage if an area is experiencing severe economic distress. EDA is particularly interested in projects which have a regional focus, overlapping state boundaries. Examples of projects funded include construction of broadband service and infrastructure for industrial parks such as water and sewer service, roads, and storm drainage. Grants are also made for planning and technical assistance projects. Local governments and regional planning organizations are eligible to apply.

The grant writer is strongly advised to discuss the project with EDA staff in the regional office serving her geographic area. Grant funding of greater than 50 percent is provided to those areas considered to be economically distressed. Criteria for economic distress include a high unemployment rate; a low per capita income; or a special need such as substantial population loss, major natural disasters, closure of industrial firms essential to the area’s economy, and the destructive impacts of foreign trade.

EDA makes funding in several areas including the following:

• Public Works and Economic Development Program-This program funds infrastructure in support of job creation and retention, such as water, sewer and streets.
• Economic Adjustment Assistance Program- This involves assistance given to regions having economic challenges. This assistance may be in the form of infrastructure construction, planning, or technical assistance.
• Research and National Technical Assistance-provides funding for research in regard to economic development best practices which can be applied on a national or international level
• Local Technical Assistance- As its name implies, EDA assists local and nonprofit sectors in economically distressed regions to implement viable and successful economic development strategies.
• Planning Program-Under this program, assistance is given to local planning organizations in the development of their Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). This is discussed in more detail below.
• University Center Economic Development Program- This program promotes a partnership between the federal government and various universities so that the resources of these institutions of higher learning are available to local governments and organizations which need assistance with economic development.
• Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms Program- A national network of eleven Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers is available to help manufacturing and production firms which have lost domestic sales and employment due to increased imports become more competitive in the global economy.
• Global Climate Change Mitigation Incentive Fund-This program was established to strengthen the linkages between economic development and environmental quality. The purpose and mission of the GCCMIF is to finance projects that foster economic development by advancing the green economy1 in distressed communities.

An area may apply for designation as an Economic Development District. The advantage of this designation is that any subsequent applications requesting assistance for public works projects may receive an additional 10 percent in EDA grant assistance.

The EDA process, in all honesty, is lengthy and complex. The application requires a significant investment of time. However, the part of the process which requires the most substantial amount of money and staff time is the development of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. This is a very detailed planning document which describes the assets and challenges of an area; outlines specific goals and objectives; and describes in detail the specific projects designed to alleviate economic distress, including the timeframe in which these projects will be implemented, the amount of funding needed, the source of that funding, and the responsible entity.

For smaller jurisdictions, it is unlikely that existing staff would have either the time or the expertise to develop a CEDS. There are consultants who specialize in this type of work. However, even when a consultant is hired, the staff time required to support the consultant is considerable. Another factor which increases the amount of work and time put into a plan is the requirement that a committee representing a broad cross-section of the private and public sectors must be involved in the development of the plan. This document must be updated regularly for the jurisdiction to continue to be eligible for EDA funds. In the final analysis, the time and money spent to develop a CEDS is well worth it if the community wishes to receive EDA funding for large projects. More detailed information on EDA programs is available at http://www.eda.gov.

EDA has done an excellent job of listing other resources for economic development on this web site. These resources include both funding and technical assistance. The grant seeker should click on “Resources” on the main EDA webpage. This will open up a very helpful listing of organizations and government entities which will assist in this effort. One of the most valuable is the listing of state and local economic development offices. Each state is represented on this listing. In many cases, the link will take the grant seeker directly to the agency within that state which deals with economic development grants. In some cases, however, the link will take the reader to the state’s general website. When that occurs, it is necessary to scroll down the list of various state agencies in order to find the one whose name intuitively implies that its purpose is to promote economic development.

Other resources shown on this site are the following: Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers, University Centers, federal agencies in partnership with EDA, economic development foundations, national economic development organizations; and Economic Development Districts. The page dealing with economic development foundations is merely a searchable database of foundations in general. The researcher will need to specify the words “economic development” in the search. This is not a listing of foundations which only fund economic development projects.

Searching Service Clubs and Organizations for Grant Funds

Service clubs and organizations are among the most reliable sources of funding for local projects. Many of these organizations are part of a national organization which may fund specific types of activities consistent with their philosophy, orientation, and interests. These clubs may be service-oriented or fraternal organizations or both. The following entities may be able to provide a list of the service clubs in your area:

• local libraries
• chambers of Commerce
• municipal or county government
• news media

Service clubs vary widely in the source of their revenue and the amount that they have available to give. In several counties in my area, fraternal and service organizations are permitted by the state to have slot machines. However, this comes with the caveat that a certain percentage of the revenues realized through the slots will be donated to charity.

Most of these clubs appoint a committee to oversee the grant process and review requests periodically. It would therefore behoove the grant seeker to determine who the chairman of the grant committee is and make their approach to that person. I have seen a number of instances where a letter requesting funds is sent to the organization as a whole but not to the attention of any particular person. These requests generally are either lost or sit on someone’s desk for a long time. It helps a great deal if someone on the grant committee is already familiar with your organization and knows your work. It is rare that a service club will request more than a simple letter. Most groups try to keep the process as uncomplicated as possible.

Once again, I would recommend that the grant seeker contact as many service clubs as possible in order to maximize the chances of receiving funding. The same letter could be sent to all the organizations with only minor modifications.