Searching for State Grants

All of the individual states offer a wide array of grant programs in such areas as water and sewer, transportation, parks and recreation, economic development, historic preservation, law enforcement, and fire fighting. States award grants to municipalities and counties as well as nonprofit organizations. Some states will also offer assistance to for-profit entities in support of economic development. If your organization is a non-profit, get to know your local elected officials. It is quite possible that they will be able to supplement your list of potential funding sources by making suggestions from among the state programs with which they are familiar.

I always search for state sources of funding first. The state programs are easier to access than federal programs due to the fact that the applicant is competing only on the state level and not against other applicants around the entire country. A number of federal programs pass funds through to the individual states for distribution. Other state programs are funded solely by state revenues.

There are several ways to search for state grant funds without expending an inordinate amount of time. The most straightforward is to go to your state’s website, find the state agency whose name implies that it regulates the area in which you seek to find a grant, and follow that link to the information on grants administered by that agency. If you are working for a county and wish to find grant funds for parks and recreation and notice that there is a Department of Natural Resources in your state, it could be assumed that that agency is likely to make grants in your area of interest. In general, grant writers working for local governments soon become familiar with which state agencies are possibilities for funding their projects.

There is a website ( which contains links to all state websites as well as the agencies under that state. In addition, there are also links to certain counties and municipalities. It is possible to click on the state in which you wish to search and then click again on the subject matter you are interested in. This will lead you to the appropriate agency, and it will then be possible to search for grant programs under that agency. There are also links to the executive branch departments and boards and commissions in that state, which is helpful if you already know which agency regulates the subject matter you are interested in. This site is very helpful if you are a consultant working in more than one state.

Developing a Grant Seeking Strategy

Once you have decided which funding sources will be included on your list, it is necessary to develop a plan of action, or strategy. Obviously, it is necessary to sort the due dates in order to address those which must be submitted first. However, a good strategy is more than that. It is a specific outline of what steps should be taken and in what order. In essence, it is a work plan for requesting funds from all of the sources which made the cut in the evaluation process as discussed above. The following rules should be followed in developing and carrying out your strategy:

• Develop a two-page letter of inquiry which needs to be modified only slightly for most of the private foundations on the list.
• Plan to send the letter of inquiry to all of those private foundations for which that is the first method of contact and for which no specific due date is given.
• Set up a calendar which shows the due dates for letters of inquiry to those foundations with deadlines for the receipt of those letters and send them as they come due.
• Plan to personally contact those foundations which require proposals rather than letters of inquiry in order to determine your chances of getting funding. Once these conversations have been held, decide whether it is worth committing your resources to an application.
• Determine which governmental sources represent the best chance of funding. For those which accept applications on a continuous basis, begin with the best fit and work your way down. For those applications which have specific due dates, plan to have the resources committed at that time so that those submissions can be made.
• For those sources which are open for applications only once a year, plan to keep checking every two weeks or so to see if the solicitation announcement has been made. Quite often, these yearly submissions are not tied to an exact date. Some try to invite applications at approximately the same time every year. More often, however, administrative and fiscal matters can cause the solicitation to be made earlier or, more commonly, later, than twelve months after the last solicitation. Some of these programs can actually skip a year or it may be as much as eighteen months between solicitations. I have even seen grant solicitations withdrawn after being published.
• If you find yourself in the position of having a number of sources with applications coming due at the same time, figure out a way to commit staff resources so that all applications can be submitted. Make the decision that the job will be done and that you will find a way to do it. You will regret it if you let a good chance slip away. The application that you decide you do not have time to do may very well be the one which would have provided the funding. Remember, this is just for a short period, and you will get through it. If you really feel that you could not do this yourself, try to farm it out to other staff or consultants.