Book a Life-Changer

Ms. Mann I will keep this as short as possible. Five years ago I retired from the federal government (NIH) early out program, at the age of 55. Golf was not enough, so my wife purchased your book “Getting Your Share of the Pie” for me. I read your book twice and attended your webinar. Four years ago I applied for and received a position as Project Manager with a small Maryland Municipality “Cottage City” a town of about 1600 residence. In four years I was able to write and receive grants in excess of $640,000 for the town of Cottage City Maryland. With the help of your webinar, your book and my wife, I was able to accomplish becoming a grant writer and project manager. The post script to this story is: that for 30 years I had been a filmmaker, videographer, producing and directing programs for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, my services were being contracted out, I thought that my time had passed. Well, not so, I am making a difference in peoples lives through Grants. After this summer’s MML (Maryland Municipal League) Conference, the job offers are coming in not for a Producer, Director but for a Grant writer. How’s that for a story.

Stanley Mosley, Cottage City, MD

Grant Writer’s Spotlight on Grant Central USA Features Valerie Mann

Go to the link below to read an interview with Valerie Mann on Grant Central USA:

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

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.

Demographics and Other Research

One of the most critical elements of any proposal is solid statistical documentation. This is the most compelling way to make the case as statistics are a common denominator which can be used to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Most grant applications require some sort of numerical data. Solid documentation of this type is one of the most convincing ways for a grant writer to make a compelling argument for a project because it makes the need seem believable and more real.

An example of how this works would be the hypothetical case of a grant writer who is trying to show that the majority of residents of a particular neighborhood are of low-and moderate-income status. The proposal writer would need to gather statistics from a recognized source to document this. Data from the Census offers information on household and family income for various geographies from the block level up to the national level. This is the most widely recognized source of demographic, social, and economic data in the United States. In our hypothetical example, if the proposal writer is lucky, the neighborhood in question may conform to Census geography. It is possible that a particular block group may comprise the neighborhood in question. Where this is not the case, the writer may need to work with individual blocks in order to build data which corresponds to the neighborhood in question. A detailed discussion on what information is available through the Census and how to use it is provided later in this chapter.

The grant writer may also use other indicators of economic distress such as the level of poverty, the age of housing in the area, the median value of the houses, median contract rent, number and percent of housing units lacking complete plumbing or kitchen facilities, and number of families not owning a vehicle.

The writer of a grant proposal for a heritage tourism project, such as the development of a small local museum, could use this same information in order to make the case that the area in which it is located exhibits economic distress and therefore show the need for a tourist attraction. The application should document that promotion of heritage tourism will bring in needed dollars to stimulate the local economy. In this instance, since we are talking about an area broader than just a single neighborhood, it would be appropriate to use unemployment statistics which are available by county from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor).

Tips for the 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.

Basic Elements of a Proposal

Never underestimate the importance of doing a superlative writing job on the grant application. This is one of the most critical predictors of success. However, many people are under the impression that the grant writer’s skill in writing is the only important thing. In my opinion, the most critical factor is a well-designed project which meets the identified need with the most economical use of resources. The best written proposal cannot disguise the fact that a project is ill-conceived and designed and will not accomplish the desired outcomes.

The following steps should always be followed before beginning to write the proposal:

• Read the entire solicitation at least twice from beginning to end.
• Call or e-mail the contact listed in the solicitation in order to discuss the project and to make certain that it meets threshold requirements.
• Determine whether it is possible to gather the data and write the application by the deadline-the grant writer will need to consider his or her own schedule and pace of working as well as the availability of colleagues who will be involved in preparing the grant application.
• Determine the feasibility of obtaining statistical data to directly support the project.
• Determine the feasibility of obtaining supporting information from others.

It is very important to write in a style which conveys the urgency of the need and the necessity for the project. The application should be written with feeling and give a sense of the serious consequences to the beneficiaries if the project should not be funded. This is the “human side” of the request. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to teach someone to write with feeling. That generally comes about with practice and a passion for one’s work. Some of the individual stories of the potential beneficiaries can be used to show the very serious and personal nature of their distress.

The Golden Rule of grant writing is to be specific. Vague and general statements will not get the grant money. If the grant writer is working to make a specific point, he or she should be very clear, use statistical support and examples, provide a clear picture of the need, the project, and the outcomes.

Writing a Statement of Need for a Grant Application

Although this is one of the most important parts of any grant application, it also tends to be one of the most poorly written. One of the reasons for this may be that many grant writers just assume that the need for the project is obvious. Do not assume anything. The grant writer must make the case for both the need for the project and the need for financial assistance to do the project in a very clear, comprehensive, concise, and compelling manner. These are the four C’s for writing any grant application. This section is no place for vague, general, weak, or “stretching” statements.

Grant reviewers are not fond of flowery language. They tend to regard this type of verbiage with suspicion. It is as if the grant writer does not really have anything substantial to say and relies upon words designed to disguise the fact that there is no substance to the proposal. Whenever I read something like that, I feel rather insulted, as if I had been confronted with a particularly bad sales pitch. What counts with grant reviewers is a simple, direct statement of the facts. Please let your facts shine through and speak for themselves. They do not need to be embellished or exaggerated. Do not, under any circumstances, tell falsehoods in your application. This will damage your credibility with the funding agencies and word will get around. Your success rate will plummet rapidly. At the risk of sounding redundant, I will say it again: it is not worth the risk.

As I have said before and will certainly say again, it is very important to be specific. The use of statistics, when available, makes a very compelling case. Individual histories and anecdotes are also helpful. In short, anything which can help the reviewer to get a clear picture of the project should be added to this section of the narrative. The basic elements of a well-written project need section are just commonsense. They are as follows: general description of the situation, the number and type of people affected, the extent to which these people are affected, and what will happen if the project is not done.

Funding for Law Enforcement Agencies

There are many sources of funds for law enforcement agencies for such purposes as the hiring of new employees, overtime, and the purchase of equipment. A significant portion of the funding available to law enforcement agencies is passed from the federal government to the states for distribution to local police departments and sheriffs’ departments.  In addition, many states appropriate funds from their own budget for this purpose.  Generally, one agency plays the lead role in distributing the NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability), and accepting and reviewing applications.


In order to determine the agency which handles the funding for law enforcement in your state, go to the website for that state. Do a search for the state agency which handles law enforcement issues.  In most cases, that is the agency which distributes the grant funds.  In the state of Maryland, this agency is referred to as the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.  However, in New Hampshire, for example, the appropriate agency is referred to as the Department of Safety. In Nevada, the administering agency for law enforcement grants is the Department of Public Safety.


The single largest source of law enforcement funds is the U.S. Department of Justice. There are a number of programs administered by this agency which are channeled directly to local law enforcement agencies.  A significant portion of the funds, however, are channeled to the states for distribution.


There are three separate categories of grants awarded by the U.S. Justice Department to localities. One of these is the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants.  This funding was created by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The theory behind this program is that crime can be reduced by having law enforcement interact with the community through special events and neighborhood- oriented patrols.  This program also recognizes that such activities as Neighborhood Watch, Operation ID, and D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness and Resistance Education) can also have a significant impact on reducing the crime rate.

The Importance of Critical Thinking


In the grant field, critical thinking is absolutely necessary. The caveat here is to take nothing for granted. I would like to point out several areas where grant writers should think critically. These are just examples and it is incumbent upon the grant writer to use this type of big picture thinking in all aspects of their work. These examples are as follows:


  • Do not assume that what has worked in another place will work in yours.  It is necessary to consider how the geographic location of that project affected the results.  If that is the case, then it might not be completely transferable to your area.
  • Do not assume that intangibles do not count in a project. Not everything can be measured in a scientific and mathematical way. Most projects do not take into account how individual will (or lack thereof) can affect the results. This is particularly true in projects having a social services component. An after-school program may not take into account students who are unusually ambitious and dedicated.
  • Do not assume that the staff of your agency necessarily has the capacity to carry out a particular project. It is necessary for the grant writer to mentally put herself and her colleagues into the picture of the new project and try to visualize the various pitfalls as well as strengths there might be in a given situation.
  • Do not assume that commonly accepted remedies to problems are always the best way to go. One of the best examples of this is working to create new jobs in a community and not being selective about what types of companies come in. Always putting the creation of new jobs ahead of environmental considerations will, in the long run, be detrimental to the community.


Reasons for Rejection of an Application

There are many and various reasons for rejection of an application.  Some of these are as follows:


  • The grant proposal is poorly written.
  • The project is a poor fit with the need and will not do much to alleviate that need.
  • The proposed activities are not clearly thought out and do not seem feasible.
  • The competition from other applications is overwhelming.
  • The application is good and the need is great, but other projects will serve even needier populations.
  • The funding agency does not have confidence that the applicant has the capacity to successfully carry out the project.
  • The applicant has had problems in administering other grants.

Part of the problem is getting to the real root of the rejection.  This can sometimes be difficult.

A debriefing is a discussion with the funding agency as to why the application was not funded.  Many governmental agencies will be happy to discuss the reasons for rejection.  However, I would urge the grant writer to listen to the debriefings with a bit of caution.  Feedback is sometimes given by staff members who were not actually reviewers and were not charged with the responsibility of assigning points to the application.  When this is the case, something can sometimes get lost in the translation.

Overall, however, it is an excellent idea to request a debriefing.  This information can be invaluable in developing the proposal for a re-submittal or for a submittal to a different agency.  This is especially true for beginning grant writers.  As one gains more and more experience, it will be easy to see the weaknesses in your proposal even prior to submittal.  I would definitely recommend that a proposal still be re-submitted even though there are minor flaws in it.  Sometimes these can be worked out with the funding agency.  Sometimes they are so insignificant as not to matter.  It is important to take to heart the information received in a debriefing and attempt to remedy the problems identified.