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Are Grants Worth It?

As a local government leader, you seem to be bombarded with information on grant programs for everything from economic development to tree preservation.  On the surface, it seems like a great idea—fill out a few forms and let the checks roll in.  But, once you dig in, you recognize that the application process is much more complicated than you originally thought.  Is it worth it—are all these questions and forms worth the chance to fund your priorities? 

There are always plenty of questions when it comes to the grant process and each grant itself, but the good news is that most answers can be readily accessed with a little research. The better you are able to prepare yourself, the less surprises (delays) there will be along the way. Delays happen–almost always, and sometimes they can be a serious hurdle when it comes to the grant process, particularly when dealing with initial applications.

How do you ready yourself?  In nearly every case, there are lots of resources around and available to you.  Each grant program usually belongs to an identified agency, a further identified program, and has an identified contact. There are also webinars, in-person training sessions, and many people who have already walked in your shoes and would be happy to share; so don’t reinvent the wheel–reach out!

Now is the time to take the steps needed that only you and your team can tackle:

  • Planning,
  • Research,
  • Preparation,
  • Execution

Each of these steps are imperative to smoothing the path ahead.  In most cases, much of this work has likely already been started in one form or another. Now it is a matter of tracking and capturing it–knowing what you need for the grant and what you already have will be key to knowing if this is a grant worth applying for.

  • Are you even eligible?
  • Will your submission be competitive?
  • Is now the right time to apply?

Many times the best decision can be to NOT apply for a particular grant. However, if you know you have the required pieces and are dedicated to the application, the path forward becomes much more manageable.

In preparation for writing a grant, it is best to have all the proper agency registrations and log-ins completed as soon as possible, as some mistakes and incomplete answers can cause extensive delays.

Grant applications are a competition, and now that you have chosen to engage, make it count. Each step along the way is an investment in that particular project, but also to the community itself. All time committed to the process will create an ever growing, ever engaging, knowledge effect that, although difficult to measure, will certainly develop. It will provide unexpected benefits to the organization, your priorities and your project as the nitty gritty gets hashed out.  The investment of time and resources toward the grant application process will produce great gain toward public engagement, creative ideas, best practices and priorities that will set the stage for continuous investment in your community’s future.

If by chance your application is not successful, you most likely will get a second crack at it, and you’ll have all the knowledge you gained in the first attempt. Remember those contacts at the agency you made early on? Once the awards are announced, they will now have a newfound freedom to be able to discuss it with you. They can provide you the next level of do’s and don’ts. This debriefing process can be the most educational and beneficial information; informing subsequent and future applications, while significantly increasing the likelihood of receiving the grant the next time you apply.

Once you win a grant award, the work is far from over.  Grant administration is as complex as the application itself, and requires preparation as well as continued engagement with the agency and other key stakeholders. Pinpoint execution will allow you to move your current and future projects along in an efficient manner, and to the benefit of all involved.

Grants certainly aren’t easy, but they aren’t impossible either.  Use the resources available and around you, to minimize the grunt and to get you the grants!