Community leaders preparing to submit a CFA application in 2022 are probably aware of the July 29th deadline. Chances are, those who are writing grant applications have already spent hours in preparation.
In addition to the formal application questionnaire, submitted through an online portal provided by the State, many programs require an entire checklist of prerequisite steps to be completed beforehand. Omission of any one step can result in disqualification for non-compliance.
Depending upon the program or agency offering the funding, required steps prior to grant submission can include preliminary engineering reports, board resolutions, and/or evidence of public engagement that assures community commitment to the project. When board action or oversight can only take place in thirty-day windows between board meetings, a necessary sequence can involve two-to-three months, if not longer, to complete.
This is why the SmarterLocalGov team at MRB Group works with clients months in advance of the CFA application window. In fact, it’s not unusual for discussions to begin a year or more ahead of the targeted application period. Long-term strategic planning is often involved in complex projects, and the SLG team will work to coordinate subsequent applications to fund multiple phases of one or more projects .
“Having a comprehensive plan in place is really helpful,” said Rhonda Destino, a grant writer and administrator for MRB Group. “It’s a strong foundation for a master plan for funding pursuit,” she continued, “because it lists and prioritizes projects, and demonstrates the kind of community engagement and support that the State wants to see.”
In order to help a community compete effectively, Destino says it’s critically important to understand and address every possible program objective the funding agency is targeting. A compelling application will describe how the project helps the agency reach its goals.
“We align those stars for our clients,” Destino said.
Destino believes her years of experience has taught her valuable lessons about writing compelling grant applications.
“It’s an intense and detailed endeavor,” she said, noting an extra pair of hands and eyes can make all the difference.
“Our team members work closely together to make absolutely sure we’ve checked and cross-checked our task lists,” said Destino.
For communities in their early stages of project prioritization, Destino and the SLG team have put together resources that can help leaders and their staff navigate the process. A less complex version of the same grants task list utilized by Destino’s team can be found at the Local Government Resources page at mrbgroup.com.
In the meantime, Destino says it’s not too early to initiate a 2023 application. While there may be new programs and newly defined objectives, it’s best not to wait to find out. Instead, she recommends starting with the community’s list of projects, and then prioritizing them.
“Pursuit of funding should always be directed by project needs, and not the other way around,” said Destino. The most effective way to get things accomplished is to know what you want to achieve in advance. Then you can complete specific tasks to get you the results you want, step by step,” she said. “We can help community leaders identify their targets and the steps on the path to get there. It’s called strategic planning and it helps communities compete more effectively – and accomplish their goals,” she said.