At JEO, we understand the importance of grant application season and how challenging the process may seem. To help you reach success, we've compiled the five most important things to consider in your application. Although grants are a significant funding source, it's important to remember that there are various ways to fund a project, through resources like private donations, low-interest loans, and tax credits. From here on, we'll reference funding sources or resources in general, as opposed to just grants, as these tips will work with any resource you apply to. Let's get started!
Tip #1: Start Early
Funding sources all have different deadlines and requirements. When applying, make sure you understand when these deadlines are and what you need to finish before then. It's crucial to finish early, so you have time to review and make edits before submitting it. There may be changes to the project or essential information that should be added to the application that could be missed if there isn't time to plan beforehand and review afterward. This year especially, there may be a decrease in available funding because of COVID-19. A well-polished and thought out application will be better received and increase your chances of approval.
Tip #2: Know Your Funding Sources
Similar to deadlines, funding sources may differ in requirements, scoring, and funding amount. Knowing these details will help you pursue funding sources that are most applicable to your project. One suggestion is to break down your project into smaller chunks and find qualifying grants for specific parts of your project. For example, a new outdoor recreation center with a soccer field, aquatic center, and dog park may qualify for one large grant but may also qualify for smaller grants based on funding priorities of individual programs. Separating these projects into smaller pieces allows you to apply to multiple resources, focus on specific components of a project, and deal with less competition. You'll be able to describe these individual components in more detail and to the fullest extent. If you can recognize which funding sources align best with your project and which parts of the project you can break down, you can get the most out of the resources available.
Tip #3: Establish Personal Contact
By establishing personal contact, Terry Meier (Senior Grant Writer at JEO) explains that acceptance of an application can increase by up to three times. Funding sources want to establish a connection with the project and be viewed as a partner in the solution, not just as a money machine. Some funding can be spread out for up to three years, so starting a connection early creates a foundation for years to come. Once a funding source has established a relationship with you and believes in your project, they'll want to advocate for your application. And if they don't believe in the project, you'll be able to save yourself time by pursuing different resources.
Tip #4: Be Ready
A readiness to proceed with your project is imperative to its success in your application. Many funding sources have time limitations, so your project should be near ready to start when you turn in your application. What this looks like can vary depending on what stage of the project is being funded. Funding sources want to see this readiness, so they know that if they fund your project, you'll be ready to begin. If there are tie-ups with land, environmental issues, or the community, your grant may not be approved, and you may have to wait until the following year to reapply. If you can't show that your project is ready to start, they may select a different project that is.
Tip #5: Answer All Their Questions
Finally, funding sources will ask specific questions about your project that you should be sure to answer to the best of your ability. They’re asking the questions for a reason, and your answers help them make a final decision. If there is something else relevant to the application and reviewers, like background information, feel free to include it even if it isn't a question they asked. If you do get stuck along the way, you can always call the funding agency and ask for clarification, but be respectful of their time. Go through the entire application first and write down all your questions before calling. The key thing to remember is to include all relevant information while answering their questions and meeting all requirements.
With these tips, you'll create a memorable application and connection with your choice of funding sources. Remember: Starting early, doing your research, and creating a personal relationship will get you far. The application process can seem intimidating, but following these tips will make the process smoother and help you tackle application season.