Creating a Competitive Edge in Grant Applications
Four Areas of Focus to Set Your Project Apart
Every organization strives to create a competitive edge during the grant application process. At McGill, our team of seasoned grant writers, researchers, engineers, and administrators are here to help you and your organization gear up to secure as much funding as possible to move your project forward. Let’s look at four areas of focus to set your project apart.
Align Your Project with the Appropriate Funding Agency
The most important step you can take is to understand the various funding agencies’ purpose, priorities, and goals. Once you understand the goals of each agency, then you can align your project with the appropriate funding source. Agencies have developed core values, goals, and strategies that outline a multi-year plan. These plans may be revised every five to ten years, depending on change in leadership and policy shifts.
For example, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Infrastructure provides the majority of water infrastructure grants and financial assistance to improve water quality and address core water and wastewater infrastructure needs. This includes water quality, wastewater system improvements, and / or stormwater improvements. Furthermore, the Appalachian Regional Commission focuses on investing to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in communities throughout the Appalachian region.
Project Benefit to the Community
Once you have aligned your project with the appropriate funding agency, the next step is to look at project benefit, specifically answering: what is the need, how your project will resolve the issue, and how will it benefit to the community at large? Benefits typically address a quality of life, public health concern, critical infrastructure, or an economic development need. It is critical that you understand the deficiency within the community and how specifically completing the project will make an impact. For example, it could be a low water pressure challenge. You will need to clearly showcase how your project will resolve the pressure issue and how the identified improvement will benefit those affected.
Funding agencies want to see strong organizational management. Infrastructure projects include utility system management, involvement of stakeholders, and community partnerships. There are organizational plans and / or infrastructure system plans that funders look at to demonstrate strong organizational and financial management. These include a capital improvement plan, asset management plan, and a watershed protection plan. When submitting grant applications, you must demonstrate a history of strong organizational structure that showcases your ability to maintain and sustain the project over time. For example, if it is a downtown revitalization project that includes streetscape and façade improvements, showcase long-term maintenance of the proposed improvements and the active collaboration between the area stakeholders and partnering agencies.
Affordability of the Project
Competitive projects demonstrate the sustainability of the project going forward. The project must have a realistic budget and be affordable for the community. Ask yourself these questions: what is the cost of the project, what is the need we are addressing, and what is the cost to make the improvements on a day-to-day basis? McGill is a resource to help you put the financial puzzle together through an analysis of revenue options, system maintenance, projected capital investments, and funding reserves options to maintain your project in the future.
Stay Connected to the Funding Agencies
In addition to the tips above, be sure you are communicating with the various funding agencies along the way. Reach out and connect with agency contacts and discuss your project. Their input and insight are invaluable throughout the grant application process.
For more information on McGill’s recent success in assisting 8 communities in receiving over $11 million in funding read: State Water Infrastructure Authority Awards Funding for Infrastructure Improvements.
To discuss your community’s specific needs, reach out to RJ Mozeley, Senior Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 828.328.2024.