Grant application tips: 3 C’s for winning disaster management funding

Grant application tips: 3 C’s for winning disaster management funding
By Ryan Arba
Jul 11, 2023

While there’s been an unprecedented surge of funding in recent years, that doesn’t mean every grant application will be awarded funding. The amount of funding available has increased, but so has the number of applications.

Our team helped hundreds of private and public sector clients develop grant applications, and we’ve identified a few key principles that set apart the ones that win.

The grant applications that are compliant, compelling, and competitive—the “3 C’s”—tend to stand out in the applicant pools. Let’s dive into the framework to help you increase your chances of winning disaster recovery and mitigation funding.

1. Compliant

The first thing to ask while developing your grant application is whether you have addressed the requirements in the funding opportunity announcement. All questions must be thoroughly addressed and supporting material should be included when applicable.

Being compliant means that you’ve taken the time to read through the funding opportunity announcement and have made certain that your application touches on every single item that the federal or state agency requires.

For each claim, it’s recommended that you provide a reference or supporting documentation if the program allows. Some examples include a hazard plan, references to scientific articles, or quotes that justify the need for funding.

2. Compelling 

Next, ask yourself whether your application is clear about how the project will drive the outcomes that the grant program is trying to achieve. Don’t just focus on the direct project outcomes that will be achieved with the funding; focus on benefits of the project to the community at large.

The project should achieve a resilience outcome instead of simply meeting an unfunded need. Maybe you have a high fire risk, or you've had repetitive hurricanes, and a grant will support a project to mitigate risk from future disasters. Speak to what the benefit would be to the customer, citizens, and/or the community at large if your project is completed. 

It helps to start with the impact to the residents first and then work backwards to your project rather than talking about the infrastructure needs from the perspective of your organization. Some examples of a community benefit include reducing wildfire risk, increasing energy reliability, or providing for individuals with access and functional needs.

3. Competitive 

Lastly, make sure you’ve made it clear why the grant agency should select your project over others. In some cases, several hundred other applicants may be competing for the same award.

It’s critical that you show why your hazard risk is high for the impacted community compared to other areas of the state or country. You may also be able to increase the competitiveness of your application by selecting projects that include disadvantaged communities, which helps meet Justice 40 goals.

Climate change is rapidly reshaping the landscape of the Western United States, challenging preconceived notions of wet and dry areas and amplifying the risk of devastating wildfires. Drought, coupled with shifting wind patterns and increased wind speeds, is dramatically altering regions that were historically considered wet and, thus, lower fire risk.

As we face this new reality, it is imperative that applicants seeking support for projects do not rely solely on recent disasters as evidence but instead draw upon the latest research to anticipate future conditions. The ability to articulate how your project will account for these anticipated future conditions may be the crucial factor that separates a winning application from the rest.  

By acknowledging the transformative impact of climate change and demonstrating a proactive approach to adaptability, an applicant can demonstrate long-term resilience to safeguard their communities from the escalating threat of wildfires.

Turning an average grant application into a winning grant application 

Here is an example of an application summary that was developed without the 3 C’s:

Electric utility ABC is dependent on a transmission line that is scheduled for repairs in two years. In order to maintain service, ABC must build a temporary sub-transmission line to provide power for one distribution circuit serving 3,000 customers. ABC is looking for federal funding to pay for the temporary sub-transmission line.

Now, here’s an example of an application summary that was revised using the 3 C’s:

The ABC community encompasses 3,000 residents in the state’s most severe fire risk area. In addition, the community suffers from high outages due to wind events and severe winter storms. To increase reliability and reduce risk, utility ABC is proposing to create a new, redundant loop using “tree wire.” The result will drastically reduce outages and wildfire risk for the community and ensure that individuals with access and functional needs get life-saving power.

This project summary is successful because it creates a compelling story that is clear about the potential impact of the project, explains how the project will remain compliant by meeting all requirements, and shows why it deserves funding over other projects. 

Meet the author
  1. Ryan Arba, Senior Manager, Disaster Recovery

    Ryan is a disaster recovery expert with over 10 years of experience in complex disaster recovery and mitigation projects.  View bio

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