Federal funding opportunity announcements can drop at any time, and when they do, applicants often face a quick turnaround time and numerous requirements to meet.
If you aren’t prepared, you may miss out on grant opportunities that can help future-proof your community and improve resilience against costly disasters.
Below is a list of key considerations for you to become “grant ready” before funding is released, based on our experience helping hundreds of public and private sector clients develop competitive grant applications for disaster recovery, resilience, mitigation, and more.
1. Compile and track available funding
First and foremost, it’s important to have a clear view into all funding sources. Compile a list of available grants and expected future funding announcements. Periodically review the list to include application deadlines and new funding sources.
As you go, make sure to determine your community’s eligibility for the grants you’ve listed. It doesn’t make sense to track funding you aren’t able to access.
There are trillions of dollars available across funding sources, so this can be challenging. It can be helpful to partner with grants management experts to build an accurate list of funding sources.
2. Identify investment needs
Next, identify the opportunities that hold the most value for your community and meet your needs. Develop project scopes and estimates of funding needed to meet project goals, including upfront grant match and ongoing maintenance costs. Determine your vulnerabilities and where there are opportunities for innovation and resilience.
3. Prioritize funding sources
Now it’s time to match projects with funding sources. There are several important considerations for selecting appropriate projects for grant funding:
Scope, schedule, budget
These are the three critical components of any project. If there are unknowns, consider pursuing planning/scoping grants.
Federal agencies can have extended review times prior to award. Choose projects that are planned for at least 18 months after application submission.
Understand the number of people that will benefit from the project. Evaluate whether communities are disadvantaged as defined by Justice 40.
Most grants require outreach and stakeholder engagement as part of the application and/or award process. Include stakeholders in the project planning process to help shape the scope of work.
4. Build an action plan
Take the actions needed to secure funding and capture maximum funding with competitive applications. Nearly all infrastructure funding programs are competitive. Prioritize funding pursuits and develop an implementation plan based on grant requirements, project urgency, and status of design, among other factors such as implementation capacity and responsible stakeholders to drive each project forward. Understanding funding stream requirements can help you to complete a preliminary assessment to determine which projects will be the most competitive for funding.
5. Be ready for upfront costs
Many grants require some level of financial commitment from the applicant. Be prepared for upfront costs and think about cost-share considerations. ICF helps our clients develop braided funding strategies that identify all available funding sources for infrastructure, including cost match, to maximize funding while also tracking funding sources separately to avoid duplication of benefits.
6. Understand cross-cutting requirements
Federal funding opportunities are increasingly focused on community benefits. This includes considerations like efforts to attract, train, and retain a skilled workforce and a focus on incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into workplace culture, hiring, vendor selection, and project benefits. The Justice40 Initiative establishes a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. Understanding the demographics of the populations impacted by your projects can help to shape the scope of work to meet these goals.
By choosing your partners strategically, you can find opportunities to incorporate equity into your planning and grant application. This can strengthen your application for funding with requirements or preferences for equity.
Tracking, planning, and applying for grants is not an easy process, but winning awards can position your community for resilience. Getting “grant ready” will increase your chances of securing the resources you need to move forward with critical community projects.
For additional guidance and support with your unique situation, contact us to connect with our grants management experts.