Top 10 Grant Tips for a Strong Grant Application

Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) and Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) have a lot to offer communities looking to develop downtowns, parks, trails, and waterfronts. Understanding funding programs, like Consolidated Funding Application (CFA), and all of the requirements from the New York State Department of State, Empire State Development, Department of Transportation, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, is critical to the success of any community project, but where do you start?

While the availability of traditional funds may be delayed, take advantage of this time to strengthen your application with these tips, and be ready to hit the ground running.

1. Identify the desired project

  • What is the “need” for the project – the challenge it might solve? (Infrastructure improvements? Park upgrades? Trail connections? A marketing study to attract new businesses to Main Street?)
  • What are your goals and objectives?
  • Develop and concept and approximate budget.
  • Establish a desired schedule or timeline for the project.

2. Review possible grant sources

  • How can the funds be used?
  • Is there a timeframe for using them?
  • Which is best suited for your project?

3. Understand the grant criteria

  • Review, Review, Review!

4. Ask questions early

  • Reach out to the funding agency with questions early in the process. If applying through the CFA portal, reach out before the portal opens! Your local REDC contact person or the agency providing funding may be able to give honest, open feedback about your potential application, and tips for strengthening it.

5. Identify the project’s benefits

  • Gather “data” if possible
  • Physical (health and recreation, infrastructure, safety)
  • Social (community identity, education, mental health, multi-generational impact, benefits to underserved groups or minorities)
  • Economic (spur additional investment, tourism, support future growth, short and long-term jobs)
  • Environmental (natural and cultural resources)

6. Find support for the project

  • Is it identified in a community plan, such as a recent Comprehensive Plan?
  • Make sure the applicant has the capacity to administer the funding, or support from another group or agency (eg. a town may get support from county staff).
  • Gather letters of support – consider local business leaders and politicians, as well as residents.

7. Leverage your assets

  • Volunteer groups, in-kind services, donations, other ongoing projects that will benefit or connect to this project – is this the missing link for a larger idea?

8. Engage the community

  • Show public feedback and support – an online survey to identify goals
  • Use social media to get creative during socially distanced times

9. Develop a concept

  • Create a graphic to represent your project and “show” funders your ideas (plan, perspective, map)
  • An image can help generate funds from grant agencies, and also from donors.

10. Develop cost estimates and/or a project budget

  • Make sure to account for administrative cost, design fees, and construction funds

If Saratoga Associates’ professional and technical services can be of assistance with the preparation of concept plans or budgets, please don’t hesitate to contact us!