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Nuances of Grant Funding

Written by: Katherine Holmok, PLA, ASLA, Director of Green Infrastructure

As local funds shrink, agencies are strongly encouraged to apply for competitive grants and low interest loans. But, what happens if you promise too much, ask for too little or the project scope balloons? Utilizing existing staff to write grants is often the right move.  Environmental Design Group has learned that creating a thoughtful funding proposal, performed or assisted by a seasoned grant writer familiar with similar project costs and specific grant future obligations, can provide 20/20 vision for the project.

Developing a successful grant application takes knowledge, skill and experience, not only with the type of project, but also with the grant agency’s priorities, assumptions, quirks and long-term maintenance requirements. While it may seem more cost effective to handle the grant writing process in-house, an investment in project scoping assistance can pay off with winning a higher percent of grants and more accurately anticipating project details like permits, agency review times, and mandated public involvement.

Accuracy of construction cost estimates and project timeframes are two of the greatest pitfalls to a successful funding application. Just as it’s essential to select a skilled mechanic who’s worked on your type of car, developing a construction cost estimate with a firm that has performed that type of work is imperative for success.

Grant funding can be a balancing act

These estimates become a part of the contractual project documents, and granting agencies typically do not provide additional funding if contractor bid prices come in higher than estimated.  Cost estimates need to provide price fluctuation flexibility, buffering for permit changes, weather considerations, and construction methodology changes.

There is no such thing as free money. Grant funders have goals they are required to meet.  However, when a funder’s goals and objectives do not align with your agency’s priorities, future obligations can be onerous and possibly unmanageable. Many clients contact us to discuss potential funding sources; however, when future obligations are reviewed, the grant no longer fits their needs. This quick consultation can save hundreds of man hours and potentially prevent the undesirable action of returning a grant once future obligations are understood.

Ohiopyle Green and Complete Street, funded by PennVEST

Grants are not a quick fix, but if well planned, can be a valuable revenue resource. If you have a staff grant writer, you may be all set.  However, if you don’t have the qualified internal resources to create effective grant applications, Environmental Design Group can help!

Augmenting your staff with a seasoned consultant grant writer can provide immeasurable benefits. We can help you evaluate funding sources, potential projects, and provide holistic services. Our grant writers are also planners, landscape architects and engineers, and if making a great community impact is on the table for your next project, we can help you see your vision through.


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