U.S. Congressional Staff Dishes Out Grantseeking Advice

September 26, 2011 | By Guest Contributor | Post a Comment

(This guest post was written by Heather Gleason, a public sector management consultant and founder of Azalea City Associates.) At a recent conference hosted by the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, a crowd of state and local government representatives, along with some nonprofit development folks, were hungry for information from the federal folks who control some purse strings.  And a very impressive panel of Maryland’s congressional staff dished out sound advice to grantseekers for surviving in a world of reduced resources and increased expectations.

Dana Thompson, Governor Martin O’Malley’s federal relations director, moderated a panel discussion with representatives for Senator Barbara Mikulski (Bart Kennedy), Senator Ben Cardin (Jodi Schwartz) and Representative Roscoe Bartlett (Myra Kidd).  They talked about the current priorities for grant-funded projects in a “post-earmark” world, and how to demonstrate those priorities in a proposal:

  • JOBS.  Tie projects to job creation, demonstrate a project’s ability to spur job growth, etc.
  • PARTNERSHIPS.  Think more broadly than your own city/county/state/organization.  Pool resources.
  • ROI.  Demonstrate a positive “return on investment” that results in more services to citizens of Maryland.

The panel reminded the audience as budget cuts continue, it is only getting more and more competitive to win grant funding.  To increase the chances of a successful grant application, Bart Kennedy encouraged grant seekers to sustain, maintain and retain:

  • SUSTAIN.  This includes the ever-critical grants management work.  Don’t let things like a missing DUNS # or a lapsed CCR make your grant ineligible for review.  Make sure you are meeting all the goals and objectives of your current projects.  Develop a very focused mission statement that directly supports the goals of the agency/organization from which you are seeking funding.
  • MAINTAIN.  Show how you plan to maintain your work beyond the life of the grant.  If the project creates jobs, how do you maintain those jobs and continue to create opportunities?  Do not focus on maintaining jobs in your specific agency; highlight how a project will do that in your community.
  • RETAIN.  Try to retain the funding you currently have.  There will be cuts.

Although the panelists represented Maryland’s congressional delegation and spoke to an audience of predominantly Maryland grantseekers and grant recipients, their advice is valuable no matter where you are, and worth heeding by anyone who’s looking to obtain federal funds.

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