Top 5 Things to Know About Identifying Grants for Your Project

It’s best to cast a wide net when it comes to identifying grants for your projects. We help clients navigate the process, identifying and often combining funding sources and assisting with required documents and a comprehensive project justification. Here are five ideas that will help you navigate what’s available, along with tips for a successful submission.

  1. Navigating what’s available
  2. Identifying grants for your project can often be challenging, so think broadly. Here are a few resources to help you start navigating your search.

    • – This site posts federal grants and other financial assistance programs agreements. It features ways to get started, such as seeking federal grants that align with your work. You can save searches and receive alerts based on search parameters.
    • The Guidebook to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – BIL provides funding for transportation, water, resilience, and other projects. Download the data into a helpful spreadsheet and sort to determine what might be available for your project.
    • State and local funding agencies - State and local funding opportunities are less publicized than federal, so monitor these agencies (councils of government, state departments of transportation, etc.) for grant and low-interest loan programs.

  3. Understanding agency funding and matching
  4. Funding can come in two forms: formulaic to an agency or competitive grants distributed by an agency. Understanding that agencies get funding from many sources through predetermined formulas is important because those funds are distributed to state and local agencies who typically contract the work out to third parties. Following the distribution of those funds requires tracking those agencies’ plans and their associated procurements.

    Competitive grants require understanding the eligibilities and submissions, tracking individual agencies who manage the grant programs, and monitoring notice of funding opportunities.

    Both programs typically require matching dollars, meaning federal funds can only cover a certain percentage of an identified project, often an 80/20 ratio. There are certain sources of federal and state funding which can be used for meeting the match requirement, but this must be vetted with the funding agency. Match requirements can sometimes be in the form of in-kind contributions or real property, depending on the stipulation in the grant guidelines.

  5. Rising to the top of the grant application pile
  6. Addressing competitive grant eligibility requirements involves creativity, motivation, and strategic thinking. Important things to keep in mind:

    • A grant submission should be clear and direct. Answer all questions thoroughly and concisely and address all listed requirements and supporting documentation.
    • What are the merits of the project? Consider the main features when preparing your needs statement.
    • Applications are more interesting to read that have a clear scope and work in details about the character of the community that the project will serve. Many grant agencies look for projects that are supported by the local community.
    • Create a solid foundation, stick to it throughout the narrative, and include graphics that clearly outline the scope of work. 
    • Pay close attention to the eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria. When in doubt ask the agency directly.
    • Attend agency webinars or info sessions and check the grant program website for FAQs.

  7. Timing is everything
  8. How do you know if a project is fully developed and ready to move forward with securing grant funding? Awareness of the environmental review process is critical. Federally funded projects are required to comply with the environmental review process. Some environmental analyses can be a lengthy process, so start early. If you aren’t sure what level of analysis your project will need, contact the local federal agency office and check with state agencies for local requirements.

    A grant checklist and common grant program questions are two tools that can help an agency with proactive grant pursuits instead of reactionary grant work.

    • Notice of funding opportunities are often released two months before applications are due. Complete the preliminary work early, such as developing answers to common grant questions.
    • Allow ample time for review. A great rule of thumb is to get a final draft to the client one month before the application is due. Grants are very similar to proposals; no deadline slips.

  9. Being Persistent
  10. If a grant application isn’t successful, request a debrief with the funding agency. It’s important to get feedback, improve the application, and resubmit or reuse it for a different program. Then you will know how to be competitive for the next cycle. A large percentage of grants are eventually funded if the applicant is persistent and keeps trying.