Grant Writing 101

As September approaches, Parks & Recreation Departments will be in the thick of budget season with many new questions in the current COVID-19 world.  While operating budgets are being meticulously picked through and may be subject to no increase or a decrease, the importance of capital improvement projects for our existing infrastructure and creating new community amenities is more evident now than ever.  Faced with the temporary closure of many recreation opportunities and lots of free time, residents have rediscovered the ease of visiting their local, regional and state parks. 

When faced with paying for capital improvements in our parks, grants have traditionally provided the financial or resource support to help those projects become reality.  With Congress passing the Great American Outdoors Act on July 22, 2020, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is now funded at its fullest level.  There is now even greater financial stability for PA DCNR to support projects throughout the Commonwealth – including your capital improvements!

If this is your first time ever applying or you’re a veteran, keep these steps in mind as you navigate the grant process:     

Step 1: Choosing the Project – Select a project that appears in one or more of your long-term planning documents, fulfills a pressing need in your community and/or builds upon a previously funded endeavour.  

Step 2: Choosing a Grant – There are many funding sources out there, but try and find partners that align with the spirit of your project.  Begin your search with PA DCNR, PA DCED, PRPS and NRPA.

Step 3: Do Your Research – When reviewing the grant application, review the background documents referred to in the application.  These documents will routinely provide you with the criteria that your request should be addressing.  If you do not have the time to review the entire document(s), split the work up amongst several staff members.  This is a great way to get project buy-in and gain other perspectives.  And don’t forget to review your own planning documents for references to your project so you can highlight the work being part of a larger community plan.       

Step 4: Be Creative – So you aren’t sure that your project fits the bill?  Don’t be afraid to think creatively about how your project, its goal and the impact on your community connects to the goals of the funding partner.  Mine those background documents and search for connections between your project and the grant.   

Step 5: Bullet Points for Precision – Use a bullet point method during two distinct parts of the process: 1. When reviewing the questions, create a running list of every way your project applies to the question. & 2. When answering the questions, consider using bullet points as part of your answer to make it obvious to the reviewers how you are addressing the questions – don’t bury your answer in fluffy text.  Be direct and to the point.  

While the grant application process may appear daunting, but when broken down into small bites, you’ll find it manageable and absolutely achievable. 

Author: Derek Dureka

Upper Dublin Township Parks & Recreation Director, CPRP

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