Don't Fear Grant Match Requirements!

One of the most common reasons we see communities not go after grant funding is because they are overwhelmed by match requirements. They say, “We can’t possibly apply because of the 50% match requirement!” Our response is hogwash. Finding match funding only requires thinking creatively and collaboratively.  Here are some ideas for you to consider:

Leverage past grants. We never apply for a grant that doesn’t help leverage securing another one.  What we mean by this is that when we’re preparing the first grant of several pursuits, making it clear in the narrative that awarding us funding will help secure the next grant. Your application becomes more compelling when you can show how a funding agency’s investment leverages additional dollars.

For instance, our team helped the Alaska Native Village of Huslia secure $550,000 from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for rural housing. We delayed construction for a year to leverage that award for another $550,000 of funding from the Indian Community Development Block Grant program. We doubled our construction dollars and can build two more homes because of this strategy!

We will also get creative in expanding or altering the scope of work from different projects to link them together. For instance, we have recommended water quality and public education grants for skate park projects. Site work is a big portion of the construction budget for a skate park. Why not put in some permeable pavement or low-impact development treatments for storm water while you are at it? Doing so reveals new funding sources to leverage against one another while amplifying your impact at the same time.

Partnerships with Community Organizations. If you can become a master of facilitating partnerships you will be unstoppable! Many organizations won’t put in the upfront time and energy to forge meaningful partnerships with other organizations. Sometimes it's from fear of having less resources to work with when dividing it up or not knowing how to craft a win-win arrangement. Here are a few examples of this working well:

  • The Native Village of Northway partnered with Tanana Chiefs Conference (a non-profit), and Alaska Power & Telephone (for-profit local utility) to pursue economic development and energy conservation funding. Feedback from the reviewers confirmed that the strong organizational partnerships (and signed Memorandum of Agreement to prove it) were instrumental in their success.
  • Partnerships with other types of organizations can provide access to funding otherwise not available to you. The Natives of Kodiak, Inc (a for-profit corporation) partnered with the local city and county government to pursue EPA funding for redevelopment of contaminated lands. While the Natives of Kodiak were technically an eligible applicant, they were unlikely to be successful because of their lack of grant management experience and limited scope of work. By partnering with the City and County (serving the entire island of Kodiak and multiple tribes), the team was able to leverage match from each partner in the form of in-kind labor and payment for grant writing services.

In-Kind Contributions of Labor or Materials. First off, be sure to check with the grant you are applying for to confirm that they accept in-kind contributions as match. In-kind means a donation of labor or materials instead of cash. The best resource to leverage of the two is labor. If someone’s already salaried and doesn’t need to be paid by the grant but will still be spending 40% of their time implementing it, value that time as match.

Materials can be more complicated. It’s easy for businesses or individuals to pledge materials at the outset of a project, but when it comes time to pay it, sometimes those deals fall apart. Look for material donations that are more reliable like donating use of heavy-equipment, access to public meeting space, or help with advertising.

Leverage Debt. Remember that example we just gave with the Native Village of Huslia? The total project cost for the original project was roughly $700,000. We could apply for a maximum of $550,000. That left a deficit of $150,000. If we didn’t show a plan for funding that gap, we wouldn’t be successful in securing the grant. To address this, we calculated the cost and terms for a low-interest loan. We could do this because the project produces revenue with monthly rent to pay back the loan.

Now here is the sweet part: we most likely won’t have to take out the loan. If the Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) is successful, it will cover the remaining $150,000 plus extra funding for another two housing units! If the ICDBG grant isn’t successful, the tribe will proceed with taking out the loan, which still presents excellent returns for the community.

Corporate Sponsorship. Sponsorship can manifest in many ways. If you want to raise funding from local businesses, we suggest making a project prospectus that outlines clearly what can be sponsored and how that reaches their target audience. We are considering making a free project sponsorship toolkit. If this interests you, drop us a note on our Facebook page.

Naming Rights. If you are constructing or renovating a new building, consider selling naming rights  in exchange for a significant investment in the project. Almost all sport fields are named in this manner – such as the the Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, or AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Determining how to properly price the value of the naming rights can be complicated; it depends on how big of an audience your project will serve, that a prospective company wants to reach. For local projects that cost between $3-15 million, we suggest a naming right valuation between $200k- $1m.

Sales, Toll or Venue Revenues. Even non-profits should have some product or service they charge for as a revenue source. Not only does this reduce your reliance on grants, it can be provide a consistent resource for match funding.

Public Bonds. If you are a larger community, you likely have infrastructure projects for roads, parks, schools, and public safety services on your local ballots. If you work for any of these departments and the public vote supports passing a bond, be sure to leverage that against a future grant.

For instance, for a transit agency we took a bond to upgrade the bus barn and used a portion of it to leverage another $1 million grant to fund electric upgrades for no-emission buses.

For smaller communities that live in tax-adverse areas, still don’t shy away. Form a project advisory committee of community leaders and enlist their help in determining which bond repayment method is most palatable to the community. Sometimes it’s not that voters won’t pay for the project, they'd just rather pay for it via bed sales tax rather than a property tax.

A Word on Fundraisers. We do NOT suggest counting on small-scale fundraisers as a good source of match funding. It takes a lot of bakes sales to put much of a dent in most project budgets. The value in local fundraisers is in demonstrating public support for the project to funders. 250 small donations of $10 sends a strong message for support of the project if you are a community of just 2,000. Leverage those events to document public support but not as an important source of match funding.

Wrapping Up. We could go on and on about match, so ping us your specific questions and we will help you brainstorm in the comments! Want to learn more about matching funds, how to document it, and how to prepare a resolution committing funds? We talk about it in each of our three courses. We always recommend starting with the Project Planning course, but if you want a second opinion, don’t hesitate to contact us and we can help you find the right course to start with depending on how far along you are in the project planning process.

You can also find more great, FREE tips and tricks on grant writing here.

Photo by Jonathan Saavedra on Unsplash

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