As Peg Bors, Landscape Architect III from City of Tampa, says, “We secure grant funding if possible.” While securing grant funding is often a key step in turning a public project vision into reality, the process for earning a grant can be complicated.
Many projects can be held up for years waiting for grant funding, and the large number of projects requesting grant funding means more competition for those dollars.
So how do you overcome these issues to maximize grant funding and stand out from the competition? To foster that conversation, we reached out to a few municipalities to get their input.
What are your tips to maximize funding for a public project?
“Develop a good set of plans, an accurate cost estimate (with annual cost escalations), and a schedule/phasing plan that makes sense. These documents are the tools needed to help secure funding for construction, whether it is from a GF bund allocation, part of a bond issue, grants and/or donations.
Some grants allow force account or volunteer labor to count towards the match – secure these funds with a cash match, and then replace some of the match with allowable services, stretching that funding a bit more.” - Matt Compton, City of Charleston, SC
“Look for ways to combine projects if possible to leverage funding sources. We recently combined a creek bank stabilization project with a parks trail project. By including both upgrades in one project there were savings in administration and construction phase services. We have similarly combined bridge replacement and road projects with trail or storm water projects using funding sources from different budgets to efficiently plan and construct a more comprehensive project.” - Russ Batzel, City of St. Peters, MO
“To effectively maximize project funding, Charleston County Transportation Development Department staff works to keep projects on schedule. Completing each phase of a project as quickly as possible allows the Project Managers to work in today’s dollars. In a fluctuating market, the price of materials and labor often increases over time. Multiple changes to design or delays in constructions can quickly add to a project’s cost. Proper time management of an infrastructure improvement project allows for work to be completed at the current market rate. This practice often translates to tax dollars saved, and occasionally leftover funds to address additional transportation needs.” - Taylor Hall, Charleston County, SC
What are the biggest roadblocks when it comes to getting public grants and how do you overcome them?
“Public grants work best when you have a ‘shovel ready’ project, or one that is nearly so. The amount of time required to satisfy seemingly simple permitting requirements can obliterate a schedule and consume most of the allowable performance period of a grant. If you are seeking funds for design/permitting and construction, try to frame it as a two-phase application. Some grantor agencies are willing to provide a contingent grant and/or commit to funding the second phase in the next round of grants.” - Matt Compton, City of Charleston, SC
“Competition from other applicants can be a roadblock for limited public grants. Preparing a complete and accurate grant application is essential and demonstrating clearly multiple benefits of a project such as adding a multi-use pedestrian path to a road project can help achieve higher scores. Also showing cooperation among project stakeholders or acquiring right-of-way ahead of the project can make a big difference.” - Russ Batzel, City of St. Peters, MO
“A lost grant opportunity often arises when grantees receive unclear applications. Most grant applications request specific information to ensure that grantees have a full understanding of the project. When a grant application does not provide a clear picture of a project or how the requestor will utilize the awarded funds, often the project will not receive funding. By having a grant specialist on staff, Transportation Development ensures that all grant applications clearly address the required criteria.” - Taylor Hall, Charleston County, SC
We’re interested - what has worked well in securing grant funding for your agency or municipality? Send us your suggestions if you have any words of wisdom to add!