The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) addresses the economic development needs of 423 Appalachian counties. It primarily does this by providing grant funding to well-positioned organizations that apply for it.
In 2021, ARC invested $46.4 million in entrepreneurship, workforce development, and infrastructure projects.
The ARC POWER Initiative — which stands for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization — is a program that supports communities impacted by the decline of coal.
ARC represents a top funding opportunity for Eastern Kentucky.
If you have a great idea that will bring prosperity home to our region, an ARC POWER Grant could be exactly the boost you need to get started.
Eastern Kentucky residents check a lot of ARC’s boxes right out of the gate. But before you even consider applying for a grant, it’s important to read and understand the ARC’s strategic plan.
You’ll help give yourself the best chance of success by doing so.
You need to know what ARC is looking for, when to submit your materials, and how to set up your application. This includes figuring out how much funding is available and how your particular idea will fulfill a significant unmet need for the Eastern Kentucky economy.
In the meantime, review this checklist to start preparing for this year’s round of grant funding from the ARC.
Are you eligible for an ARC POWER Grant?
The ARC POWER Initiative provides a significant amount of funding to organizations in our region. ARC wants to partner with local residents who have great ideas about how to bring prosperity to our Eastern Kentucky economy.
It can be tempting to let that amount of money inspire you to come up with an idea. But this kind of thinking is not likely to get a response from ARC.
An ARC POWER Grant is for people in Eastern Kentucky who already have a well-thought-out idea or project.
To deliver a competitive application, your concept needs to have strong potential to generate tangible results. This includes coming to the table with the people, processes, and proof that you can get the job done.
If you’ve already developed a set of measurable outcomes and a plan for administering funds once you receive them, then you’re ready to apply for the ARC POWER Grant.
Only organizations or groups with specific qualifications are eligible to apply, though.
- state and local agencies and governments
- local governing boards
- nonprofit organizations
- Indian tribes
- higher education institutions
Note: Individuals or for-profit entities aren’t eligible to apply and receive money from ARC grants.
We’ve also identified some of the top opportunities that are in a position to receive funding from an ARC POWER Grant.
- Broadband projects: If you’re already operating a fiber board in your county, and your feasibility and mapping efforts are complete, you may be eligible for an ARC POWER Grant. ARC funding may offer the support you need to carry out your last-mile implementation plan.
- Nonprofit projects: If you run or operate a nonprofit organization — and you’ve already put together a project and related budget for 2022 — you may be eligible for an ARC POWER Grant. ARC could provide the cash you need to get that project off the ground or enhance your potential impact.
If you’re not ready with a plan and a budget yet, you might want to consider applying for a planning grant.
Planning grants are sometimes lost in the shuffle. By the time an organization is looking for funding, they’ve often already fleshed out their idea and what they need to implement it.
While they’re usually smaller-sized awards, planning grants can be a hugely helpful resource. This is especially true when you need that extra push to get your ideas ready for implementation.
Assessing grants and eligibility
It takes a village to get a great idea off the ground. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from those who’ve been there before you.
The SOAR team can help.
We’ll examine your idea and your plan to make sure it’s viable — and help you determine whether you’d be a fit for the ARC POWER Grant.
The ARC POWER Grant application process: The LOI
When applying, the ARC POWER Grant committee requires applicants to submit a letter of intent (LOI) as a first step. This is important.
A well-written LOI helps you spark interest with a grantor early in the process.
The LOI for the ARC POWER grant is typically due at the end of Q1. This should remain the same in 2022. Keep an eye out for this date, and make sure you submit your LOI before the deadline.
The contents of an LOI are simple. You need to state your:
- Project name
- High-level outcomes
- Grant dollar amount you’re seeking
Expert tip: LOI grant dollar amount
Once you submit your LOI, the grant amount you asked for cannot change.
This is why it’s so important to have your project completely thought through before you apply — including how much funding it’ll take to reach your planned outcomes.
You need to generate an accurate picture of implementation and understand your costs.
If you guess-timate an amount in your LOI — and then your project ends up needing a lot more funding — you’ll have to make do with what you receive. Even worse, if you’re unable to deliver on your outcomes, you may be in violation of your agreement with your funders.
The ARC POWER Grant application process: The application
Step 1: Learn about grants
Before you start, check out this guide to submit a winning grant proposal.
Step 2: Learn about ARC
Next, you’ll want to apply what you know about grants to fulfill ARC’s specific application criteria.
ARC POWER Grant applications must fall under one of the ARC’s 5 focus areas:
- Appalachian Businesses
- Appalachia’s Workforce Ecosystem
- Appalachia’s Infrastructure
- Regional Culture and Tourism
- Community Leaders and Capacity
Your application materials should identify which focus area(s) your project will support. Use data and evidence to back up your case — proving your organization is sustainable is crucial to a grant application.
Step 3: Establish your funds match
To have the best chance of winning funds via this grant, make sure you establish a funds match to meet ARC’s requirements.
While a standard match rate is 20%, the actual number depends on how many ARC-distressed counties your project affects. You can increase that percentage, but only if you’re confident you can fulfill it. As with your grant dollar amount, you can’t go back and change your match rate after you submit your application.
In-kind matches apply. These can include office space, pro-bono services from technical providers, and other valuable resources.
However, cash matches come highly recommended. ARC requires you to regularly report about how your funds match is progressing, and the rules for cash matches are much simpler to follow.
Step 4: Create a system to measure results
As part of your application, you’ll need to show how your organization will keep track of its results and report these to the ARC.
The ARC requires quarterly reports from grantees that show exactly where you’ve spent funds and how they’re supporting your project.
You can download the Guide to ARC Project Performance Measurements to understand exactly what they’re looking for.
It’s important to prove to ARC upfront that you’re prepared to handle their reporting requirements. Your application needs to show them you have at least one person — if not a team — dedicated to the task.
Your reporting committee, team, or staff member will need to be responsible for maintaining a meticulous paper trail. This includes invoices, expenses, salaries, and all other spending items associated with your grant.
Get to know your Area Development District representative — they can assist with grant administration duties for POWER Grant recipients.
Considerations for current ARC applicants
If you still have an open application from the 2021 cycle, you can still apply for a 2022 grant. That said, if you win a 2021 grant, you’ll have to wait for ARC to distribute those funds and close your application before you can receive a 2022 award.
If you apply for an ARC Planning Grant, the ARC encourages you to apply for a POWER Grant, too. If they believe in your ability to develop an idea, they’re likely to believe you can implement it, too.
Getting help with the ARC POWER Grant application
The SOAR team is here to help eligible applicants make their funding dreams a reality.
We can help by letting you know if your idea is valid — and whether it’s a good fit for the ARC POWER Grant.
Get started by contacting your ARC representative for Eastern Kentucky (Scott Sharp). He’ll help clarify your questions about the application and offer advice to help you submit a winning one.
And make sure to watch the recording of the ARC POWER Grant kick-off event.