Eastern Kentuckians saw a big shake-up in our economy these last few decades.
Despite the circumstances, our community can and will find its way through. We need ideas about how to grow our economy and help stop population loss — ideally, these ideas will be homegrown right here in Eastern Kentucky.
The good news is that thousands of grants are available to qualified applicants in our region.
But before you start applying, you need to understand there are two different types of grants: planning and implementation.
SOAR created this guide to help you understand the difference between planning grants and implementation grants. Each type has its benefits, rules, and practical uses you’ll need to know before applying.
What’s a planning grant?
A planning grant helps an individual or organization transform an idea into concrete plans.
The funds provided by a planning grant support the earliest phases of a project, including:
- Conducting surveys and research
- Creating a business or program plan
- Developing financial projections
- Identifying and establishing partnerships
A planning grant aims to propel the setup of a project or program and give it a strong chance of success. They help you get all the aspects of implementation organized and launch-ready.
Without a planning grant, it can be challenging to access the resources that help you establish a strong foundation for your idea.
Who should apply for a planning grant
There are lots of areas of opportunity to serve the Eastern Kentucky community. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:
- Installing last-mile broadband for residents and businesses in your county.
- Developing a new tourism initiative for your town.
- Creating an event series that promotes local small business.
- Rehabilitating a former mine site.
- Designing a program that supports people recovering from substance use disorder (SUD).
The above goals are just a start.
Consider what ideas you have that can lift up your community and support the local economy.
If you haven’t put pen to paper just yet, start by discussing it with primary stakeholders in your community — especially those who’d be involved with implementation.
If you have their enthusiasm and support, a planning grant may be right for you.
Who shouldn’t apply for a planning grant
If your idea is “shovel ready” — the plans are set and ready to break ground — you’re not qualified for a planning grant.
Instead, you should explore whether an implementation grant is right for you.
How much funding is available from planning grants?
Planning grants pay for smaller-ticket items that help grantees establish program fundamentals. This may include:
- Temporary, grant-funded salaries/wages
- Costs associated with community surveys
- Access to research
Planning grants tend to be smaller awards compared to implementation grants. As a result, people often overlook them.
Don’t make this mistake, especially if you’re at the beginning of your process.
A planning grant just might help you supercharge your idea from day 1.
Each grant varies when it comes to award amounts and eligibility. Check out the grants you have in mind or contact the grant administrators to find out how much is available for the current funding round.
Planning grant case study: Build a Better Shadow Program
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded a $48,000 planning grant to Good Environment, LLC in Wolfe County, KY. The organization applied for the ARC INSPIRE grant program to accomplish the following planning tasks over a 13-month period:
- Design a curriculum.
- Develop a program plan.
- Establish partnerships with SUD recovery organizations that will be pivotal to the program’s success.
The ARC asked for applications that demonstrated a strong connection to the INSPIRE grant program’s bottom line: Supporting the SUD ecosystem with innovative services and programs.
The takeaway here is that Good Environment, LLC came to the table with a strong understanding of what ARC INSPIRE sought from its grantees.
If you have a plan and do your research, you may be well-positioned to win a planning grant, too.
What’s an implementation grant?
Compared to a planning grant, an implementation grant is the reverse side of the coin. It’s intended to support “shovel-ready” projects.
At this stage, your idea should be fully-baked.
And what you need most are the funds to bring it all to life.
Who should apply for an implementation grant
You should apply for an implementation grant if you have:
- A thorough implementation plan
- Researched financial projections and a line-item budget
- Expected program outcomes you’re aiming for
- A process to measure results
- Strong partnerships
- Staff dedicated to monthly or quarterly grant reporting
Who shouldn’t apply for an implementation grant
If you don’t have a well-thought-through plan based on research, input, and financial estimates, you’re not ready for an implementation grant. You might be qualified for a planning grant, though.
Also, if you have some of the above ready to go, but don’t have an itemized budget yet, you shouldn’t apply until you create one.
It’s a requirement from all grantors.
How much funding is available from implementation grants?
Implementation grants tend to come with much larger award amounts.
But each one is different.
Research each grant you’re interested in to determine award sizes and individual grant limits. You can also contact the grant administrator to get the full details.
Implementation grant case study: Kentucky Highlands Empowerment Zone/Promise Zone Operations Project
The ARC awarded $1,500,000 to the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation in London. Its Promise Zone Operations Project will provide critical services to 11 distressed counties in Eastern Kentucky.
These will include access to capital, technical assistance, solutions to support remote work, and career pathway incentives.
This project is another example of the applicant understanding ARC’s requirements and developing a project that will address the community’s long-term economic needs.
Conclusion: Partner with SOAR to level up your grant applications
Now that you’re an expert on planning and implementation grants, it’s time to start preparing to apply for the one that applies to your situation.
There’s no shortage of great ideas coming out of Eastern Kentucky right now. As a result, implementation grants are highly competitive.
You need to invest plenty of time to create a standout application. Part of that process should include asking partners and experts to review your materials well before submitting them.
SOAR is here to help you increase your chances of winning a grant from one of our funding partners.
It’s part of our mission to help you locate the funding you need to get a great idea off the ground. That means we’ll help you with:
- Connecting with funders that match your program
- Reviewing your applications
- Providing feedback to strengthen your materials
Check out our Grants 101 Playbook to discover all of our recommended best practices when applying to grants.