There’s no shortage of great ideas that come out of Eastern Kentucky.
We’re blessed with resources that provide unique opportunities for business, economic development, and adventure tourism. Equipped with these unique resources, our people have adapted, innovated, and achieved greatness — providing a source of inspiration throughout our Eastern Kentucky communities.
But the challenge we face today isn’t a lack of innovation. Usually, it takes money — lots of it — to translate ideas into reality.
As Congressman Hal Rogers often says, “An idea without funding is a hallucination.”
Grants provide the bridge between ideas and action.
However, just because there’s a lot of grant money available to businesses and residents of our region, doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily win it. Without a competitive grant application, grant funds will remain with the funder or be distributed to another project or idea.
The way to submit a winning grant proposal is through diligent preparation. Those who’ve been there before will tell you: A strong game plan will help your grant proposal stand out from the crowd and win the funds you need.
We’ve gathered four tips from the experts about what the best grant applications include. Set yourself up for success by following them in order.
Tip 1: Preparing to apply
The number of grant opportunities out there can be overwhelming.
Before you start filling out applications, you’ll want to take a step back and create a plan. To give yourself the best chance of receiving funding, you’ll want to ensure you’re familiar with best practices.
Do you have specific goals for your idea — and a method for measuring progress?
Most types of funding will require you to have well-defined goals with measurable outcomes. Sorting this out on paper will help speed up the application process. You’ll also need to provide details about who your work impacts and why it’s important.
The more hard data you can provide, the stronger your application will be.
Another critical step when preparing to apply for funding is building community support and partnerships. That’s because grantors know these types of relationships will increase the chances of bold ideas succeeding in the long term.
The types of partnerships you need will depend on the program you’re trying to build.
For example, if you’re seeking broadband funding, developing a public-private partnership (PPP) will be essential. Or, if your idea focuses on education, showing support from the local school district will go a long way.
Finally, you’ll need to get a team in place.
Show grantors you’re ready to take action by designing the infrastructure you need for implementation. Then, assemble the people and resources to carry out those plans. This will help build faith among your potential grantors that you’ll be able to translate your idea from goals to outcomes — and maximize the impact of their funding.
One of the top items a grantor will look for on an application is a plan for how the funds will be administered if you win them. They want to understand what team member will be dedicated to managing this process. And they want to see a schedule of when, how, and to whom different amounts of the grant will be distributed.
For the strongest grant application, it’s important to have these details ironed out before submitting.
Tip 2: Locating the right funding for you
Before you apply for funding, you should research the full scope of opportunities available. This will help you focus your efforts on the funding opportunities that are the best match for your idea.
You’ll quickly find that there are a lot of opportunities out there.
The easiest way to whittle down these options is to identify the grantors who share the same vision, goals, and outcomes you want to achieve with your idea.
Once you find these grantors, you should reach out to ask questions. See if they can share more details about the types of work they’re looking to fund. Understanding the funding outcomes they’re looking for will help you determine whether you’re a good fit – and importantly, whether it’s worth the time spent applying.
Your time is precious, and identifying the opportunities that aren’t a good fit is an important part of the process.
Doing your due diligence will help you learn how to weed out the opportunities that aren’t a match — and prioritize your efforts for the ones that are. Most importantly, it will help your application stand out from others.
Tip 3: Applying for funding
After all that preparation, you’re ready to apply for funding.
We’ve rounded up the top advice from successful grantees to help you prepare the strongest applications possible.
- Read the grant application carefully. Be sure to understand the requirements. The last thing you’d want is to take yourself out of the running because of an oversight.
- Follow directions and answer questions completely. You should make it as easy as possible for grantors to access the information they need to process your application. Create your materials to follow the application instructions.
- Weave data into your story. Grantors are looking for applicants who can prove they can use the money immediately and effectively. It’s your job to convince them your program will have the ability to provide solutions that work. You’ll also need to prove you’re prepared to comply with any funding requirements they have.
- Don’t overstate your goals or what you hope to accomplish. You’re accountable for how funding is spent, as well as the outcomes you promise. It’s great to be ambitious — just be sure your goals are something you can reasonably expect to achieve.
- For matching grants, know how you’ll obtain trackable funds that meet requirements. Matches could include volunteer hours or cash from other sources. Each grant is different, so be sure to check the rules for each one.
Hold onto copies of all materials you submit for your grants.
This will help you gain efficiency in your efforts. And be sure to follow each new application’s instructions. Adapt your materials and responses to the needs of each potential grantor.
Tip 4: Reviewing and submitting your applications
Once you’ve created your application materials, ask team members and partners to read through them to ensure you’ve answered all the questions completely.
Do this before you submit.
Grantors recommend you ask a third party unrelated to your organization to review your applications before submitting them. It can be easy to overlook inconsistencies or mistakes once you’ve been working so closely on a project.
This approach can benefit you by providing insights from trusted organizations that are invested in your success.
They can also help you gain an outside perspective on how you’re telling your story, what’s working well, and where there’s room for improvement to increase your chances.
The SOAR team is here to help.
We are happy to provide feedback on an initial grant idea to let you know if it’s fundable or not.
Conclusion: Get the resources you need to apply for funding
If you have a great idea, there are support systems available to help you make it a reality.
At SOAR, we’re inspired by the innovative abilities of Eastern Kentucky’s leaders, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. We believe each and every one of our partners has a purpose to pursue in building a 21st century Appalachia.
That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive set of resources to help changemakers like you fund their next great idea.
Visit the SOAR website to learn more, and schedule a free consultation with a member of the SOAR team to get started.