Step 4 (continued). Federal Grants and Loans

There are many federal grant programs that fund watershed related initiatives. In order to determine which source of grant funding is most appropriate for your program or project, it is important to do some research before writing your proposals. Graphic showing two people doing research; meant to illustrate the importance of researching potential funders.Before you begin to search for grant opportunities and write grant proposals, consider these pros and cons.

Pros

  • There are lots of options. Government agencies give a lot of money to watershed groups annually. You are likely to find a few that will support your group.
  • Grants come in large amounts. A grant can give an organization a large infusion of money to create a new program or redefine an old one.
  • Credibility. A grant signals that someone outside your organization is willing to invest in your success. This can increase your credibility with the media, prospective donors, businesses, and other grant-giving organizations.
  • Leverage. Some grants, specifically challenge grants, are designed to help raise more money by matching dollar for dollar the donations that are given by members. Other grants require a match from the grantee.

Cons

  • Lousy odds. There is a lot of competition for grant funding and many successful applications are only partially funded.
  • Long waits. It can take several months for the applications to be reviewed and processed and for applicants to be notified. If you are successful, additional paperwork will be required. For example, you may be asked to make amendments to the workplan and/or budget. Grants are not usually an appropriate option if you need money in a short amount of time.
  • Restricted money. The majority of grants are directed toward specific projects, not general support. This greatly limits your flexibility. A grant is a contract and you are legally bound to use the money are described in your proposal workplan. Any significant changes will need to be negotiated with the funding organization.
  • Who's accountable to whom? Grants can shift power over your programs to someone outside the organization. If you are not careful, your work can get distorted in the pursuit of money.
  • Paperwork. Increasing demands for accountability require you to devote significant time to measuring and reporting results.

Before writing your proposal, you should consider these tips provided by EPA's Office of Grants:

  • Rule #1: Believe that someone wants to give you the money! Be convincing and confident in your argument, and do the research to convince the funder why your project is important.
  • Start with the end in mind. Look at your organization's big picture. Who are you? What are your strengths and priorities? Keeping that vision in mind, create a plan not just a proposal.
  • Do your homework: Research prospective funders. Look at what types of projects and organizations they have funded in the past. Try and search locally first.
  • If you need the money now, you have started too late. A successful grant proposal is one that is thoughtfully planned, well prepared, and concisely packaged. Understand the length of the application and review process.
  • Look at grant range and average size. For a first time applicant, the grantmaker will usually consider an average grant but not one at the top of their range. Also, learn how the money is distributed and if matching funds are required. For example, some grants will provide grantees money upfront. Others grants are reimbursable and require that the organization has enough money to absorb the upfront costs.
  • Read the application requirements and follow them carefully. Graphic showing Grants.gov logo.While format and other guidelines may seem trivial, grantors like government agencies may not consider proposals which do not meet the application requirements exactly.

In addition to grants, loans such as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund are available for assistance with capital projects.

Additional Resources on Grants and Loans

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