Show Me the Money
If you live in a small town you are used to doing a lot with a little. You figure out how to fix most things with a little elbow grease and duct tape. You bring neighbors together to help each other get through tough times. You’ve even taken on some lighter, quicker, cheaper actions to build community and make visible improvements around town. Sometimes though, you need to raise cold, hard cash to make larger community design and development projects happen.
Where do you start looking for the money? Here’s just the tip of the iceberg:
Government Programs: Several federal agencies have grant programs aimed at helping you take action to improve your community. Some programs, like USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grants, are targeted at growing the economy by supporting emerging local businesses. Others target physical improvements like cleaning up brownfield sites or fixing up local roads to make them more pedestrian friendly. And, the Challenge America Fast Track program looks at how to incorporate design and the arts in community work.
The grants.gov online portal is a searchable database of all federal grants. It’s also helpful to talk with your federal and state agency representatives to find out what opportunities may apply to your community effort. Often state agencies have targeted funds to achieve state priorities around community design and development, too.
Private and Community Foundations: You may also find private foundations with missions that are a fit with what you are trying to achieve in your town. National funding search engines, like the Foundation Center, can be helpful in finding a match. Usually, you’ll have the best luck by starting with your local community foundation, which are a portal into state, local or regional level funders. Some provide free access to national grant search engines and other fund matching services as well.
Local Funding: Beyond tapping into foundations, there are ways to find money close to home. Often local institutions, like banks, have an annual giving program they use to support local efforts. Or, if they aren’t giving money away they may have competitive financing options. Many state and national businesses, from grocery chains to utility companies, have local giving programs that can provide modest support for community efforts. Often it just takes a call to these companies – or a visit to their websites – to find out what they fund and how to apply.
Emerging Opportunities: More recently we’ve seen a rise in various crowd funding platforms, like Kickstarter and Kiva, where people can contribute directly to efforts they want to support. Also, local investor groups are taking root in places like Maine and Washington where a smaller group of investors can match up with local businesses and initiatives. We’re also seeing new funding for local artists through community supported arts initiatives like CSArt Colorado. Ever heard of the show Shark Tank? Well, there are even community funding events, like Possoupbilility in Lousville, KY, where people get to make their pitch to interested supporters at community dinner. Possoupbility calls this a “meal-based micro-grant producing community activity”.
Of course, it’s not enough to just find the opportunities. You’ve got to know how to make a great pitch. Many local libraries and community foundations offer resources including educational classes on grant writing. And don’t forget the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Make sure to think about any relationships you may have with local foundation board members, government program officers or local institution staff. Conversations with key people can be a gateway into a funding opportunity or lead you to resources you may not have known about before.
Whether you’re an old grant writing pro or completely new to the funding game, our January call is for you. Funding Community Design and Development Projects will feature three fabulous and knowledgeable speakers.
Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of GrantStation, will provide an overview of the funding landscape and strategies and tips for creating successful funding applications. Cindy brings more than 38 years of experience in fundraising and a wealth of knowledge about funding opportunities through foundations and federal sources. (As a heads up Cindy will also be offering a full webinar on Funding Rural America on Thursday, January 30th.)
We’ll also hear from Jen Hughes, Design Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Jen brings years of experience working with federal programs like the NEA's Our Town and now the Citizens' Institute for Rural Design. Jen will highlight a variety of federal funding opportunities and tips for successfully leveraging and applying for federal funds.
We’ll round out the call with Erin Barnes, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ioby (in our back yards). Ioby is an innovative non-profit offering a crowd funding platform. Erin will explain crowd funding and provide some tips for successfully building grassroots campaigns.
Join us January 9 for an informative and lively call where our speakers will quite literally show you where the money is.