grant writing

How NOT to Use Grant Funding

By Christi Southerland

A recent news article exposed a former Drexel University professor of spending over $189,000 of federal grant funds at local strip clubs and sports bars over a 10-year period. This professor didn’t just misuse funds of one federal grant, but a total of eight separate grants from the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Navy. These research focused grants should have funded activities revolving around technology advancements for public benefit, but instead were misused. The University is now required to pay the funds back to the granting agencies.

money-laundering-4315218_640.jpg

This is the classic case of how not to use your grant funding. As we identify potential grant opportunities for clients, it is important to highlight how the grant funds can be used as they are awarded. Each and every grant program spells out exactly how funding is to be used in their open solicitation, notice of funding, or other similar guidelines (yes we know these are boring to read, but they are a must).

Grant awards typically fall into one of several categories, detailed below:

  • Reimbursement – Grant-related activities must be paid in full by the awardee prior to receiving any grant dollars. This allows the awarding agency to review all expenses and ensure that money is being spent properly. This can be troublesome for some grantees that do not have available funds to front all project costs, but does reduce the risk of misuse.

  • Partial Payment – Some grant programs will pace award payments throughout the grant period. For example, awardees will be given 25% upfront to begin work, 50% at the halfway point, and 25% upon project completion. Each grant program will be unique and percentages will vary. The final payment might also be a reimbursement, which ensures that the awardee has actually carried out the project before they receive their final funding.

  • Upfront Payments – Though these programs are rare, some grants will allow recipients to receive all their funding upfront in one lump sum. Fewer programs offer this payment structure, specifically due to the problems that arise as detailed above.

audit-4190945_640.jpg

Granting agencies can protect themselves from the misuse of funds through required reporting. Each grant program will have their own specific requirements, with some requesting little details and other programs asking for incredibly detailed data about all aspects of the project. Prosperity always reviews the reporting requirements with our clients to ensure they are aware of what to expect even before they apply for the grant.

Want to learn more about how Prosperity helps our clients in searching for and applying for grants? Contact us today at grants@prosperityag.com.

Funding Search: What is it? How can it help?

By Jessica Murnane, Prosperity Ag Project Coordinator

Searching for funding? We can help.

Searching for funding? We can help.

So, you know that there are grants out there, and you know you could use them to further your mission, businesses, or non-profit, but you’re not sure where to begin. With thousands of available grants, incentives and programs, finding qualified funding for your organization can be a full-time job. By utilizing our industry expertise, we can demystify the process through our Prosperity Funding Search.

Here’s a breakdown of how the process works.  First, we start with getting to know you.  You and your work are the most important part of finding funding sources that are the right fit. Being able to find the right grants means knowing not just what it is you currently do, but what it is you want to do.  How do you want to grow or change? What new programs would you like to implement? What new services would you like to offer? How can your business be more efficient? We will find out all that and more with a one-on-one meeting to deep dive into what your needs are. These questions will help us figure out where you want to grow and guide us in our funding search.

 Next, we will take that information and scour the landscape to find the grants and funding opportunities that match your needs. By combing through and eliminating revenue sources you are not eligible for, we narrow down the opportunities to the ones that are best suited for your needs.  A personalized report is created that outlines that grants, incentives, and programs that your work is eligible for including program priorities, deadlines, and general next steps.

We hone in on the grants that best fit what you’d like to do.

We hone in on the grants that best fit what you’d like to do.

 Finally, we will meet with you once again to go over your personalized report and talk through the opportunities we found and how they relate to your goals. This meeting will give us the chance to fine tune your needs and hone in on the grants that best fit what you’d like to do. If a particular grant sounds appealing, we have additional services available to help you apply and manage any grants you receive.

 And that’s the Prosperity Funding Search process.  If this sounds like something that could be helpful to you and your business contact us today to set up an initial conversation.

How Sustainable is Your Community?

By Christi Southerland, Prosperity Ag Managing Partner

The term “sustainable city” has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. Though each region likely has their own definition of a sustainable community, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), uses the term “sustainable communities” to describe places “where use of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are going down, not up; where the air and waterways are accessible and clean; where land is used efficiently and shared parks and public spaces are plentiful and easily visited; where people of different ages, income levels and cultural backgrounds share equally in environmental, social and cultural benefits; where many needs of daily life can be met within a 20-minute walk and all may be met within a 20-minute transit ride; where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices.

fountain and flowers.jpg

Sustainable Communities 

"Where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices." -NRDC

The community described above seems idyllic, however, it is also very hard to achieve. Communities might have a goal of becoming completely sustainable, but funding is a large barrier preventing implementation. Taking small steps each year towards sustainability can be an easier approach while keeping costs reasonable. Further, communities that meet challenges through integrated solutions rather than fragmented approaches while looking at the long term will be more successful. This means it is essential for communities to have an end-goal and a plan in place prior to taking any steps towards sustainability. Having citizen involvement in early-stage planning will also be important for success.

Communities aiming for sustainability can utilize grant and loan programs to achieve their goals. Opportunities abound for projects such as community gardens, integration of renewable energy, wastewater efficiency improvements, building new community facilities, and many more. Further, programs exist to help communities achieve their sustainability goals. Audubon International has a Sustainable Communities Program, which is a science-based, third-party certification program to guide communities through the journey to become healthy and vibrant places to love work and play.

Sustainability is a process that is continuously evolving to meet goals. Communities that embrace this process as part of their overall goal and begin to implement sustainability, they will see a power and positive effect on the quality of life and the future of the community.

Prosperity Ag works with rural communities to become more sustainable. Learn more by downloading our overview of popular funding programs for rural communities.

We'd love to hear about your ideas! Contact us now.

There’s a Grant for That. Or is There?

By Christi Southerland, Prosperity Ag Managing Partner

Grants have been available since the 1800’s when it was required that states be given 5 percent of the net proceeds of land sales within their boundaries, with a percent of these proceeds to be used for “learning” or higher education.  Over the years grants have expanded and are now available for numerous purposes. Grant programs are available through Federal, State and local funding and also through nonprofit organizations.

Over the years working as a grant writer, I have seen grants available for a wide range of projects. This includes some common programs such as after-school care for at risk youth, development of community centers, and preservation of historic locations. However, I have seen my fair share of “unusual” grant programs including solutions for homeless horses in Utah, off-road vehicle safety training, and planning shellfish hatcheries. And yes, those are all real grants.

Prosperity Ag can help take the mystery out of grants.

Prosperity Ag can help take the mystery out of grants.

The availability of funding opportunities is constantly changing, which makes is increasingly harder for organization’s to determine what might be available for their needs. Clients typically ask me, “Is there a grant for my project?” The answer is not simple due to the complexity of grants and my answer to clients is usually “It depends.”

There are many factors an applicant must be aware of when they are interested in pursuing grant funding. Below is a quick summary of our top tips for those interested in apply for funding.

Eligibility

The single most important factor of grants involves the applicant’s eligibility. Prior to beginning any work on a grant application, the organization must determine whether they are even an eligible applicant. This can be easily completed by reading through the notices that are published with the grant materials. Many applicants overlook this step and apply anyway with the thought that the granting organization will still want to hear about their project.

Timing

Perhaps one of the trickiest aspects of applying for funding revolves around the timing of both the project and the grant program. Many federal and state grants have set due dates, with applications only being accepted during open funding periods. These due dates may not be convenient for the applicant and could even prevent them from applying. Many grant programs do not allow applicants to begin work on their project until after the grant agreement has been signed, usually months after the grant was submitted. Applicants may decide that they want to pursue their project regardless of funds because of the stifling nature of the timing of a program.

Cost match

I cannot tell you how many people tell me they want to apply for “free money.” The truth is that very few grants are really “free.” Grant programs typically have a cost match component involved, which means that the applicant is required to match the grant funds. The amount required varies greatly depending on the grant agency, but I always tell my clients to plan on having to match at least 25% of the grant funds.

With so many available grants, it can quickly become overwhelming for those looking to receive funding. At Prosperity, we strive to inform our clients about the possible funding opportunities available for their project to ensure success. Some clients like to take this one step further and purchase a Funding Search, which a comprehensive, in-depth evaluation of all the possible funding opportunities for their potential projects. Learn more now!