The recession, along with recent trends in finance and economics, has changed the extent to which the local level of the public sector can expect single-source funding for projects. The level and reliability of funding streams, local demographics and the cost of goods and services are all in flux.
With a few principles in place, however, Jesse Buggs, director of the Office of Grant Development and Administration for the city of
Bowie, Md., is convinced that state, local and county government entities can clear an effective path to increased resources.
Grant sources are more plentiful for the purposes of information technology, training activities and to support water services, sewer facilities and waste collection — often to expand or supplement facilities or services that are suffering from reductions in federal and state allocations and county resources. But the process has its challenges, too, including the navigation of foundation rules and grant management requirements.
The first step to being awarded some of those funds, Buggs said, is knowing what’s available and identifying those grant that apply to you. Then, of course, many grant funds require leveraging. If you can demonstrate that you have some resources and solvency, then you can go out and get more.
Maryland has a Governor’s Grants Office that presents the fund resources available for its municipalities to apply for. Director Eric Brenner works in conjunction with the urban league to list all foundations that offer grants relevant to municipalities.
Putting grant opportunities in front of cities the way that Maryland, the League of Minnesota Cities and the New York Association of Towns do on their websites is a first step. This summer Buggs presented other ideas in his presentation “Strategies for Identifying and Managing Grants” to Maryland Municipal leaders. He recommends knowing your strengths and weaknesses; your target population; the project’s resource requirement; possible funding sources; and the rules of the “game.” During the grant writing process, he adds, remember the Four Cs: be clear, be concise, be complete and be convincing.
You were awarded the money: Now the fun begins
Thinking about the end from the very beginning will prepare your office for the reporting and measuring ramifications of receiving a grant.
StreamLink Amplifund is a software that monitors the entire grant’s funding life cycle. Programs like Amplifund first assist in identifying the funding mechanism, and then with the grant submission. Once funds have been awarded, it’s used to manage reporting.
All grants have management guidelines. Recipients also have to follow the regulations or statues of state, local, federal, foundation and sometimes quasi-governmental entities as well. Annual, semi-annual, quarterly and “special” reports are often required, and sometimes audits. And when applying for federal grants, an entity must follow the federal audit authority trail. Grant reporting programs streamline the activity and give both entities confidence that the money is being administered as intended.
Grant reporting requirements are not standard across the government — not even across the levels of government.
“What we find is, folks don’t have solutions to manage their grants.Where’s the continuity of communication? How do we report, and to whom?” said Brenner.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board published white paper in June 2013 on the Grants Reporting Information Project, which addressed the issues with reporting the administration of federal grants.
Its recommendations included adoption of financial report data standards and standardized business processes to reduce burden and improve efficiencies if implemented across the federal government — one with multiple electronic reporting mechanisms and an emphasis on bulk or batch XML filing.