- Studies, assessments, and reports that demonstrate project need and
an implementable path forward;
- Complete financing plan with all funding committed (except the grant that you are applying for);
- Site control;
- Preliminary and final designs;
- Evidence of fiscal viability (including third-party validated budgets);
- Environmental studies;
- SEQRA documentation;
- Surveys and basemapping; and
- Documentation of community support and key partnerships.
If presented with several projects of equal significance and impact, one of which has environmental studies completed and SEQRA documentation submitted so that it is cleared to proceed, while the others do not, it is more likely than ever that the shovel-ready project will receive the funding. No matter how compelling the narratives or public support statements of the other applications may be, it is unlikely that they will prevail over a project that can put the funding entity’s money to good use immediately.
METRIC 2: Leveraging Funding from Multiple Sources With available funding at critically low levels, and the need to stretch the dwindling funds across more communities than ever before, funding entities have to ensure that each dollar they commit leverages other investments – i.e. local community funds, private investments, or funding provided by another agency. Similar to their counterparts in the private sector, funding officers (“investors”) are facing increasing pressure to identify investment opportunities in which theirs is the “last money in,” helping a project that is already making great strides, cross the finish line. So what are the prime opportunities to line up other investments to leverage in helping funding agencies meet this mandate?
Community Funds: Like private equity firms, public funding agencies are looking for project leaders who have “skin in the game.” Even in times of significant economic cut-backs, it may be possible to isolate a specific project component that can be funded by the community. Work with the Board and relevant department heads to find a project component that will generate strongest impact from the smallest investment.
Private Funds: Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) utilize private sector funding to assist the public sector. These private investments are typically geared toward stimulating economic development and job creation, but partnerships that stimulate economic growth can span a wide range of projects from downtown revitalization planning to infrastructure improvements that attract and support future development.
Investments from other State and Federal Agencies: New and more stringent metrics have been established by some funding agencies. One recent metric added by a popular funding sources is a requirement that applicants apply for all other available grants and financing avenues prior to submitting an application to this agency. The new approach will identify the critical need for agency funding and increase its return on investment by providing the final funding component, or last piece of the fiscal puzzle. Grant toolbox tip: Often agencies don’t explicitly stipulate significant new metrics in their application instructions. Applicants should take the time to reach out to prospective funders to determine if they have introduced new metrics, and if so, how important they may be in the evaluation of your application.
Tilting the Scales in your Favor
If a funder is forced to choose, as they often are, between equally worthy and impactful projects submitted by several communities, how are they to determine which to fund? If you’ve read this far, you know it’s not a coin flip. Communities that demonstrate shovel-readiness and commitments from other funding sources that can leverage a funding agency’s investment and stretch their limited funds will have a decided advantage.
The Time is Now
When is the best time to begin preparing to build this funding partnership? The rule of thumb on this may surprise you – approximately one year out. With many municipalities drafting budgets in the early fall, being able to commit funds in advance of the grant season is a strategic step in showing project commitment.
With many applications due in the summer, this is the perfect season to build or revisit your project and funding plan, schedule discussions to help prioritize projects, and begin strategizing how to build your project-specific funding partnerships for the following year.
Published in the July/August issue of the New York Association of Towns’ publication, “Talk of the Towns.”