February 8, 2024

Practical Tips for Successful Grant Applications

The Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) hears all the time from city officials and staff that outside funding sources are needed to accomplish many projects or events that would otherwise go unfunded.

KLC offers important resources for grants. There are more than 70 current grants listed on the KLC website at any given time. These are federal, state, and private grants for everything from infrastructure to public safety equipment and small beautification. The grants are updated weekly. Members are encouraged to peruse the list of grants weekly

Another great KLC resource is GrantStation, one of the largest grant portals in the world. KLC partnered with GrantStation to provide a full membership (valued at several hundred dollars annually) for all member cities. This benefit offers members access to GrantStation’s huge repository of all types of grants. KLC members can access it here and enter their KLC login. GrantStation staff can also assist with grant searches on specific and limited terms and offers ongoing “how to” webinars and other types of training. 

In addition to finding funding, often the difficulty is not having someone on the city’s staff that has the training, time, or capacity to locate grant sources or write the application. An important first step is to evaluate where your city stands on this important work.

If your city has staff or someone that can help with grants, even a retired person or volunteer, that is great. If not, there are resources available to cities through private grant writers or your Area Development District (ADD). In many cases, the ADDs have vast expertise in federal and state grants. 

KLC also offers a free guideline to assist you. Download it and other resources on the KLC Community & Economic Development page

For smaller grants, there are basic considerations to think about going into any type of grant preparation. Each grant application process is different, but for any type of grant, you can prepare by using the following checklist before you get started.

Pre-Grant Preparation Checklist

If you can answer the following questions about your project, it will make the grant writing process much easier.

_____ Summary: Describe the total project concept in some detail. Explain the need. Discuss why it is important for your organization to have the project.

_____ Cost: What do you see as potential cost factors? What portion do you see coming from the local area and what portion will come from outside funding sources? How will the project be managed over the long haul?

_____ Market: Who is your market for the project, and how do you plan to market to them? Be sure your answers are reflected in the cost analysis.

_____ Readiness: If you found the money, how soon could you start? What is your timeline for completion? Is the project to be done in phases?

_____ Capacity: How efficient will the organization be if you found the money? What have you done before that will convince the giver that you can follow through with your plans?

_____ Resumes/Staff bios: Demonstrate the expertise of your organization to implement and administer the project and grant funds.

_____ Effectiveness: Since you don't have this project now, how are you addressing the current need? What would be better if you received funding?

_____ Support: Who else in the community is supportive of this project? How do you know? You will need some type of documentation to justify the project.

_____ Ongoing Support: Articulate how your organization will sustain this project beyond the scope of the grant.

_____ Photos and related information: If appropriate, include photos of any supporting documentation for this grant proposal. 

_____ Tell Your Story: It is important to explain the need for the grant with data and hard facts, but also in relatable terms. Why do you need the funds? Who will benefit? What will that look like? If you are applying to fund an inclusive playground, consider including the stories of children who will use it if this type of narrative is allowed. Grant reviewers are like anyone else. They respond to a good story.

And finally, but most importantly,

_____ Follow Instructions: Grantors don’t have time to waste and typically only look at entries that are submitted correctly and done well. If a grant is required to be submitted online, double spaced, in 12-point font by Dec. 31, those detailed instructions must be followed. If one aspect of the submission criteria is not followed, the entry will often be tossed out before it ever gets a look. By simply following the instructions, you are ahead of the game. 

Hopefully these simple steps can help your city better prepare for and frame your grant applications.