Financial challenges can hinder any agency’s productivity and growth with the inability to implement new strategy and new route scheduling software. The only answer to these challenges is to find funding that can free up budget to allocate to the growth and efficiency needs of any organization. The way to do this is to identify the various transit grants that are available, apply for the grants that will work for you, and follow through with the process to receive the grant. Fortunately, you are not alone in the game as we have outlined these steps in more detail to help you better understand and find more success with the grant application process.
Step 1: Finding Transit Grants
The first step in your search is to identify the many grant sources that are accessible to your agency. Funding sources can vary from state and federal agencies to independent funding sources. Your best tool for finding grant sources is a Google search. You will be able to find grants for all transportation services, workforce developments for worker transportation, and even children’s after school programs. If it doesn’t fit your current functionality then move on and find ‘the right’ grant.
One thing that needs to be avoided when looking for grants is changing the mission of your agency to fit the mission outlined in the grant offering. For example, if the grant offering is regarding transportation for a children’s program but your mission is providing transportation to senior citizens, don’t change your agency’s capacity just for the grant application. As an agency, you would rather be experts at your core competencies than to try to stretch yourself thin and do more
An alternative way to find funding is to partner with other agencies and organizations to get involved with their proposal. For example, if you can get involved with a senior care facility to offer transportation for their patients, then they can add the need for transit funding to their proposal. Once that proposal is approved, you would then receive a share of the grant funding for the transit portion of the proposal.
Step 2: Applying for the Grants
Once you identify a grant that is the right fit for your agency, it is time to start researching what is needed to properly submit the application. Make sure to thoroughly read everything on the application and everything on the web page for the grant in order to find out what the requirements and expectations are for the application. If you are still unsure that you have everything you need, do not hesitate to reach out to the funding source before you apply. Below you will find a list of things that are general requirements when applying for any grant:
- 501 (c) (3) status letter from the IRS/tax exempt status letter from State Budget for your project
- Be sure to break this down by line item and by year if requesting funding for more than one year
- Current Board Member List
- Letters of support from partner agencies
- Implementing staff information
- Most recent audited financial statement (budget over $100k)
- Form 990 (budget between $25k & $99,999k)
- Prior year operation data
- Miles traveled
- Trips provided
- Service hours
- Revenue hours
- Trips per hour
- Deadhead miles
- Number of trip denials/refusals
- How many FTE drivers/dispatcher/admin staff
There is a list of criteria that is used to evaluate and score each application. The scoring is based on five different categories that have varying value. The categories include; executive summary, strategic plan, action plan, organizational capacity, and spending plan and narrative. With the action plan and strategic plan being the majority of the score at 70%, it is important to ensure that you’ve done your research to best target and match the pain with a solution.
Step 3: Following Through the Process to Get the Grant
Now that you have outlined the necessary requirements and have begun the application process, it is inherently important that you follow the rules and regulations for the application process exactly. The number one reason for declined applications is not following the rules. Also, when you are writing your proposal it is imperative to make your point clearly and to not be redundant. Remember that the person, or people, that are evaluating the grant applications have thousands to go through to pick the right one. So, keep it short and simple and write a compelling story that will capture their attention.
After completing the necessary steps to submit your application, the very important final step is to follow up after you get the decision from the funding source. If your application is accepted, get clear instructions from them on next steps for acquiring the grant funding. If your application is denied, ask them what you could have done differently, whether or not you can apply for the next funding cycle, and if they have any suggestions for other foundations or funding sources that would find your proposal valuable.
At Ecolane, we have worked with various transit organizations that have been the benefactors of proper grant proposal strategy and execution. The funding that they have received has allowed them to implement new technology that has created more efficient scheduling and dispatching and eliminated major administrative burdens. To learn more about the positive effects that funding and modern route scheduling software can have on an organization, take a look at the “Perry County Case Study.”