How Governments Use Data To Win Grants

Posted on September 15, 2023

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Data makes it easier for grant writers to apply for funding and secure much-needed resources for local projects.

Local governments have more funding available from federal and state agencies than ever before. However, grants are competitive. Local governments must be prepared to back up applications with data to increase their likelihood of winning.

In Virginia, the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) frequently applies for grants designed for state and local governments through the Administration for Community Living (ACL). This federal agency supports older adults. They also find funding opportunities through other state and federal agencies, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

When DARS applies for grants like these, officials use data to advocate for older adults in the state. One way to collect that data is through surveys.


Assessing and Reporting Older Adult Needs 

In 2022, DARS conducted the Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA) to understand the needs of the state’s older residents. (DARS used COVID relief dollars and designated one-time funding from the state general assembly to conduct the assessment.) 

The agency has since used CASOA findings to write compelling justifications for multiple grant proposals. The survey results support grant needs statements, which explain problems the agency aims to solve with federal funds. 

For instance, DARS used CASOA data in their needs statement for a HUD grant related to home modifications for older adult homeowners in rural areas. DARS officials know from experience that the need for in-home services and home modifications is expansive. Yet these services often go underfunded through the traditional Older Americans Act aging network. 

CASOA data show that most Virginia residents plan to stay in their homes as they age. DARS also found that those age 75 and older are most concerned about their ability to age in place, especially without necessary home modifications. 

Portrait of white woman with long blond hair.
Charlotte Arbogast

“Home modifications and in-home services can be really crucial services that can keep people in the community,” said Charlotte Arbogast, Senior Policy Analyst at Virginia DARS. 

In collaboration with Polco’s researchers, DARS expanded the survey to ask older Virginia homeowners about specific home modification challenges. Respondents reported problems with home repairs and maintenance.

Bar graph from CASOA report about needs for home modifications.

Winning Grants Justified by Data

With data to back up their case, DARS won the HUD grant. In collaboration with the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Bay Aging, and the Southern Area Agency on Aging, DARS will use those funds to help older adults in rural areas of Virginia get the home modifications they need to age in place. 

The Commonwealth Council on Aging, a DARS advisory board, is also weaving the data into a state-funded grant proposal to create educational videos about older adult nutrition programs. These videos would increase awareness of and enrollment in food programs. Survey data about food access and nutrition needs for older adults will give the council a better chance at winning those funds. 

Virginia has 25 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs); many are small and rural. Such agencies often lack the resources to conduct their own older resident needs assessments. So, DARS makes their statewide CASOA results available to local AAAs so they can use the data to apply for current and future grant opportunities. 

“It’s been really nice to support those smaller AAAs by giving them some data, and hopefully, they’re working with their local governments to provide some education about the needs,” Arbogast said. 

AAAs can partner with local governments and state agencies to share data and write stronger grant proposals. This helps more agencies secure funding for much-needed projects, which makes cities, counties, and states more livable for residents of all ages. 


Polco Can Help Governments Win Grants With Data

Local governments of all sizes can use data for a better likelihood of winning competitive grants. Polco’s surveys, polls, simulations, and data dashboards give governments access to resident input and public data specific to each city, town, and county. Learn more about how Polco can help you win funding for your community’s most important initiatives. 

How Virginia Makes Positive Impacts on Affordable Housing for Aging in Place – Webinar

The State of Virginia is successfully helping older adults age in place despite nationwide housing shortages. AAA, local government, housing, and planning leaders can find out how in an upcoming webinar by Polco on Sept. 19, 2023.

You will hear how Virginia assesses older adult needs to inform state plans, win grants, and launch new initiatives. Plus, get exclusive nationwide data on housing needs and priorities for older adults. Learn what housing concerns matter most so you can support aging in place in your own city.

Graphic with speaker images promoting a webinar by Polco about helping people age in place in Virginia.

About Charlotte Arbogast 

Charlotte Arbogast is a senior policy analyst and regulatory coordinator with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). She coordinates the agency’s regulations, assists with tracking federal and state legislation, provides staff support to the Commonwealth Council on Aging, serves as the lead writer for Virginia’s State Plan for Aging Services, and is a subject matter expert on aging policy. In starting her career, Charlotte Arbogast graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 with a master’s degree in gerontology and a postgraduate certificate in public management. She previously worked as a health policy analyst for the Virginia Department of Health and a long-term care policy analyst for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. Working at DARS, Charlotte also became the first dementia services coordinator for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the spring semesters, she works as an adjunct instructor with the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University.


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