I Have to Ask: Navigating the Grant-Seeking Process

Posted on October 9, 2018


Tia Cavender

In this series, guest columnists respond to one of three topics selected by ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week Tia Cavender, CEO of Dig Deep Research, identifies how local government can overcome challenges in the grant-seeking process.


Governments are like any other business entity in that the biggest challenges often revolve around securing external money to conduct the work. Therefore, strategic grants planning and avoiding known pitfalls with securing grants should remain a high priority for local governments.

Matching funds is a common area that is often a challenge for local government agencies. To help navigate the grant-seeking process, below we’ve listed some of these challenges, along with potential solutions that may work in your local government agency.

Challenge #1: Local governments often don’t have a high enough matching fund rate to compete against other applicants. Projects with greater matching funds will score higher than projects with only the minimum match requirement.

Potential Solution #1: Quantify and capture funds already committed in earlier phases of the project. Even if that portion of the work is already completed, including it in the overall project budget decreases the proportion of matching funds requested. Projects with higher matching ratios are more competitive against others with the minimum match requirement.

Challenge #2: Councils and Boards typically cannot obligate funds for future Councils, and therefore are limited in authority to commit matching funds for multi-year projects.

Potential Solution #2: Try to secure more funding from project partners. Capture in-kind contributions. Split combined matching contributions over two years regardless of how many years the project will carry on.

Challenge #3: Councils and Boards often get stuck in “the way it has always been done,” without adequate regard for WHY it’s done that way. Shortcuts and efficiencies are often ignored when a process is ‘grandfathered’ into standard operations.

Potential Solution #3: Encourage members to remain open to inventive thinking. Remind members that a culture that embraces innovation and progress will be more successful in securing grant funds than a culture that mimics historic processes simply because change is not embraced.

Understanding how to mitigate grant-seeking challenges for local governments is important in the strategic planning process. Complications related to allocating matching funds, committing multi-year funds, and implementing standard operating processes can often create barriers for local government trying to secure capital funding.

Being able to think outside the norm is paramount when perusing grant funding and challenges inherent in municipal grant-seeking.

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