11 Elements of Effective Grant Proposals
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Comments



By Lindsay A. Gross, Managing Editor

With $7.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money allocated to broadband, there is guaranteed to be a large number of grant applications. “The stimulus package has brought an enormous amount of attention to public-safety grants because of the hundreds of millions of dollars it has brought to the states,” said Gary Cooper, vice president of research and consulting for the CJIS Group, a criminal-justice, public-safety and homeland-security market research firm. Ed Myers, principal at Widelity, a spectrum consulting company, recommended getting as much done now in the application process as possible. “That way, when the rules come out, you will be prepared to move forward,” he said.

Before the notice of funds availability (NOFA) is announced in the upcoming weeks, according to Myers, the following steps can help prepare you for the grant-writing process:

1. Executive summary. A brief overview helps scorers skim your project’s high points and determine if they want to read more. Keep it brief and highlight the benefits. The summary should include services provided; number of jobs created; capital needed; capital contribution; locations/areas of coverage; population served; key agencies served such as public safety, healthcare and libraries; key community partners; deployment time; and past successes with public projects.

“The executive summary should be about two to three pages,” Myers said. “I find it’s best to include as much information as possible, and then edit it down to the most important details.”

2. Specific project aim/statement of purpose. There is a broad range of eligible ideas, projects, possibilities and interpretations of public benefit so it’s important to be clear about the purpose of your project and linking it to the goals of the overall broadband grant program.

3. Significance and background. Framing your company’s experience inside of previous and successful public-works projects may give you an advantage provided your project also demonstrates public benefit and a sustainable business model.

4. Services proposed (descriptions, technologies and architectures). Be clear regarding what issues the submitted applications seek to solve, because an application may narrowcast to a specific item or seek to solve many or all the broadband issues in a given area.

5. Business plan (market specifics, projected financials such as capital and operating expenses and models). Several details should be included with the business plan, such as company overview, opportunity, customers, competition, solutions, service delivery methods, pricing, customer service and support, and financial and risk analysis.

6. Projected results. Include projected results with the stimulus dollars, what you think the results will be without the funds, as well as results with or without licensed/unlicensed spectrum. Also include any additional projects that may be coming in the next 36 months.

7. Engineering study. This study should include coverage maps, hub locations, site candidate information packages, line-of-sight studies, spectrum use, fiber use, reusable facilities, and green initiatives such as solar collection and wind power.

8. Project plan with timelines and assumptions. Given the reporting responsibilities that accompany the arrival of grant and loan money from the government — especially with this program — the more defined the milestones, dependencies and timelines are at the outset, the better.

9. Budgets. It’s important to include details on your technology choices and how they will affect your budget, Myers said. Details should include whether you plan to use licensed, unlicensed, fiber or other infrastructure; vendor choices and financial justification; and equipment pricing, such as manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and any schedule pricing.

10. Public/private partnerships. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will allocate at least one grant per state. “Public/private partnerships are going to play a large role,” Myers said. “It will be ideal to work with multiple entities/agencies within your state. For example, applicants in Oregon are presenting one grant that includes several projects throughout the state.” Make sure all partnerships are clearly outlined in your grant. Also state any plans to expand based on success, as well as plans to integrate into other state and federal programs.

11. Endorsements. In line with public/private partnerships, it’s also key to have endorsements from key players within your state. Include letters and contact information for endorsers.

It can only help to get started on your proposal now and make sure you don’t skimp on details,” Myers said. “You can also get started filling out all the forms now.” Click here for the grant forms. For more grant writing tips, click here.




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