Guest Post: Tips on how to get grant funding

You need funding for projects, but how to do you go about finding and applying for grants? We asked Kim Chelf of WeTHRIVE! Forest Park to share her tips and insights into obtaining grant funding.

Grants are an essential part of making WeTHRIVE! Forest Park self-sustaining and successful.

Grants allow the team and the city to take on projects that we would not otherwise be able to tackle. They give us funding to expand our programs. And they allow us to move in new directions and do more for our community.

WeTHRIVE! in Forest Park recently applied for the following grants:

  • Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation: Helping develop walking and biking infrastructure to promote kids walking and biking safely to school.
  • Community Challenge Grant from AARP to develop a temporary bike lane for Waycross from Winton to Mill Road.
  • Put A Lid on It Grant from Ohio American Academy of Pediatrics: Receive 72 bike helmets and promote bike safety and physical activity for youth (awarded!).
  • Cincinnati Children’s Buckle Up For Life Car Seat Grant: $15,000 for 150 car seats and education classes and materials in English, Spanish, and Nepali (awarded!).
  • Health Center with Health Care Connections through Congressional Discretionary Spending for Sherrod Brown: Helping increase access to health resources to residents in Forest Park and surrounding communities through the development of a Federal Qualified Health Center.

How do we get grants?

The first step in getting grants is to decide what you need funds for. Do you want to build a community garden? Install sidewalks? Hold fitness classes? Put up no smoking signs in the park?

You have to know what you want to do before you can find funding for it. Sit down as a WeTHRIVE! Team, look at your action plan, and decide what you need funding for.

Keep an eye out

Once you know what you want the funding for, the next step is to find a grant to apply for. There are grants out there for almost everything, you just have to know where to look.

The WeTHRIVE! Learning Collaborative Newsletter (emailed monthly) is a great place to start. I always scan the grants listed there to see if any of them will meet our needs.

You can also do an internet search for ‘{topic/program} grants’ or ‘{topic/program} grants Ohio/Cincinnati.’

I also subscribe to newsletters I can find that have to do with the things we have going on. If we are working on bike trails, I subscribe to bike trail related newsletters, active transportation newsletters, and anything related to Safe Routes to School. These types of newsletters will often send out relevant grants as they come along.

Gather your data

Once I’ve found a grant that fits our needs, I start gathering data.

What information does the grant require? What data will support my argument for why they should fund our project? Do I need to get pictures? Maps? Diagrams? Letters of support?

All of this should be in the grant application, so I make a checklist of what I need and then work on finding those items.

Where to find data

When I’m looking at what data I need, I often refer to Forest Park’s Community Health Assessment (CHA) that was done as part of WeTHRIVE! The CHA includes a wealth of data that I have used in many grant applications.

I also often refer to the Census for demographic data, including data on race and ethnicity, that will make my application stand out.

However, the most compelling data is gathered from the work we are already doing. This is data like how many people come to our fitness classes every week, how many car seats we installed last year, or how much free produce we gave out.

By thinking ahead and collecting the data as we go along, I can have a wealth of information at my fingertips when I need to apply for a grant.

Here’s an example

I recently submitted a Buckle Up For Life grant to get funding to purchase car seats and do education for parents around car seat safety.

Using data from the forms that every car seat customer fills out, I was able to determine how many car seats the fire department installed in 2021 (62), how many were infant seats (45%), how many of the seats were being misused (78%), and how many of our customers were Forest Park residents (26%).

I was able to use this data to justify why we needed to purchase more infant seats than toddler or booster seats, why the education piece was so important, and why our outreach may go beyond the borders of Forest Park. Without that data, my argument would have been much weaker.

It can be hard to remember to collect data as we are holding events, but it’s worth it so that we can get the funding we need.

Toddler girl in carseat.

WeTHRIVE! in Forest Park was recently awarded a Buckle Up for Life Grant for the Forest Park Fire Department’s car seat safety program.

Follow instructions!

Probably the most important part of grant writing is to follow the directions. Every grant will have a set of instructions that include deadline, formatting information, word or character counts, documents needed, and more!

Make sure you follow these instructions exactly! If they limit you to 500 characters including spaces, make sure you don’t go over that! If they want a supporting document that shows a map with the walking trail marked in red, make sure you do that!

If you don’t follow the instructions, you may not get the funding.

Plan ahead

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application.

I like to leave myself at least 12 hours just in case I have technical difficulties, the website is down, or something gets deleted. If possible, I like to submit at least a few days early, just so I have time to troubleshoot! 

Before I submit a grant, even if it’s an online application, I will type up all my answers in a Word document, get my supporting files arranged into a folder, and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that I have it all ready to go. Then, I’ll take the time to upload everything at once to make sure I don’t forget something.

Fundraising

In addition to applying for grants, WeTHRIVE! in Forest Park also raises money by asking for donations at our summer fitness classes (pay what you can). We also ask businesses in the community to help. Home Depot donated the Blessing Boxes that were recently installed. Other companies supply things like water or snacks for events. It can’t hurt to ask! 

Grant writing isn’t hard, but it does require attention to detail, patience, and time to gather information. Make sure to take your time, gather all the information you need, and pay attention to what the funder is asking for. If you do that, soon the funds will come rolling in!

Kim Chelf

Kim Chelf is a community health educator with the Forest Park Fire Department. You can reach her at KChelf@forestpark.org.