Tips for applying to Parks & Trails New York’s Growing the Grassroots grants

The Growing the Grassroots Grants are highly competitive. While we’d love to fund each and every request we receive, resources are limited and thus we must carefully rank and score each application.

Here are a few tips to help you along in the process.

1.      Are you eligible?

Awards will be made to local or regional not-for-profit organizations that are classified by the IRS as 501 (c)(3) or who operate under the fiscal sponsorship of a 501 (c)(3) and whose primary mission is stewardship of a specific New York park or trail that is or will be open to the public. This grant program is designed to help small park and trail organizations in a transformative way, to take them to the next level so to speak.

2.    Is your project eligible?

Each year we get grant requests for things we cannot fund.. After an organization has put so much effort into their application, we hate to have to immediately discard it.  . We do not fund the following:

  • General operating expenses, existing staff salaries, or support of ongoing or new programs
  • Capital costs associated with construction, maintenance, and infrastructure for a park or trail (signs, benches, etc., equipment, or tools)
  • Endowments
  • Lobbying or political activities
  • Giveaways (e.g. T-shirts, patches, etc.), refreshments or other entertainment expenses

We often get questions like:

“Will you fund a brochure with a map?”

Yes. HOWEVER, the brochure’s PRIMARY focus should be bolstering your organization (adding members, volunteers, and or soliciting donations). We will not fund the development of the map, but will fund the design and printing of brochure that includes a map.

Will you fund a tool purchase?

Yes we have done so in the past, but we’d RATHER fund programs to teach your volunteers how to use those tools, help you raise money to buy the tools yourself, or help you recruit volunteers/partner organizations to donate or buy, and/or use the tools.

3.     Participate in or pre-application conference..

All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to participate in a pre-application conference call to be held Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at noon.  This call will be designed to review the application form and answer questions from potential applicants.  The call in number is (712) 432-0180.  Participant Access Code: 786019#.

4.      Engage the community.

Does your project offer clear and well-publicized ways for community participation? We love projects that involve the community in some facet. Some examples of community involvement that caught our attention:

  • Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Suffolk County – $750 for Spanish language flyers and letters and Spanish language translators to moderate three community forums designed to broaden and diversify membership and engage the Latino community in programming for the park.
  • Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx – $2500  The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park organized a series of five community forums in the neighborhoods surrounding their New York City park. The main objective of the forum series was to hear concerns and gather suggestions for projects or programs that residents would like to see in the park, but recruitment of volunteers was a corollary benefit.
  • Trail Works, Inc. Williamson, Wayne County – $1850 – Trail Works, Inc. created a power point program highlighting its activities that has already been presented in public programs conducted in 11 of the county’s 13 libraries and for several Scout and civic groups. They also used their grant funds to produce and distribute display posters and membership brochures throughout the county. Results have been impressive: the group’s membership grew by 142 percent

5.      Make sure your project budget and timeline are clear, concise and complete.

Be specific and include TWO estimates. Many of our applicants are applying for their first grant and see two estimates as a burden. Why does PTNY recommend two estimates? We want to be sure you’re making sound financial decisions and that you’re shopping around for the best price. A clearly defined budget tells us you know exactly what is needed to undertake your project and that you have thought about how you will secure the resources to do it. . See a sample budget.

Remember, preference will be given to:

□   Projects that leverage the amount of funds requested with significant cash or in-kind contributions from project partners.

□   Organizations with annual budgets of less than $100,000.

6.      Make sure your application is complete before you submit.

It happens every year. A small percentage of applications are incomplete. This reflects poorly on our impression of whether you have the capacity to meet our required performance deadlines and carry out your project.  The application has clear instructions and a checklist of what should be included. If you’re not sure about something, call or email us.

7.  Recruit someone with an eye to detail to review the application.

No matter how hard you worked on the application, you need a fresh pair of eyes to proofread it to ensure it’s clear of typos or other mistakes.

8. Get to the point

The application has seven questions.  Please answer each separately and number them as they are numbered on the application.  We’re often reading as many as 50 applications in a given round so make yours jump out by being clear and concise. While your organization may have a wonderful history, and you could wax poetic about your project – be mindful of the reader. Be clear and direct.

9. Include metrics

It’s great that you’re application says “We anticipate this will grow membership” but that’s vague. Sure, we hope so too! What grabs us is something like “We anticipate that the membership drive will result in a 50% boost in membership in year one and 25% in year too” or “We expect this donation brochure mailing will result in $5000 worth of donations.” Understand that these achievements are difficult to forecast, but do your best and be realistic. Nothing is more satisfying than funding an ambitious but grounded initiative that sets a realistic benchmark and then achieves or exceeds that goal.

10. Think outside the box

If you look over the history of our program you’ll see we’ve funded a LOT of website, brochure, and promotional material development. Great stuff, indeed, but like we’ve said before, the bulk of our applications come from organizations requesting funds for the development of these items. How will your request stand out? Could you do something different? We absolutely love innovative requests. Feel it’s a risky move to ask for funding on an outside the box idea? Call or email us.

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