There is a lot to know when applying for a federal funding grant, especially if you are part of the SLED ( State, Local, and Education)
The SLED Market includes organizations in K-12 and higher education, public safety, research institutions, and public healthcare.
Federal grants are confusing. If you want to fund an IT project, it’s hard to know which grants you qualify for, how to access the funds, and even how to research and secure the grant. Of course, COVID changed everything as well. In response, the government started the CARES funding program, as well as the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan, and funded them with a 5 trillion dollar grant.
The stimulus packages were very helpful but added a new layer of complexity to the grant application process. Then, different stimulus packages were funding other areas of the SLED market, which made receiving and applying for these funds confusing. Add in the qualifiers, timelines, and expiration dates of projects funded, and it became almost impossible to navigate the process.
How big is the SLED market?
It’s huge. And almost all entities and agencies are eligible for federal funding, including colleges, universities, research, courthouses, fire, and EMS, plus human services, public libraries, cultural institutions, housing authorities, and non-profit healthcare organizations.
How long does it take to award a grant?
Before COVID, it typically took 24-48 weeks following the announcement of the grant program. But now it’s compressed to typically 6-20 weeks. This shortened time frame is because the government wants to distribute funds as quickly as possible to help clients with COVID-type challenges such as distance learning, telemedicine, and more.
The Grant Research And Partner/Consultant Value
First, organizations need to work with a strategic partner who can begin an information-gathering process to identify what they’re trying to solve. A typical funding report produced by a partner should answer four key questions:
- Who or what is the entity looking for funding?
- What vertical are they in?
- Where are they located?
- What IT projects are they looking to receive funding for?
It’s important to note that funding for K-12 is different than funding for hospitals, higher ed, and state government forces, so the first three questions are critical. State governors often distribute the funds in the way they want to, e.g., one governor will invest more in education, and another may invest more in public safety. Because of this distribution diversity, grant consultants can be very helpful. To simplify the process, answers to these four questions can be submitted to these consultants, who can generate a detailed funding report and address any client questions about the available grants. In addition, they can also initiate a conversation about IT projects to ensure the most appropriate grants have been found.
In many cases, funding can be obtained for necessary infrastructure upgrades such as:
- $62B in federal funding was appropriated to broadband in the recent infrastructure bill that can be used for connectivity, such as SD-WANs, which reduces operational expenses and improves resource usage for multisite deployments. With SD-WANS, you can use bandwidth more efficiently and maintain high-performance levels for critical applications.
- Business Process Automation – Business Process Automation (BPA) uses software to automate repeatable, multistep business transactions. BPA solutions tend to be complex, connected to multiple enterprise information technology (IT) systems, and customized to the needs of a particular company.
- Robotic Process Automation – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software technology that simplifies the building, deploying, and managing software robots that mimic human actions interacting with digital systems and software. Software robots can accomplish tasks quicker and more consistently than humans.
- Natural Language Processing – Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a division of computer science, a branch of artificial intelligence or AI, which enables computers to understand text and spoken words in a similar way that humans can.
The Value of Strategic Partnerships
If you need help with the application process, strategic partners and consultants can assist. But ask yourself what level of assistance is needed. Some organizations just need someone to review their application before they submit it. But most organizations have trouble with the entire grant application process. In this scenario, a grant consultant will work side by side with you, so the application is complete and adheres to the parameters outlined in the grant.
A very common issue is waiting as long as ten months and then losing the grant because a box was not checked or a question was answered incorrectly. By eliminating these issues, a strategic partner or consultant speeds up access to grant funds and ensures a greater percentage of success.
To maximize their potential funding, organizations should fill out as many grant applications as needed. A good grant partner or consultant will review the entire funding landscape—not just the stimulus funding on your behalf. For example, if your organization has four projects in the coming year, you would create four funding reports for four different grants. You can create as many funding reports as you need; there is no limit. A grant partner or consultant brings efficiency to the application process to secure your organization’s grant funds in an expedited manner.
In Summary, if you are a SLED organization, it is difficult to navigate the federal funding grant process. Working with a grant partner or consultant will ensure you apply for the right grants, the applications are completed correctly, and that you get your funds as quickly as possible. Going alone can waste your valuable time with diminishing returns for all your efforts. Having a pro untangling the contracting redtap is an investment that will certainly pay for itself.
About the Author
Terry Noriega is Client Executive at Anexinet, where he manages state and local government and education customer relationships. He brings over 20 years of experience in technology sales leadership, with a strong focus on collaboration, security, and business continuity – and always putting the client’s needs first.
Featured image: ©Wladimir1804