Capacity is everything. When it comes to applying for a grant, you need to ensure you have the proper organizational, human, and financial capacity to apply for and manage the award should you win funding. And sometimes it’s a lack of capacity, particularly a scarcity of human capital capacity, that prevents an organization from pursuing certain grant funding they could really use. Maybe you have a story that comes to mind about this topic.
Fortunately, where capacity is lacking, partnerships between municipalities and local nonprofits can come to the rescue, allowing local governments to apply for major federal grants that they might otherwise pass up. In the March 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Municipalities in Fiscal Crisis, the lessons learned were not all negative; in fact, the report details how those same cities that faced financial crisis were able to collaborate with nonprofits to apply for federal grants.
What kind of federal grants were these local governments able to pursue? Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), to name a couple. Here are some examples:
Three municipalities in our review—Detroit, Flint, and Camden—collaborated with local nonprofits to apply for federal grants. Officials from these cities told us that this collaboration helped them address challenges they faced with human capital capacity. For example, officials in Detroit worked with the Detroit Public Safety Foundation to identify and apply for federal grants to help support the Detroit Police and Fire Departments. This foundation assisted the police department with its 2014 COPS grant application and the fire department with securing its AFG grants in 2011 and 2013 and its SAFER grants in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Detroit Fire Department officials told us that without the help of the Public Safety Foundation, they would have limited capacity to apply for competitive federal grants.
The report goes on to detail how the City of Flint partnered with two local nonprofit organizations to identify and apply for federal grants: The Flint Area Reinvestment Office, whose mission to “inform, organize, and facilitate local partner collaboration on strategic opportunities that attract federal and state resources”; and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which supports a variety of projects through its Flint Area Program, including job training, economic development, and emergency services projects. These two organizations helped the city apply for a COPS grant, which it received in 2013.
Of course, this is just one segment of many lines of stories, but it serves to show how partnering can help organizations in different sectors fulfill the missions of grantors and grantees alike.
Your Story Here
How have partnerships helped your municipality or nonprofit? Tell us your story in a comment below, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all about the stories, and we want to hear yours, for the benefit of communities. Here's a story about Detroit's comeback, in part spurred by a renewed effort to efficiently organize its grants management system: