The situation is a common one: A parks and recreation division wants additional funds for a swimming pool, and it is having trouble finding grants with enough funding to complete the projects. Another city wants to find grants for walking trails but can only find a few, many of which they are not eligible for.We frequently help people who contact us with these types of situations or other funding challenges. Our most common solution to these funding problems is to think outside the box. Ask: what else could happen as a result of building a swimming pool, improved concession areas, ball diamonds, or whatever the case may be? The answers can open up additional funding avenues.
A small community wants to improve worn out, decades-old facilities to give its community a more pleasing place to play, grow, and enjoy.
As it stands, this description would lend itself to a limited number of grants for athletics or grants for parks and recreation, especially because in a small community, the number of people the improvements would serve is limited.
Let’s think beyond the basic concept of the concession stand and ball diamonds and consider how those improvements might lend themselves to other funding areas for municipalities. Again, ask yourself what could result from building concession areas and improved ball diamonds. Could you host large tournaments for area teams, or maybe even teams from other states? Could you host performances of some sort, like Shakespeare in the Park, when games are not being played? Could the schools or other groups within the community use these spaces when they are available?
Assuming you could do some of these things, your simple concession stand and ball diamond improvements suddenly become a means of economic development for your community. Now, your project has become attractive for more grant dollars, including funding for economic development, funding for tourism, funding to reduce obesity, and even funding for the arts! Ahhh… the possibilities!
Sample Grants: Consider how these grants might work together.
Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grants The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grants to help communities that have been hit hard by foreclosures and abandonment. Grantees of this program can develop their own funding priorities as long as 25 percent of the funds are appropriated for the purchase and redevelopment of abandoned or foreclosed homes. These homes must be used to house individuals or families whose incomes do not exceed 50 percent of the area median income. Use the website to find your local HUD representative for more information on applying for this program. Perhaps a town would use this grant to purchase properties in a devastated area of town that is near a parks and recreation space or near a space where parks and recreation wants to build a sports complex. This grant could be used to make a neighborhood more attractive to a sports complex and be a part of the greater project.
USDA Community Facility Grants The United States Department of Agriculture awards Community Facility Grants to help develop essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. These grants can be used to fund energy projects, including the construction of buildings or the purchase of equipment required for a facility’s operation. The amount of grant assistance for project costs depends upon the median household income and the population in the community where the project is located and the availability of grant funds. Grant assistance may be available for up to 75% of project costs. This grant could be used to build or update existing facilities.
Gannett Foundation The Gannett Foundation awards grants to organizations in communities served by Gannett Co., Inc. For a list of states/locations, click here. Grants can be used for cultural enrichment programs in communities, including parades and festivals. Grants average between $1,000-$5,000. Perhaps this grant could be used to bring festivals to the community or to match funds for constructing a space to be used during performances and festivals.
There are many more options for grant funding for parks and recreation, as well as other municipal areas. Do not forget to consider how your park can be an economic engine for your community or how construction of trails can be used to turn your community into a tourist hub.
If you like how we think, please contact us. We would be happy to offer you a free consultation and brainstorm with you about how your municipality can attract more municipal grants from a variety of sources.
Image credit: Micah Sittig