With state and federal funding now more available for community projects, it is time for local governments to take the next step toward securing grants. Even with small staffing and limited resources, agencies can embark on a grants program to fund needed projects. On March 22, the Small Government Forum sponsored a grants webinar to help attendees learn how to create a thriving grants program from a team known for its innovative grant work in Southern California.
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD), located in Lake Elsinore, California, faced many obstacles, that, with a bit of grant funding, would solve water sustainability and quality issues that often come from the ever-evolving state and federal regulations. In 2013, the EVMWD board of directors voted to take a stronger approach to secure Federal and State grants, which ultimately led the District to secure more than $200 million in grants and low-interest loans for water and sewer projects in the community.
In this special session, moderated by SGF Vice Chairman Norman Eckstein, presenters Robert Hartwig, CPA, MBA, EVMWD assistant general manager, Serena Johns, EVMWD senior management analyst, and Jorge Chavez, EVMWD management analyst, shared their journey from the humble start of the program, securing its first grant to create a water-wise garden and display, to the latest endeavor of a $180 million upgrade and expansion to EVMWD’s regional reclamation facility.
The presenters addressed the following topics:
- The differences between grants and loans
- How and where to get started in researching grants
- And how to set your agency up for success
The team also discussed technical aspects needed when preparing your program, including:
- Writing grant proposals
- Managing expectations once a grant award is received
- Reviewing grant rules and resources
- Administering and closing grants
- And preparing for the single audit
“There is a large amount of money now available to local governments due to the COVID-related legislation,” said Hartwig. “This is the time to delve further into obtaining the funding your agency needs to start that next big project.”
Diving into the next step, the presenters covered the basics of writing grant proposals, including how to guarantee that grants would result in win-win situations.
“Never underestimate the importance of developing relationships with granting agencies and getting buy-in from your leadership and elected officials,” noted Johns.
Johns went on to address the negotiation and partnerships needed to help the grant process go along smoothly. She emphasized the importance of preparation, evaluation, and documentation when managing grants.
Chavez added to the conversation, discussing 2CFR200, the US Office of Management and Budget’s grant regulations, advising how focusing on just a few key elements will lead you to success in a complex document. Chavez also focused on a few technical tips for grant administration through completion and single audit requirements.
“Juggling these many tasks, it’s important to keep in mind that developing a successful grants program takes time, patience, and a keen eye for detail from start to finish of each grant project,” said Johns. “There are plenty of opportunities available for many kinds of government agencies. It’s just a matter of taking the time and ensuring the support and resources you need.”
This webinar was recorded and is now available in GFOA’s Learning Management System.