Over the years, LCCs have developed strategies to find, educate, and assist potential applicants. Councils should be creative and find a plan that works best for their community.. Below are examples of additional ways councils can engage applicants:
The number and quality of applications vary from council to council. Some councils receive a predictable number of applications from the same sources year after year, while other councils are overwhelmed by different applicants every cycle. Every council should solicit applications in order to reach as many eligible individuals and groups as possible. Being open and inviting also creates a more diverse pool of applications that benefit the community.
Councils should talk to the community's school superintendent, principals, teachers and PTA/PTOs about submitting applications from a school or school district. This will assist the program to serve a larger population of students. A sample letter to educators is available to use in outreach.
Here are some other strategies for strengthening a council's application pool:
- Publicize deadlines well in advance and conduct a community input process.
- Offer workshops for potential applicants.
- Network with other councils about quality programs that could be replicated by the council and invite organizations or individuals to apply.
- Have each council member call previous applicants who have not applied, as well as groups who have never taken advantage of the funding.
- Offer to help new applicants with their applications.
- Contact an appropriate individual or organization and suggest that they develop an application that responds to an unmet need. The council can suggest ways the project might be carried out. However, approval cannot be promised. The proposal must be evaluated competitively with all other submitted applications.
- Reach out to art associations, studios and galleries to ensure local artists are aware of funding opportunities.
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There are a number of ways LCCs can assist applicants during the application process:
- Staff a table at the library for an hour or two at a convenient time before the deadline to answer applicant questions.
- Offer an LCC grant writing workshop in advance of the deadline to review the application questions, funding criteria and other procedures required to complete a proposal. Identify your council's review criteria and use it to help applicants evaluate their proposal idea and budget. Use and modify these sample resources to plan and hold a grant writing workshop:
- Develop a fact sheet. Having a fact sheet can save time that you might otherwise spend on the phone with applicants answering repetitive, basic questions; a fact sheet also helps councils provide consistent information. When creating a fact sheet, consider the following:
- Include basic eligibility requirements and criteria, along with any local guidelines and funding priorities.
- Include any instructions or information about whether the council accepts paper applications or requires supplemental materials when submitting a grant request. Also, include council member names and contact information in case the applicant needs assistance.
- Post the fact sheet on the council's public web page to ensure that all potential applicants are aware of any local guidelines and policies.
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Encourage or require applicants to submit a draft application prior to the October 15 deadline for initial review and feedback.
After the deadline, review applications for completeness and seek missing information. Give all applicants equal access to council help and advice.
Technical Disapprovals. LCCs should not use “technical disapprovals” (not enough copies, unsigned applications, etc.) as the sole basis for disapproving applications. Meeting the statewide application eligibility is a requirement, not a “technicality,” and LCCs cannot accept late applications.
If the council choses to review applications for completeness upon receipt of the panel book, they can and give applicants a deadline by which they need to correct their errors or omissions.
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Some councils find it useful to conduct applicant interviews as part of the grant review process. This can be an effective way to learn more about your grant applicants, but LCCs must take extra precautions to ensure that the interview process is consistent and fair. Councils should not disapprove an application for the sole reason that the applicant was unable to attend an applicant interview. Here are a few things to keep in mind when organizing a review meeting:
- Make sure all council members have the PDF panel book in advance of the interview.
- Consider assigning specific grants to individual members for a more in-depth review.
- Ensure fairness by extending invitations to all applicants.
- Schedule brief (timed) interviews. Ask one member to be a timekeeper at the meeting to keep interviews on time and prevent applicants from having unequal amounts of time with the council.
- Ask clarifying questions about proposal.
- Be accessible and accept a project representative if the applicant cannot attend in person.
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