How to Write Your Narrative Efficiently and Effectively

The narrative is one of the most important aspects to your grant application but it can also be the most time-consuming. Even if you are on schedule to make the application deadline, too much back and forth on the narrative could cause you to miss it. We have some simple tips to help you efficiently and effectively draft your narrative that will yield better chances at securing funding.

There are two narratives required for most grant applications: the budget narrative and application narrative. The budget narrative lists dollar amounts for every expense category and describes every line item in the budget. The application narrative addresses major expenses and puts it in context of the project’s goals and objectives, highlighting their role in the project’s success.

Structuring your narrative around your budget will demonstrate to the reviewers that your project is well planned. Be sure to explain every expense concisely. When writing your application narrative, tie in community benefits as much as possible. If you polled the community or gained official support from local organizations, emphasize that.

Before writing your application narrative, try to determine what the word count for each section is. When you receive feedback from the program officer, incorporate every suggested edit. The program officer knows what the agency is looking for. Lastly, have multiple people read, review, and edit the narrative for grammar and flow. It’s easy to lose sight of small errors in the text after working on it for a long time. This narrative should read smoothly and in lay-mans terms. Avoid over-complicating the narrative. The funding agency reviewers should have zero questions after reading your narrative.

Good luck with your applications!

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Newport Local Leaders Travel to DC for Big Creek Dam Funding

Last month, representatives from the City of Newport, including Mayor Dean Sawyer, council members, and city administrators traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal funding to advance the Big Creek Dam Replacement Project. This trip allowed local leaders in Newport to come face-to-face with legislators and ask that the $60 million authorization for the Big Creek Dam replacement project be included in the final negotiated Water Resources Development Act bill.

Replacement costs to the dam were estimated to be at least $80 million before the pandemic, but now costs are rising. The city of Newport has invested $6 million to the project and Rep. Gomberg secured $14 million in lottery bonding from the Oregon Legislature. Combined with the authorization from Congress, these funds could help the Newport community move forward with replacing the failing dam.

After concluding the trip, Mayor Dean Sawyer said, “I was impressed that our congressional delegation had such a depth of knowledge about our dam replacement project in Newport, Oregon. They were very receptive…We appreciate Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressmen Schrader and Defazio for their work to include our authorization in the final bill.

Rep. Gomberg stated that, “this [trip] was meaningful, well-organized, and critically timed…We met with the committees that are making the decisions…We, and they, are encouraged that there is momentum to bring home much-needed federal funding to replace Newport’s failing dams.”

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What to Expect from the Recent BIL

The recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, passed by Congress in 2021, has garnered excitement across the infrastructure industries. Although it is a significant investment in United States infrastructure, over $110 billion to be exact, there are a few limitations to this funding. Dig Deep CEO, Tia Cavender spoke with Municipal Water Leader on what to expect from the recent BIL.

The BIL funds will be distributed over a 5-year period. For pre-existing programs, those funds will be available more quickly, but developing new grant or loan programs takes time and resources. If your project meets the criteria for a disadvantaged community, you will be more competitive in the search for federal funding than projects in affluent communities.

When it comes to how the funds will be distributed, Tia Cavender states, “much of the water infrastructure investments enacted through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will be provided to local governments in the form of principal forgiveness funds. Ultimately, the bottom-line effect is a huge reduction in the overall cost of a project that is financially equivalent to receiving a grant from the government but is tied to a low-interest loan administered by the state.”

“One of the most important things public officials can do is to temper their expectations. Yes, the total amount of grant funds sounds substantial, but when you break it down by state and then into individual projects, it’s still not enough money to address what needs to be addressed.” Tia Cavender says. It’s a start towards more funding opportunities, but there’s always more work to be done.

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The Long-Term Value of Involving Project Stakeholders

Almost universally, funders want to see that your project has stakeholder support. To have a truly competitive project proposal, it is imperative that you identify and involve project stakeholders. Additionally, by involving stakeholders, you are able to get a more varied perspective on your project. This will help you to anticipate potential problems and develop creative ways to address them proactively.

It is natural to be nervous about involving stakeholders in a project. There is often a fear that by bringing more people to the table, the process will become more complicated. However, it is better to think of project stakeholders as potential allies that can help your project to succeed. Through the involvement of stakeholders, you have the opportunity to build your project’s credibility and ultimately strengthen your proposed project.

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Stakeholder Power vs Interest: A Helpful Grid

For any project, it is important to generate a wide base of support from stakeholders. Identifying what types of stakeholders are affected by your project is key to a successful project. Each of your stakeholders should be classified in one of four categories.

Low power/low interest stakeholders are only indirectly affected by your project. Information needs to be available to them but active involvement is not necessary. Low power/high interest stakeholders care deeply about your project’s outcome. As such, they need to be actively informed. It is important to show them consideration as you move forward. Your high power/low interest stakeholders may not be particularly interested in your project but it is important to keep them informed, as they do have power over your project’s success. Try your best to keep these stakeholders satisfied so they do not use their power to negatively impact your project. Lastly, high power/high interest stakeholders are the most important as they have the biggest impact on your project. Engage with them regularly and work to maintain a positive relationship. They will need to have the opportunity to provide direct input into the project and may be involved in key decision-making.

Download this grid and divide up your project’s stakeholders into each box. From there, assess how to move forward with your stakeholder relationships.

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Authorization vs. Appropriations: What You Need To Know

When it comes to federal funds for water infrastructure grants, the difference between authorization and appropriation is essential. Sometimes the definition of one is confused for the other. Here’s what you need to know about both terms and what it means for water grants.

Authorization is Congress dictating that money can be spent on a specific item and appropriations allow agencies to spend money that has been authorized previously. Oftentimes, excitement surrounds authorization, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (which provides $55 billion in new funding over five years to help with drinking and wastewater problems). The issue is, additional legislation must be passed in order to appropriate where that money will be spent. Therefore, grant programs for water infrastructure will not receive any additional funds until they are appropriated.

Sometimes the process of funds trickling down to individual projects takes years. While this can be frustrating, it can also be used to your advantage. Do you have a project that needs to be
funded in the next few years? Keep an eye on where money is being appropriated and which
grants will be boosted because of that. This could be helpful when deciding which grants to
submit applications to years in advance, bettering your chances of success.

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downloadable resources, and grant alerts. Sign up for our email newsletter here.

Grant Pursuit Strategy: The Data Behind Funding Opportunities

In June of 2021, CEO and founder Tia Cavender and database and IT Manager Fernando Gonzalez spoke with Municipal Water Magazine regarding Dig Deep’s work to help municipalities follow the money for infrastructure. Dig Deep’s Grant Pursuit Strategy (GPS) is a tool for municipalities to utilize in order to identify the best grants for them to pursue and the order in which to do so. GPS makes it clear which grants are the most achievable and which are the most competitive using data analysis performed by the team at Dig Deep. Each result is customized specifically for the municipality in question and the project they need funding for. We know the landscape is tough. The US Water Alliance and the American Society of Civil Engineers estimate that $109 billion dollars per year needs to be invested by the federal government to close the water infrastructure gap. The funding opportunities out there cover nowhere near that yearly cost. Therefore, precision and efficiency must be utilized to make the most of this competitive environment. An example of the information GPS provides, Dig Deep performed a comparison between the funding opportunities in Colorado versus Oregon. The data shows that drinking water and

stormwater projects are more likely to receive grant funding due to more availability versus wastewater projects which have more opportunities for loans. To read the full article in Water Strategies’ Municipal Water Leader magazine, click here. We regularly blast out more in-depth information regarding tips for your application, downloadable resources like this checklist, and grant alerts. Sign up here.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visits the Big Creek Dam Project site in Newport, Oregon

This month, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visited Newport, Oregon’s Big Creek dams. The Senator’s visit is imperative as Big Creek dams are the sole water source for Newport. And it is in danger of failure.

Both dams were built over 60 years ago and currently there’s evidence of internal seepage. The dam was deemed unsafe by the Oregon Water Resources Department Dam Safety Engineer in 2021 which requires immediate repairs or a pause in use.

Immediate failure of the Big Creek dams would be catastrophic. City Engineer Aaron Collett said that upon failure, water levels could reach up to 19 feet high in under one minute. Water that high and moving fast would wash over the water treatment plant, rendering it useless, before washing away homes and putting citizens at risk. The economic damages in Newport could exceed $1 billion.

The price tag for replacing the dams is high as well. Costs are projected to reach $100 million, putting a strain of up to $10,000 per taxpayer in Newport without federal assistance. The economic burden on citizens in the surrounding area are why Mayor Dean Sawyer and state Rep. David Gomberg has lobbied for federal funding towards the dam replacement for years now.

Senator Wyden saw the upper dam first-hand and listened to presentations from Mayor Dean Sawyer, City Engineer Aaron Collett, state Rep. David Gomber, and Dig Deep CEO Tia Cavander regarding the necessity for this dam replacement. In response, he assured city leaders that the Senate is committed to providing funding for this project.

In fact, the 2022 Water Resources Development Act promises $60 million for the dam project. The bill cleared the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and was adopted by the House. Now on its way to the Senate, Wyden said “It’s full-court press…This is job number one.”

The information from this blog post is provided by the Newport News Times. To read more about Senator Wyden’s visit and the Big Creek Dams, check out this Newport News Times article.

How to Determine Your Project’s Competitiveness for a Funding Opportunity

Once you’ve figured out that you meet the funder’s requirements for their grant application, the
next step is to determine if your project will be competitive enough to justify the time and
resources required to prepare the grant application.

Many grant guidelines will provide evaluation criteria that tell you how evaluators will be scoring applications. If this information is available to you, use it. The evaluation criteria will establish the relative importance of various components of the project to the funder. You can use that information to align your project with what the funder is interested in supporting.

Some funding agencies publish a list of projects funded in previous grant cycles, occasionally including copies of the submitted proposals. This information can provide invaluable insight into the program’s giving habits. Look for trends and compare how well your project and organization would fit in with their award history.

Utilize the program officer or contact person at the funding agency you’re researching. They are responsible for managing the application process and can be an incredible resource when
determining your competitiveness. Ask questions, be prepared, and listen carefully. Be open to receiving any information they are able to share.

Keep in touch with Dig Deep so you can be among the first to know when grant opportunities
open up.

How to Incorporate Fundable Elements Into Your Project

What makes a project stand out in a sea of grant applications? The incorporation of fundable
elements. The more of these features your project has, the better its chances of securing
funding. If you are able to incorporate these elements early on in the design and construction
process, your project will have more long-term success.

Here are a few fundable elements to consider incorporating:

Highlight what you’re already doing. Capital infrastructure projects can create jobs, both short-
term and long-term. Furthermore, capital projects are often part of larger development and
revitalization efforts. Think about how your project contributes to economic stimulus and/or
serving the underserved communities in your area and then highlight those contributions in your
proposal.

Funders are interested in supporting projects that have the support and participation of the
community. Formalize existing connections by asking for a letter of support, letter of
commitment or memorandum of understanding. Also make an effort to make new, strategic
connections with those who may be positively impacted by your project. The more connections
and support your project has, the more fundable it will be.

Incorporating best industry practices in your capital infrastructure project also helps its chances
of funding. Emerging or green technologies incorporated early on in the design and construction
phases of your project shows funding agencies that you are innovative. This also opens the
door to a partnership with a research institution, power company, or environmental group, thus
boosting your project’s fundability.

As you can see, there’s many ways to include fundable elements into your project and grant
application. The incorporation of these doesn’t have to involve dramatic changes either. Take a
look at the details of your project and see what sorts of fundable elements you can include in
the design. Learn more about Dig Deep so you can be among the first to know when grant
opportunities open up.