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Don’t Piss Off Local Gatekeepers Who Stand Between You and Federal Grants

While most federal grant proposals are submitted directly to the federal agency funding source, some require the blessing of a local gatekeeper. It pays to play nice with such gatekeepers. We’ve seen a number of local gatekeepers evolve over the years:

  • Continuum of Care (CoC): As we’ve written before, CoCs are the gatekeepers to most HUD grants for homeless services. Unless the CoC includes you in their master HUD application, you have no chance of getting McKinney Act funding.
  • Ryan White Act: Ryan White Act grants provide funding for HIV/AIDs services. Such funds flow through local governments and Ryan White regional coordinating bodies. To gain access to most Ryan White dollars, it is imperative to get the support of the local Ryan White gatekeeper, no matter how innovative or needed your proposed project.
  • Economic Development Agency (EDA): EDA grants are one of the best ways to pay for infrastructure projects, but first you have to sweet-talk the usually formidable local/regional Economic Development Representative (EDR). Without the support of your EDR, EDA will likely toss your application.
  • Rural Development (RD): The Department of Agriculture’s RD programs are the best way of funding community development and affordable housing projects in rural areas. Much like an EDR, support of the local RD Program Officer is essential to access RD loans and grants.
  • Workforce Development Board: The bulk of federal job training funds are derived from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Not only do Local Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), which are sometimes called Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), control much of WIA funding, but they are also often required parters for other Department of Labor job training grants.

It’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature that people with power tend to exercise it. Gatekeepers like these, whether it be a consortium (CoC) or an individual (EDR) can easily turn into petty tyrants. For many novice grant seeking agencies, this can be like being suddenly thrust into Game of Thrones, with shifting alliances, real or imagined slights, grudges and so on.

To get many federal grants, you have to learn to keep your eye on the prize and thread your way past gatekeepers. Compounding the problem is that in many cases, you not only need the gatekeeper to access a particular grant, but may also need them to form the alleged collaborations that are required by many federal RFPs. The frequent DOL requirement for a letter of support from the local WDB/WIB noted above is a case in point.

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