Best Practices

The Secret to Getting Grants: Partnerships

Published May 13, 2014 by Kate Hodel

Partners and relationships are the key to getting funding to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support organizations, according to a panel at the U.S.SourceLink conference in April.

The panel:

Alonso and Vukas kicked off the conversation by talking about using new market tax credits, a federal program, to bring money into communities to support entrepreneurs and small business. CDFI has been focused on real estate but is looking for new ways to invest in business. In Kansas City, that has become WIBO training, small business loans and façade improvement.

LISC, in 30 cities nationwide, is a financial intermediary for low income neighborhoods. Traditionally, LISC has used new market tax credits for affordable housing, but is moving beyond to other aspects of neighborhood revitalization, such as business and entrepreneurship support. Both stressed the need for technical support to those who get funds, so that the dollars are used wisely.

To see if CDFI or LISC work in your area, click on CDFI locator or LISC offices.

The second half of the panel focused on federal programs that can support entrepreneurial support organizations as well as the entrepreneurs they serve. NetWork Kansas’ Radley, who works a lot in rural communities, has had success in building partnerships with the USDA for rural business enterprise grants. The funds have been used to extend programming, match loans, fund an economic gardening pilot, among other uses. The success of gaining these grants came through a strong relationship with the state director for USDA.


















From left, Steve Radley, Melissa Houston, Maria Meyers and Jeremy Hegle

AKSourceLink’s Houston also works in rural communities and recently won a different kind of USDA grant, one for rural business opportunities. As in the case of Kansas, a relationship with the state office drove the successful outcome. The federal grant, which targets regions that meet specific criteria, is being used to reach out through the Internet. The grant helps Resource Partners in Alaska broaden their reach through webinars and more connections to outlying clients.

KCSourceLink’s Meyers talked about the process of securing funding from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. She recommended building relationships with potential funders. For instance, the EDA has regional staff who focus on getting EDA funding into their regions.

Key takeaways:

  • The secret to getting grants is partnerships.
  • People buy from people they know.
  • There’s no cookbook on how to think about bringing in funding.
  • Most funders want more than one group involved. They want evidence of collaboration.
  • Measure success. Make sure you are giving them back what they want.
  • Build a track record of success.
  • It's partners, partners, partners.