Grant-seeking solutions at hand for federal, state and local needs

Vendors can provide help in navigating the grant process.

It’s estimated up to one-third of government agencies do not apply for available grants to help finance their missions. From technology to training, money is available to fund a variety of initiatives, whether those programs emerge after budgets are ratified or to bridge the funding gap in existing programs.

According to the Government Accountability Office, many available grants go unused because the grant process can be complicated and time-consuming, and some agencies are not even aware that certain funds may be available to them. A vendor that understands how to navigate the grant process can be of great assistance to an agency, pointing them in the direction of resources they may have overlooked.

Let’s take a plain-language look at grants, the approval process and the different ways to use grant applications for the purpose of supplementing program funding.

Grants and why they are used

In the simplest terms, a grant is a pool of money that is typically funded by the federal government or private foundations. This money is ancillary to a budget, and it allows government agencies, or nonprofit organizations, to apply for those funds and use them for a specific project.

Grants are not restricted to products. While some grants can apply to commodities, they can also be used to help with technology, training, ongoing maintenance and emergency disaster funding.

A considerable percentage of eligible agencies don’t take advantage of grant opportunities. According to GrantStation, among government funding sources, state government application rates (74%) were higher than those of local government (71%) or the federal government (64%) at the end of 2023. Another way of looking at this statistic is that one-quarter to one-third of agencies do not apply for grant funding. This is despite a finding from Instrumentl that “there are currently over 900 federal grant programs offered by 26 different grant-making agencies.”

So why aren’t more government agencies taking advantage of these opportunities?

Grant resistance

Can grants be secured quickly? In a word, “sometimes.” Not surprisingly, the bigger the grant, the more complexity and time involved in crafting an effective response.

For example, FEMA’s State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP) is a tough one for a first-timer to apply. The applicant will need to know if their state is eligible, and if they have opted in and selected a grants manager. They will also need to know the state representative managing the application process for local entities.

Many grant opportunities may require considerable coordination on the agency side to prepare a response, which can add to the time it takes to move through the process. In unusual circumstances (for example, natural disasters, global health conditions, or cyber attacks), response times could be expedited, but that is the exception — not the rule. The process takes time.

Complexity is not the only reason agencies are not applying for grants. In some cases, the reason is much more basic: awareness. Agencies that have not historically included grant requests in their funding strategies might not even know of available grant opportunities.

That’s one reason why it can be extremely useful to have qualified vendors provide information to an agency about such opportunities.

Often, a vendor can provide value to their clients just by pointing them in the right direction. A trusted vendor can help an agency to identify grants and the correct government points of contact managing those grants. This assistance can save agencies time and provide additional business value.

Vendor-agency cooperation is fundamental to success

Of course, there’s no secret recipe for securing grants. From a “nuts-and-bolts” perspective agencies must have access to a competent grant writer and a clear channel of communication to their trusted vendors.

For some smaller local agencies, an administrative employee may be completing the application. Such individuals may have limited experience with the process and may therefore heavily rely on vendors to understand how to answer technical requirements. A seasoned and dedicated grants writer may meet with vendors during the application process so that both parties understand the requirements for answering grant application questions. Regardless, vendors and agencies, acting together, can prepare the most compelling grant responses.

There are some emerging examples of grant resources provided by local commissions using third-party writers. The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is starting the Ready LDD Grant Writing Bench program. The Virginia program will provide on-call grant writers and project management support to its member communities of Alleghany County, Botetourt County, Craig County, the City of Covington, and the Town of Clifton Forge.

Agencies that are considering taking on a grant-seeking program have to answer several questions before they begin:

  • What is your organization’s appetite for grant solicitation? Not every agency’s leadership will want to support a grant application process with personnel and financial resources.
  • What is your timeline? Success in grant-seeking requires being able to time your requests with adequate preparation time, including internal planning and correctly forecasting when a grant may be used.
  • Are you willing to have a grants conversation with your vendors? While this is not essential, a collaborative agreement with vendors during the grant application process can save time and help create a persuasive response to grant applications.

After answering these questions, an agency may realize that grant funding may not be a solution for their needs. But for those where the IT needs are important and immediate, collaborating with a vendor to navigate the grants process is viable means for a positive outcome.  

Chauncey Kehoe is SLED Program Director for immixGroup, the public sector business of Arrow Electronics. immixGroup delivers mission-driven results through innovative technology solutions for public sector IT. Visit for more information.