CSM Hosts Government, Foundation Grants 101 Workshop

Shelly Lancaster

Counties, Schools, Nonprofits Learn Basics for Requesting, Managing ARRA Funds

More than 130 local government representatives, schools and nonprofits gathered April 17 to learn how their agencies and organizations might receive some of the $3.9 billion in state stimulus money available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

The workshop hosted by the College of Southern Maryland and sponsored by the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, Commissioners of Charles County, Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Library and Chaney Enterprises, gave participants an overview of pre-grant application planning, funding availability and post-award grant management.

“You are on the front lines, the spear point,” said Charles County Commissioner and Chairman of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland Gary V. Hodge to workshop participants. “That’s why you are here today.”

“With your help, we can come roaring out of this economy,” he said.

Executive Director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland Wayne Clark told participants that although there “was a lot of money on the table,” they should not go after everything, but decide on projects responsibly.

“Don’t overshoot,” Clark said, “choose [grants] where you can be successful, then work like a dog.”

During the workshop, state agencies with recovery funding available presented overviews of their department’s grant opportunities as well as timelines, deadlines and requirements. According to Director Eric Brenner of the Governor’s Grants Office, there is a “one-stop shopping spot” for information on ARRA grant opportunities on the Governor’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act website, www.recovery.maryland.gov.

The moderator for the discussions on pre- and post-grant application planning, Deputy Director Merril Oliver of the Governor’s Grants Office, led participants in discussions on fleshing out ideas and strategic plans, identifying their organization’s strengths and weaknesses, setting goals and objectives, compliance issues and program sustainability.

“We feel your pain,” Oliver said of the participants present who manage the complex grant process for their organization alone.

For the larger organizations who have a grant-writing team separated from the project or program management team, Oliver suggested, “Folks who will have their hands involved in their organization’s grant in any way, need to be involved in the front end of the grant-writing process.”

 “I didn’t expect that a one-day workshop would have everything—there are too many competitive grants out there,” said participant Joyce Garza, budget analyst for Calvert County. “But this workshop was eye-opening,” she said.

Sharon Strand, capital projects coordinator for Calvert County, agreed. The deadlines for grant applications are fast-approaching she said of the June 1 deadline for road improvement funds. “Money is designated for the counties, but you still have to apply to get it,” she said of each county’s responsibility.

Brenner spoke to workshop participants on the types of grants available, where to find the funding opportunities and how to track the ARRA money as it is being spent. County school systems are funded directly by the state using a formula with some money available for competitive grants, he said. Road improvement money is designated by county but requires an application be filed before it can be awarded. “If a county is sitting around and not asking for road money, it won’t get any,” Brenner said. “The governor’s website will show the public what its county is applying for and what it is getting,” he added. Other funds are available to county governments, school systems and nonprofits through state departments such as health and human services, public safety, environment and energy.

“Seeing our Southern Maryland partners working together to find the best ways to request funds from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act is very gratifying,” said CSM Grants Development Specialist Becky Cockerham, the college’s liaison in planning the workshop. “There is no question our community will benefit from this workshop and from the one-on-one meetings between local nonprofits and state officials,” she added.

To view tracking, monitoring and grant opportunities statewide by county, view Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Recovery and Reinvestment website www.recovery.maryland.gov. To view training workshops announcements, workshop presentations and resources relative to the Recovery Act online, visit www.grants.maryland.gov, click on “Recovery Act Information” in the What’s New box. For additional information, contact the governor’s grants office, 410-974-5090.

Cockerham also announced a separate free grants-training seminar will be offered 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Aug. 28 at CSM’s La Plata Campus. Pre-registration is required by contacting Cockerham at 301-934-7648 or beckyc@csmd.edu.