Last week Senior Sleuth looked into the Del Norte Economic Development Corporation’s 2014 membership drive 2014. My inquiry focused primarily on the subject of grant writing. I spoke with Jessica Mercado, loan administrator, and office manager of the Del Norte Economic Development Corporation, 882 H St., Crescent City.
The Del Norte EDC is a membership organization and is inviting active community members in Del Norte, Humboldt, Curry, Josephine and Jackson counties to apply for general membership. If you have an interest in manpower planning, business or financial services or feel you could contribute to the growth of economic opportunities in your community, you are encouraged to consider this opportunity.
The mission of the Del Norte EDC is to drive community and economic development through lending, management training, marketing, networking and relocation.
Jessica explained that grant writing is important in the EDC’s effort to drive community and economic development. There are many approaches to grant writing depending on the proposed program and the grantor. Two important websites are grants.gov and fdo.foundationcenter.org.
However, it is very time-intensive to go through those sites to find what you’re looking for. Instead, Jessica subscribes to industry newsletters, which often describe a program and provide a link to the website. She also recommends the book “The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need,” by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox.
The EDC was originally funded through a grant from the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority, which came through their grant from the Economic Development Administration.
Here’s what Jessica told me in my interview with her about EDC and applying for grants:
“The EDA was a $1.5 million grant. That’s what gave us our start in 1976 to help establish a revolving loan fund for Del Norte County. There were several grants for research and feasibility studies, and I am currently working on a project to archive those studies for public access.
“In August we were awarded a loan from the USDA for $300,000. We have a very patient term on it, and we lend it out in whatever size is appropriate, from $5,000 to $250,000 for business development. The revenue from the interest paid is how we are able to sustain our business operations. We had trimmed down a lot of our operations, and because of that loan we are able to bulk up again now.
“Recently I pursued the rural design grants, but they were not awarded to us. I learned a lot from the process, and we’re going to try again next year. We want to provide workshops so the stakeholders in the community will understand the importance of design in the community. Workshops bring the community together so we can have an inclusive vision plus action to follow up. That funding is from the National Endowment of the Arts. There is a huge arts component, looking at design, the arts, and rural aspects, and how to use that for economic drivers.
“We needed to have a clearer focus in the proposal. Our focus was on the entryways and the pathways in our community, but there wasn’t a clear connection between objectives and outcomes. For example, there was a design for a culinary institute and a visitors center, but the location for those sites had not been determined. The social, economic, and environmental impact should be linked together in selecting a site. Also, I failed to get enough support from critical stakeholders and decision makers, such as the city manager.
“I wrote the proposal in collaboration with Angela Glore. She is the web food systems analyst. We attempted to show how through the built environment and community connectivity, we can have more robust food system access and also aesthetically improve the community, edible landscaping, and art. She was very helpful. She is a very experienced grant writer. But there was some backlash from the city.
“The city also failed to support another project I was involved in, The Cool California Cities Challenge, in which the city participates and individuals and businesses take action and initiative for sustainability, Then the city will receive monetary incentives for those different initiatives. This was the second year, and Arcata is participating. All we needed to get involved in that was a letter from a City Council member.
“You need a team of people to collaborate. You need a well-developed program. The funders (grantors) don’t want you to find a grant and then create a program to match the grant. They want you to have a well-developed program, and they will see how their grant purpose will meet your need.
“But it’s useful to survey the grants to determine the trends. And you can also read case studies of previous grants and see what they were awarded to do. You may know what your need is, but you don’t have the solution. We really need a community portal of grants that people are working on and how to get involved.”
Finally, Jessica explained that a lot of grantors want applicants to have matching funds, especially if the grant is coming from the feds. They don’t want to be the only ones supporting the project monetarily. And they also like to see in-kind donations, people volunteering their time. They don’t want to match federal money with other federal funds. They want additional donations to come from some other pot of money.