Introduction to Funding Accessibility Projects: In Search of the Money Tree
Every organization experiences periods of time during which its economic resources are stretched, budgets are lean, and there is a need to set priorities for taking action on important safety, accessibility, and maintenance projects. In such economic times, identifying sources of external funding to support your accessibility projects can greatly enhance the likelihood your organization will move forward with those projects.
Where internal funding may allow for the project to be completed with only the most basic necessary elements, external funds can bolster the project to provide optimal access for the widest spectrum of users through creative and innovative design. External funding may also allow your organization to move up its timetable for work on accessibility projects because most external funding sources will require timely completion of proposed projects with clear milestones for progress on all activities supported by the external funds.
Searching for sources of external funding can be a tedious and frustrating task. As you would expect, there is usually a great deal of competition pursuing the available external funding. Whether you are seeking grant funds, soliciting organizations for donations, or conducting fundraising activities, you must be able to clearly present a strong case for why your project should be supported. Potential funders are generally overwhelmed with solicitations and in almost every case requests far exceed an organization’s ability to accommodate requests.
One CEO recently stated, “I get at least 10 phone calls, emails or letters per day from organizations soliciting support. It is impossible to even respond to all of the requests, let alone to fund them.” Prior to soliciting funds from any source, it is critical to develop a strong case statement for your project, program, or activity. This may be the most important aspect of the entire fund seeking process.
There are a number of things that you can do to enhance the possibility of getting your project or program financial support. One of the best places to start is within your own organization. Involving accessibility in the initial discussions and planning stages for new programs, renovation of facilities, etc. can save your organization a lot of money.
Following this simple rule can save a great deal of expense and headache. If accessibility is included from the beginning, seeking additional funds will not be necessary. There is often a misconception that accessibility increases costs. When included in the initial design, this is generally not true.
Expenditures can, however, be increased when accessibility is not considered during design stages and pre-existing plans have to be modified to comply with the law. It is much more cost effective to pay for one set of plans that are in compliance rather than having to go back and make changes to include the technical specifications for accessibility.
According to the Final Regulatory Impact Analysis for Final ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities from the U.S. Access Board, designing buildings for accessibility from the beginning adds less than 1% to the total cost of construction for a new facility.
Courses are available through continuing education programs at universities and community colleges in both grant writing and fundraising. In addition, several online seminars are also available.
If fund raising is going to be part of your ongoing responsibilities, these types of courses can be invaluable in saving time and providing guidance to maximize your time searching for funding.
Although frequently overlooked, the necessary funding may be right in your own neighborhood or community. Often local businesses donate to local projects as a way to pay back to the community for their support. Additionally, businesses or corporations will want to know how the project can benefit them. Sometimes it may be as simple as an acknowledgement in the form of a plaque signifying where the funding came from, or through a press release recognizing their contribution.
Local bank branches also frequently have designated funds at the discretion of the bank manager to give back to the community. The same quid pro quo can apply here by offering positive promotions for them in exchange for their donations. A little recognition can go a long way. Another way of securing external funds from local sources is to form partnerships with local organizations, schools, etc. Local civic clubs such as Kiwanis International, Lion’s Club, Rotary International, The Association of Junior Leagues, etc. often look for philanthropic causes.
The internet is a great resource — even for dollars. There are a few websites in particular that are full of funding opportunities.
- Fundsnet Online Services - This website has a variety of categories including grants specifically aimed toward disability related projects.
- The Foundation Center offers a Finding Funders section that includes information on grant applications. There is also an online directory of both individual and foundation donors. The Foundation Center is arguably the most authoritative source of grant and funding information. Generally, local libraries will have resources available from The Foundation Center, particularly in larger cities.
- Most state university websites also offer a variety of funding resources. An example is Indiana University’s Research Gateway. This source incorporates various federal agencies as well as organizations and Indiana state funding opportunities. Other state Universities will most likely have similar websites.
State and National Funding Directories
Many directories are available and are extensive resources for external dollars. Directories are categorized by state, region, national, international and topic specific. There are also directories that focus on non-profits. Directories can be purchased through various resources including bookstores, Amazon.com, and organizations such as the Foundation Center and the Research Associates.
As indicated earlier, they are also often available at the Reserve Desk in local and university libraries. The Foundation Center has several directories such as the Foundation Directory which offers key facts on the nation’s 10,000 top foundations by total giving and the National Guide to Funding in Arts and Culture which features essential information on over 7,500 foundations, corporate direct giving programs, and public charities with a demonstrated interest in the field just to name a few. They can be purchased through The Foundation Center.
The Research Associates have various other directories such as Grant Experts. Directories from the Research Associates include Federal Grants and Agency Funding which profiles nearly 100 popular federal grant and contact information, National Corporate Giving Programs which contains more than 150 national corporations such as Microsoft, and National Large Foundations (Volume I, II & III) which lists over 100 of the largest foundations with assets over $90,000,000.
University Grants and Contracts Offices
State universities have departments specifically focused on contracts and grants. These grants and contracts offices can be used as a source for funding opportunities. The University of Colorado at Boulder is a good example. Another example is the University of Michigan.
In addition to funding opportunities, university grants and contracts offices are resources for proposal preparation and answers to frequently asked questions on grant writing and fund raising.
Disability Publications and Newsletters
Disability publications such as the Disability Compliance Bulletin and Disability Funding News have resources specific to funding accessibility or other projects directly involved with people with disabilities. These publications require the purchase of a subscription and can be ordered through their publishers. The Disability Compliance Bulletin is published by LRP, and the Disability Funding News is published by CD Publications. Both are good resources to obtain if seeking funding for accessibility related projects will be an ongoing task.