The American Rescue Plan promises that help is on the way. Like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of more than a decade ago, it stands to be an historic federal investment that will shape our communities for years to come. So, what do you need to know, and do, to get ready to seize these opportunities for your organization?
No surprise: the Plan is big and complicated. Fairmount Ventures is tracking and analyzing details as they emerge, just as we did when historic federal investments enabled nonprofits to help their communities during and after the 2008 recession. Our deep expertise helps clients navigate recovery legislation, ready themselves to pursue right-fit funding opportunities, and write winning proposals. Our support a decade ago helped an effective early childhood literacy organization scale its model regionally (ultimately validating its model and setting the stage for later national replication), and launched a citywide collaborative initiative that is now a permanent element of Philadelphia’s digital access ecosystem. Between then and now, our team has secured tens of millions of dollars in competitive federal grants and cooperative agreements, resulting in new and expanded critical services throughout the region, and nationally.
Based on our experience and what we’re seeing so far out of the American Rescue Plan, Fairmount knows that three strategies can help you get ready now:
1. Prepare and plan
If you’ve pursued federal funding before, you know it requires strategic thinking, a dedicated team effort, and time. Even before specific funding opportunities are announced, Fairmount can assess how the dollars are likely to flow and how your nonprofit can optimally benefit. We know, for example, that almost half (47%) of American Recovery Plan money is designated for individuals, with a subset going to organizations helping people access benefits. If you already connect clients to benefits, what could you do more of? And if you don’t connect clients to benefits, would it advance your mission to add this as a service?
2. Help legislators understand what’s most needed
More money will flow to counties and cities than ever before, and local leaders will need help deciding how to spend it. Show legislators how you can help them be a leader in the recovery and rebuilding effort. We’ve got the talking points so you can communicate with your local legislators about the needs you’re seeing, how you think federal dollars could be invested to make the greatest impact, and what your organization can do to help.
3. Join forces with others
As you consider your organization’s eligibility for funds, realize that you might be one piece of the puzzle. Fairmount helped form the Freedom Rings Partnership of citywide and grassroots nonprofit organizations whose unique strengths and reach together dramatically increased broadband access in communities throughout the city, securing both Commerce Department and leveraged private funding, and eventually becoming the City of Philadelphia’s KEYSPOTS program. Many of the partners couldn’t have competed for funding on their own, but together they created a robust initiative to improve quality of life in Philadelphia, one that’s still serving our communities today.
Once funding opportunities are released, the vetting process begins. It’s vital to assess your competitiveness as an applicant and carefully consider the opportunity costs of preparing the application, as well as reporting and compliance requirements if you get the award. Fairmount’s constructive vetting expertise can help you determine whether the juice is worth the squeeze and ensure you position your ideas, and your organization, in the most effective way.
The pandemic exacerbated existing weaknesses in our nation’s support networks and exacted a particularly heavy toll on people working in low-paying jobs and low-income households with children — with a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The American Rescue Plan is designed to address the current hardship, but there’s also a great opportunity to leverage this seed money to invest in longer-term strategies that can create a more equitable and inclusive Philadelphia, nation, and world.
Fairmount is at the ready to help your organization consider where these funds align with your strategic goals, share your expertise with stakeholders who will help make decisions about how the money flows, and develop partnerships with others who can help you make the greatest impact. As specific opportunities launch, we can jump in to determine if a funding opportunity is a good fit and from there, develop a competitive strategy and write a winning proposal.