Finding the Perfect Match
Sunday, August 15, 2010
By Christopher Haight
August 2010 (GO Know)
In the grants world, "matching funds" means bringing two different funding sources together for one project. Match or cost-share requirements are minimum amounts of funding that must be derived from a source other grant funder. The purpose of match requirements is usually to promote collaborative efforts, as discussed in the July issue of GO Know, and/or demonstrate the ability of your organization to sustain a project beyond the life of a specific grant.
These minimum amounts are expressed in grant guidelines as a ratio or percentage of either the total project cost or total grant request. For example, a proposed $100,000 project for a grant that requires a 20 percent match would mean the maximum grant would total only $80,000; your organization must be able to finance at least $20,000 of the cost elsewhere. These requirements can vary in size, from a small 10 percent share to an entire half.
Fortunately for grantseekers, there are a variety of strategies and sources to find your own match. Firstly, it is important to take note of what form the match requirement can take: cash or in-kind. Cash refers to actual money that will be available by the awarding of grant funding or start of the project. Cash is the easiest to understand, and often the most preferred demonstrated match by funders.
In-kind matches, by contrast, represent donations of services, technical assistance, or equipment necessary to the project. Discounts offered by vendors to any of these possible in-kind donations do not apply. It is also important to note that in-kind matches should not be equipment or services already in use for another purpose - they must represent resources newly available for the purpose(s) of the proposed project.
Next, evaluate your ability to meet, or even go beyond, the minimum match requirement. Exceeding the specified minimum can boost the competitive standing of your application. A popular example of when this can occur is through the very popular Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program that provides funding for improving access by rural residents to educational opportunities and health care. DLT specifies a 15 percent cost-share but in reality, the most competitively reviewed applications will have demonstrated double that amount.
Finally, develop a strategy to secure reliable matching funds. This final step can even include other grant funding - so long as the funder is not the same (i.e. you cannot meet a match requirement from Department of Energy with the Department of Education, as both are federal sources). A popular way to achieve the minimum match is to pursue foundation funding. The majority of foundations in the U.S. are not capable of financing entire projects, making their funding limitations your match opportunity. Other times, you may be able to speak with local vendors about donations either in the form of cash or equipment.
Obtaining a match requirement can also be eased by applying to grants that require collaboration such as the COPS Secure Our Schools program that brings together Local Education Agencies (LEAs), or school districts, and the local law enforcement agencies. This gives your overall project at least two possible sources of funding.
While match requirements can seem daunting and an initial obstacle to grant funding - especially for public sector organizations already constrained tightly by budgetary concerns - meeting the match is still entirely possible through effective planning and collaboration.