A community may have great ideas that would improve the health of the people living, working, studying and visiting there. Project funding can come from a wide variety of sources including the federal, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, foundations, private business sponsors, health care providers and insurers and others. Transportation, Planning, and Economic and Community Development have traditionally been good funders of placemaking projects. Some funding is guaranteed and some is highly competitive. Some funding opportunities require advanced planning and some come around every year. This information can help navigate to sources of funding.
Healthy Built Environment grants are available to local governments, state government agencies, and non-profit organizations. The funds can be used for convening, programming, planning, and construction of built environemt projects that promote physical activity. In 2018, nearly $8 million of programs were funded. The projects are underway, and include playgrounds, walking tracks, outdoor fitness stations, greenways and trails, and other publicly-accessible spaces that promote physical activity and social interaction for communities. To be notified of the next round of funding for these grants, sign up for the Built Environment + Health Newsletter.
Project Diabetes is a state-funded initiative administered by Tennessee Department of Health. Grants are awarded to community partners with a focus on reducing overweight and obesity as risk factors for the development of diabetes. Grant activities are geared toward interventions that are applied before there is any evidence of disease. Currently funded projects were required to draw upon the prevention goals and strategies identified in the book Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation issued by the National Academy of Medicine.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Access Grant is a state-funded program created to support the transportation needs of transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists through infrastructure projects that address existing gaps along state routes. Multimodal Access projects are state-funded at 95 percent with a 5 percent local match. Total project costs must not exceed $1 million. Applications are accepted one each year.
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program improves air quality by funding transportation projects and programs that reduce air emissions from cars, trucks and buses in air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas. Project types typically considered eligible for CMAQ funding include bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs, idling reduction projects, education and outreach programs, rideshare activities and others. Applications are accepted one each year.
The Transportation Alternative funding has made a lot of improvements in Tennessee. Communities across the Volunteer State have built sidewalks, constructed bike and pedestrian trails, renovated historic train depots and other transportation related structures. These projects improved access and provided a better quality of life for people. The Transportation Alternative applications are open from July 1 - November 3 each year.
Click over to TDOT's Grant Information webpage for more information about their grants.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s ThreeStar progam focuses on business and workforce development. ThreeStar provides annual grants to participating counties. Each year ECD scores progress in five focus areas: jobs & Economic Development; Fiscal Strength & Efficient Government; Public Safety; Education & Workforce Development; and Health & Welfare.
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds support water projects, housing rehabilitation and community livability. Block Grant funds can also be used to help a community recover after a natural disaster such as a flood or tornado. Project submissions usually occur in the spring each year for awards made in the fall.
The Tennessee Main Street program is a statewide resource for revitalizing and managing downtowns. Merchants, business owners, property owners, residents and local government participate through a working group. The work group plans for downtown area improvements while gathering broad-based local interest and support. Applications are accepted annually.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Recreation Educational Service Grants include funds for local parks and recreation, recreational trails, recreational delivery and land acquisition and development. Some grants require matching funds from the applicant. Applications are accepted at various times depending on the program.
TDEC hosts the Green Star Partnership (TGSP) an environmental leadership program. The partnership recognizes Tennessee industries committed to sustainability and continuous improvement throughout their entire operation. TGSP members share network by sharing their success stories and best management practices.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and Transportation Planning Organizations (TPO) administer federal funding and provide technical expertise for transportation projects. Tennessee's 11 MPOs and TPOs serve Bristol, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cleveland, Jackson, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Lakeway, Memphis and Nashville.
In less populated areas of Tennessee, Rural Planning Organizations (RPO) are responsible for transportation planning. Tennessee’s 12 RPOs are Center Hill, Dale Hollow, East Tennessee North, East Tennessee South, First Tennessee, Middle Tennessee RPO, West Tennessee RPO, Northwest Tennessee, South Central East, South Central West, Southeast Tennessee and Southwest Tennessee.
Tennessee has 9 Development Districts of municipal and county governments working together on planning and development. Development Districts can be help obtain and administer state and federal funding.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers many grants to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s Brownfields program provides grants and assistance to reinvest in contaminated properties to protect the environment, reduce blight and take development pressure off of greenspaces. EPA has several types of brownfields grants for assessment, loans, cleanup, area-wide planning, workforce development and more. Many grants are available to local governments. EPA's Environmental Justice Small Grants Program funds community-based organizations, and local and tribal organizations working with communities facing environmental justice issues. Visit their website for grants cycles and eligibility requirements.
Sometimes a good grant project proposal comes from an identified need. Sometimes a grant is announced, and a proposal is drawn up to apply for it. It doesn’t really matter how you get started applying for grants. It is important to remember grants are often time bound and highly competitive. Start by making sure your organization is eligible to apply. Some project applications are strengthened when partners apply together. Some grants are only open to government, academia or non-profit organizations. Then make sure the deadline can be met. Most importantly, follow all directions. Not following directions will likely get an application disqualified, wasting a lot of hard work, time and effort.
Grant funding opportunities, often called something like requests for proposals (RFPs), come and go. Some grants are available every year. Some grants happen just once. Some grants provide guaranteed funding. Don’t miss out on those. Many grants are highly competitive. Check how many awards are being awarded and how soon the deadline is approaching. In general terms, funding announcements with a few awards and short deadline were aimed at an audience already working within that field. Grants with a higher number of open awards and longer time frames to apply were likely designed to attract a wider audience. Either way, it is common to need to develop and improve a project proposal through several application cycles.
When applying for grants consider:
- Where is there a need?
- Who is the target audience?
- How many people will be served?
- Does the audience have disparities?
- Who are like-minded stakeholders and partners?
- Is the proposed project idea specific, concise and attainable?
- Is your proposal new and innovative or has it been many times before?
- Can existing resources or funds be leveraged together?
- Can the proposed projected be completed in the time provided?
- Can the impact of the proposed projected be measured?
- Is your proposal organized and easy to read?
A professional grant writer is certainly not needed. Though, your grant should identify a project leader who has a good track record with completing projects and networking with stakeholders. People identified to support the grant should be qualified personnel clearly able to achieve proposed project outcomes. Many grants benefit from letters of support. Start early asking like-minded stakeholders to support your grant.
Your application should demonstrate that your organization does have the capacity to fulfill all grant requirements. It should have measureable outcomes with clearly defined objectives and timely milestones. Many applications do a great job describing a project proposal, but then miss the opportunity to describe what will happen after the project is completed. Measuring change or impact to be able to share outcomes and lessons learned is important to proposals.
Consider what competitive advantages your community may have that can be highlighted in a project proposal. For example, your community may have cultural, environmental or historical significance that no other proposal can match. Highlight established community partnerships to strengthen a project. Before you submit your application, ask someone else to read it to make sure it is well organized and easy to understand. Often times, grant reviewers are not subject matter experts and have a lot of applications to review and will not give a high rating to something poorly organized or difficult to understand. Simple is often better.
Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community (ECD)
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
About CDC Grants
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Understanding, Managing, and Applying for EPA Grants
2020 RWJF Culture of Health Prize. The Prize will recognize up to 10 winning communities working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all with a $25,000 prize and the chance to share their accomplishments and lessons learned with the nation. Communities that are bringing partners together and making the most of their unique strengths so that everyone has the opportunity to live well are encouraged to apply. Prize-winning communities represent diverse places throughout the country-cities, counties, tribes, and rural towns. Though they vary in size and geographic makeup, they are all building a Culture of Health with deliberate action and the input of many. Due November 4, 2019.
Snider Recreation's website hosts a comprehensive list of potential funding resources for playgrounds. Their list is comprised of sources for both school and general playgrounds.