In honor of International Grant Professionals Day on March 9th, IDI sat down with Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township Supervisor, to find out how she gets the funds needed to make Pittsfield Township, which was named the 8th most desirable suburb to live in the State of Michigan by Niche in 2017.
Pittsfield Township has received over $16M in federal, state, and county grant funding since Mandy started her tenure as Pittsfield Township Supervisor in November 2008. When she was newly elected she realized the only way to survive as a township was to get aggressive in applying for grant funds from decreases in state revenue, significantly less road maintenance funds, and a deficit in the township building fund.
A Local Grant Professional's Experience with Grant Management
IDI: How has Pittsfield Township implemented a successful grant strategy?
Mandy: Our team starts by engaging with community members to identify the vision of Pittsfield Township Master Plan. There is a 2 Year Planning Process for the Master Plan where the vision is created via Surveys, Public Forum and Township departments (Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, Building Services, and Utilities and Municipal Services) for making decisions on a broad-based consensus. The Master Plan is used as a reference to guide future land use, transportation, capital improvement expenditures, economic and policy development.
IDI: What advice can you give others?
Mandy: First, take stock of where you are.
Pittsfield Township has had double digit growth from 1970 -2006 as a major area for development with proximity to the city of Ann Arbor and as desirable place to raise a family with highly ranked public schools.
Second, take stock of where you want to go.
With all of this development residents communicated through surveys and forums the need for more community amenities such as sidewalk gap filling, parks renovating the tennis courts, pathways connecting recreational/green spaces and the need for more foundational investments such as an HVAC system for the senior center and maintenance of sewage and water infrastructure.
Third, ask yourself, what resources do we need to get there.
Once we know what the broad-based consensus is of our residents and have the map of where we want to go; now we can review general fund, what funds have already been committed via existing projects, and where the gaps are (need for grant funding and what we can match from the general fund). Now our team can be strategic by applying for grants that align to the Master Plan’s Vision to write a compelling narrative for the grant.
IDI: Now that you know what grants you are applying for, how do you increase your odds of winning?
Mandy: We were not always efficient at winning grants. I distinctly remember when starting as Township Supervisor a member of our team coming to me with stacks and stacks of denied grant applications. Rather than giving up, we learned from every denied grant application by asking “why” to funding sources to improve our pre-award and post award grant processes.
IDI: What is your process, or best practices?
Mandy: Pre-Award our team contacts the program manager of the grant making agency to confirm our eligibility as an applicant and alignment of our goals and objectives to the funding source’s grant. We do the work up-front for getting projects funded by grants. This includes identifying a need in the Master Plan, identifying what funding options are out there, and start preparing for and developing a project when we can prior to the grant being awarded (i.e. purchase of the land, invest in planning and engineering costs).
We go a step further when possible; for example, in 2009 we invited SEMCOG to conduct a walkability assessment as part of developing our Master Plan for their team to play a role in creating Pittsfield Township’s vision for a non-motorized and transit plan.
[Note: SEMCOG Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is a membership organization of local government working with elected leaders to develop regional solutions that (in part) helps local government apply for Grant Funding.]
IDI: What is a recent grant you’ve won?
Mandy: A recent success was $800,000 in TAP funding from SEMCOG to complete a one-mile stretch of the Platt Textile Greenway connecting 6 miles of existing greenway.
IDI: What would you say is the key to getting grants renewed by the same funders?
Mandy: Post award, we have worked hard to build a reputation with our grantors of doing what we say we are going to do by completely spending the grant award funds the way we said we were going to. Having the right plan in place and map to get there enables us to do exactly this.
A special thank you to Mandy for coming to IDI’s offices and continuing to play a key role in making Pittsfield Township thrive.
Please do not just take our word for it – here is link to Pittsfield Township’s Awards and Recognition page.