The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Renewable Energy Program for Small Rural Businesses is offering grant monies to offset up to 25% of your overall project cost. Last summer, the Colorado Yurt Companysubmitted a grant application and four months later we received a call from our local USDA office congratulating us on our nomination for the award! Our project: a 5kw Solar Photovoltaic System to be installed on the rooftop of our existing yurt and tipi manufacturing facilities. The $13,000 grant will help us shed 27% of our energy usage.
How to Write a Successful USDA Grant
1. Attend grant writing workshops offered – USDA holds workshops in many locations, making it easy for you to attend one that literally walks you through the process.
2. Get to know your local grant office and use their assistance – USDA Area Director Pattie Snidow and Area Rural Development Technician Dan Hays from the office in Delta proved to be a wealth of assistance, even meeting me to walk through our grant application package page-by-page.
3. Submit early – If the granting agency will allow your early submission for feedback and recommended changes, use it!
4. Be very, very organized – If your grant application requires a hardcopy submission, put it in a binder with tabs and be sure it’s organized to the “n”th degree. Don’t add anything that the application doesn’t ask for.
5. Use photos, but don’t overdo it – Photos should be of high quality, should carry lots of white space with a short description, and should be completely relevant and well-organized within your application
6. Don’t miss crossing a single “T” or dotting a single “I” – With spell and grammar checks available within your Word Office software, and the ability to have multiple sets of eyes read through it (again and again – including your own), there’s no excuse!
7. Ask questions, assume nothing – If you don’t quite understand what’s being asked of you in the application, call your local representative and ask. But be sure you’ve done your homework because asking questions that are easily answered without their assistance can send the wrong message
8. Use someone else’s expertise when necessary – Don’t expect to be the expert at everything. The local company that was ultimately selected as our solar provider for this project, Alternative Power Enterprises, Inc., was a key player in our grant application.
Granting agencies often make the application process easier than ever by offering application documents and instructions that can be filled out on-line and the capability to print your entire application when you’re done to mail in. Some can even be submitted on-line. Even further, previous grant awardees are typically posted so you can see what’s been successful.
The photovoltaic system at Colorado Yurt Company will be installed by Alternative Power Enterprises