Many organizations have reached out to NDIA about the grant funding landscape as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding is winding down on December 31, 2024. While all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico have submitted their Capacity Grant applications, contracts and sub-grants may only become available for local organizations at the end of the year or early spring 2025, and some states may elect not to utilize sub-grants. 

Regardless of the state of federal funding programs, building diverse local funding support is vital to establishing and sustaining strong digital equity ecosystems. Local funders differ from federal funders because they want to ensure their investments directly impact their neighbors and communities. They rely heavily on building relationships with community-based organizations and supporting initiatives impacting their communities as a whole. 

Examples of local funders who are keen to work with community-based nonprofits for digital inclusion include community foundations, family foundations, local governments (municipalities, counties, and regional agencies), local school boards, local corporations, and many others. 

Depending on the funder there are different ways to approach them for opportunities. However, there are ways to help your conversation with any of these potential funders go well. So, what are some good strategies to successfully build relationships with local funders to keep your strong digital equity programs running?

Here are some tips that have worked for NDIA and many of our partners:

    • Build relationships with potential funders before you seek funding from them. Bring them into the conversation as community partners, not just as potential sources of funding for a specific program or project. Ask them to join a coalition, and find ways to educate and engage their staff/donors/decision makers on digital equity as an important community issue.
    • Find out how digital equity aligns with their priorities and investments – “make it make sense for them.” Rather than asking someone to fund something entirely new, help them see how investing in digital equity work will help achieve their own goals. Even if it seems that they haven’t funded digital equity programs in the past, look at what they have funded and share how digital equity is connected.
    • Be confident – you are well respected and have the digital equity expertise to do this work! Prepare a one-pager that describes your program, accomplishments, and impacts. 
    • Collect impact stories from your community to share with potential funders.  
    • Leverage your networks to identify potential funding partners. Organizations with which you have existing relationships will be more receptive to partnering and supporting programs. 
    • If you know that you’ve been included in your state’s capacity grants, continue those conversations with them and set about preparing for what’s to come. The turnaround time on grants and contracts can be short.
    • Use data to demonstrate the need. Publicly available data from sources like the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, data from local sources, and data you’ve collected yourself can all play an important role in making the case for financial support. 

Finally, we want to hear from you if you’ve done any of these or more and been successful. We want to lift you up! Share your story with me at [email protected].