WASHINGTON-The Treasury Dept. has released its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), which announces funding available through grants to qualified community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Those credit unions that have qualified for the grants have won tens of millions of grant dollars in recent years that have been put toward a variety of usages.

CU Strategic Planning, Tacoma, Wash., which was involved in a record 50% of all successful grant-winning applications by credit unions in 2012, is urging credit unions interested in applying for the various Treasury CDFI that winning such grants requires a substantial amount of planning, and that for many CUs winning grants during the 2012-13 grant-writing round is likiely to be a challenge. Indeed, CU Strategic Planning reported its pipeline is already full for the current round of grant applications. For that reason, the company is reminding that success increases when work begins nine months to a year in advance, in this case for the 2013-14 grant-writing round.

"To continue our high level performance," said CUSP CEO Chuck Cockburn. "it is imperative that we serve our existing clients to our utmost capabilities-and then opening the door to new clients once the current projects are complete. It's all about taking the time to do the research develop the programs and provide excellent service. That's why we work a year in advance and our track record shows the success we have experienced."

"To continue our high level performance," Cockburn said, "it is imperative that we serve our existing clients to our utmost capabilities-and then opening the door to new clients once the current projects are complete. It's all about taking the time to do the research develop the programs and provide excellent service. That's why we work a year in advance and our track record shows the success we have experienced."

Due to the current demand of uniquely skilled CDFI grant writers, Cockburn said that choosing a grant writing team far in advance of the NOFA is vital for a winning application - ultimately ensuring the success of a credit union's community development.

 

The Top 10 List

Credit Union Strategic Planning offered this Top 10 List of Tips for Winning CDFI grants:

1. Be Compelling: Use facts and research to tell an engaging story. Having a need when no one else is fulfilling that need is compelling.

2. Benefit Consumers/Members,Not the Credit Union: Frame the story about why the program helps consumers and contributes to the credit union's sustainability so that it can continue to help consumers.

3. Prove Feasibility. Financials, research, and management experience: do those components make the reader believe you will succeed?

4. Financial Projections. Prove the program will continue beyond CDFI funding and prove the program is a good investment of taxpayer dollars. (Quantify positive impact to consumers.)

5. Create Demand. Use increasing loan demand in the category to show demand.

6. Leverage Distress. Make a claim and then support it with data.

7. Develop Partnerships. Strategic partners open up new avenues for program innovations, which allow access to new funding.

8. Precise Editing. Good editing ensures the narrative's progressive and natural flow that does not distract the reader, allowing the scorer to focus on scoring.

9. Grow Relationships. When communicating with the CDFI, build a relationship with one or two particular staff members.

10. Early Submission. Submit application ahead of time to ensure CDFI staff support if you have technological problems.

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