PSP starts Rural Grants Initiative

The Permian Strategic Partnership has started a Rural Grants Initiative to help communities acquire the skills needed to successfully compete for competitive grant funding.

Debra Richmond, director of strategic initiatives for the Permian Strategic Partnership, said the organization has committed $250,000 to the venture.

Information from PSP says rural America consists of 90 percent of the nation’s territory and 19 percent of its population, yet only 5 to 6 percent of private philanthropic dollars are granted to these regions. As a result, it says, rural areas miss out on securing funds for critical community development projects. Through this initiative, the PSP is providing start-up capital to establish a sustainable grant writing program focused on providing grant writing assistance for 14 counties for a limited period of time.

PSP member companies have committed start-up funds for this initiative; however, funding partners are needed to match PSP resources and amplify the reach and impact of this effort.

Richmond, who is based in Austin and works as a consultant to PSP, said this initiative began through the work of the local strategies committee. All member companies have an employee who sits on that committee. “It actually started two years ago with a similar program in New Mexico where we provided funding to a grant writing team in New Mexico to help our partners in Lea and Eddy County identify grant opportunities and have staff support to pursue those grant opportunities out there within the grant world — federal, state, other opportunities. It’s been very successful, so the local strategies committee said let’s try this in Texas, too,” Richmond said.

She added that they are trying to give rural communities a heads up on available funding opportunities, especially now that there is so much available from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan and other programs.

“What we’ve done is we’ve contracted with a team called Resource Match,” Richmond said. “It’s a group of three women that previously worked together in different roles and one of them was  former mayor for the city of Marfa, so they really understand small towns and the challenges they face trying to navigate some of these complicated funding opportunities and also the data that’s required and all the information that’s needed to submit applications.”

“They have begun what we’re calling our Phase I where they have reached out to all of the 14 counties that we’re targeting through this initiative. I believe that they have had formal conversations with about seven of them so far,” Richmond said in a Sept. 15 interview. “What they’re doing is creating a catalog of needs and then matching them up with different opportunities that are out there. That’s the work that’s been taking place to date, and shortly, within the next month or so they’re going to move into actually writing grants in partnership with these communities that have projects that have matched up with a grant funding opportunity. If anyone’s interested in those 14 counties, it’s definitely not too late,” Richmond added.

The local strategies committee also has been helping to facilitate introductions and conversations, she said.

“We’ve got a really great group of volunteers dedicated to making this a success and making sure that people have all the information they need to get plugged into this initiative,” Richmond added.

PSP funds are going to Resource Match for them to write grants on behalf of a city, county, school or hospital district; “anyone who wants to pursue something,” but may not have the staff it takes to stay on top of these opportunities.

“Part of the services this team is providing is researching and identifying opportunities, developing and submitting applications. If matching funds are required, we’re working to identify potential matching fund resources and then also they’ll be doing some training,” she noted.

Additionally, the communities and staff at the entities will be taught how to be successful at the grant writing process themselves with the hope that in the future they feel confident to pursue some of this on their own.

PSP has a process with the grant writers where once they have identified an opportunity and funding source, staff would request it in writing and then it ultimately is approved by PSP President and CEO Tracee Bentley, Richmond said.

“We can make sure there are checks and balances and make sure the estimated costs to write the grant is worth the expected return and that it aligns with the PSP mission,” she added.

One of the towns that will be impacted is Monahans.

Monahans Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Burnett said the opportunity is awesome because they are all very busy at their specific jobs and it’s really hard to find time to write a grant.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to do that and with us all being busy and not having a designated staff grant writer in our community, it’s a huge asset to us,” Burnett said.

She added that they are honored to be selected as one of the cities.

The grant writers have already gotten started, Burnett said, and they are working with many organizations and entities such as the city, county, hospital, first responders, nonprofit organizations and the local private school to name a few.

Burnett said a launch meeting was held and all the groups were invited to her office. There were breakout sessions where people could talk to the grant writers on specific projects.

It’s an advantage to have people who know lingo, know what grants to go after and the deadlines for them.

“You look around and we’ve already got several different entities and groups and private businesses and public businesses that are already taking advantage of it.

“Writing grants is a talent. It is a gift,” Burnett said.