AHW Blog

Public Health Funding Grants Make Wisconsin Better

June 23, 2022 Posted by Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH

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Public health funding is key to improving wellness for more Wisconsinites. 

Grantmaking is one of the paths toward creating a more equitable health care system where everyone — regardless of zip code, race, tribal, or economic status — can live their healthiest, best lives.

When more people are successful at funding their important projects, we all benefit.

But not every grant opportunity is the right fit, and not everyone knows how to put together a successful proposal. 

What are some tips for writing proposals? Where are organizations and individuals learning how to write successful grants for public health funding?

Is a Grant Right for You?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publishes a Top Ten To-Dos of Grant Writing/Proposal Submission.  Number 1 is to read the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) thoroughly. Number 10 is to read your proposal again. It also helps to have someone outside your organization read it with “fresh eyes.”

Other important considerations include: 

  • Making sure your organization’s fiscal structure is capable of meeting the financial reporting requirements.

  • Thinking beyond the proposal to the team’s ability to implement the proposal.

The agency also discusses the pros and cons of hiring a professional grant writer from outside your organization. Professional grant writers know how to write successful proposals, but their services can be costly. The proposal needs to be fully aligned with your organization's mission, values, and ability to carry out requirements.

Writing grants in-house can be a lot of work, too, but internal grant writers can mobilize colleagues for a team approach and provide an insider’s view of an organization’s expertise.

Grant Basics

Most grant proposals include some version of the following elements:

  • Goals and objectives: the purpose for the grant and the action you intend to take with the funds 

  • Need: not your need for funding, but the way the grant will help your organization meet a community health need.

  • Response and Impact: details on how your proposal will affect a targeted population or health challenge.

  • Evaluation: Use statistics to show how valuable your project will be in solving a problem.

  • Impact: What will the community health impact be when your project is funded? 

  • Resources and capabilities: What do you bring to the table? This is things like your organization’s experience, staff, knowledge, and financial resources. 

  • Budget: The budget is a plan, and it needs to align with the goals and objectives of the proposal. It should also be cost effective in the way it relates to the organization’s overall budget.

Tips for Successful Grantmaking

In addition to funding public health programs that advance its mission, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also aims to increase competitiveness in the award process for federal grants. They provide some valuable tips for applying for a CDC Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). Their advice includes the following:

  1. Register. Register your organization at Grants.gov. This is a federal clearinghouse where people can search for grants, get education on the world of federal grants. Their Grants Learning Center and Community Blog provide guidance on finding and writing grants. You need to create an account to get email alerts about grants.

  2. Get notified. Sign up to receive alerts about funding opportunities.

  3. Consider partnerships. Many strong grant proposals include strong partnerships for tackling public health challenges.

  4. Communicate. Ask NOFO contacts questions, and attend any conference calls related to the opportunity.

  5. Use relevant health statistics. Good grant proposals use data. The CDC recommends the National Center for Health Statistics. In Wisconsin, the Department of Health Services has data dashboards on COVID-19, alcohol, opioids, and just about any health indicator you can think of. 

  6. Work backwards. Think about what you can achieve and measure.

  7. Demonstrate your success and tell your story. Show the funder how you have successfully met other challenges in the same arena.

Much of this advice for federal grant seekers can be applied to grants from other funding sources, too.

Don’t limit your search for public health grants to government agencies and foundations, but also look to endowments and other sources. Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment provides grants in Wisconsin to community organizations and researchers working to improve the health of residents, as does the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Pandemic Recovery Grants

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped focus some resources and grants on improving health and reducing health disparities. In 2021, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law. As part of the recovery from the deadly pandemic, Wisconsin has access to almost $397 million in public health grants. The two main areas of funding are:

  • Mental Health and Substance Use Services. $50 million in community approaches to helping people with mental health and substance use challenges.

  • Home and Community-Based Services. $350 million to help older Wisconsinites and people with disabilities live independently.

Grant Writing Assistance

There are a number of membership associations that provide support, resources, and education for grant writers. The Association of Fundraising Professionals is a professional association where grant writers learn how to write better grants. This organization has many opportunities to learn, online and in person.

For example, in a course in August, 2022, Dr. Beverly Browning, an experienced application reviewer, will show grant writers how to optimize keyword searches and learn more about what public and private sector funders are looking for in proposals.

Nonprofitready.org is another resource for learning how to find and write successful grants. They offer a certificate in grant writing, and plenty of videos and guides to guide you in the process.

A Healthier Tomorrow

It’s going to take all hands on deck to build a healthier Wisconsin. 

That’s why so many organizations are working to invest in organizations and researchers with innovative solutions to Wisconsin’s health challenges. Finding the right public health grants and writing successful proposals is one step in the direction of wellness for all Wisconsinites.

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