Are Congressional earmarks coming back? To better understand, Grants Plus hosted an informational forum featuring Lee Weingart, President of LNE Group, who gave the following advice to nonprofits who could stand to gain millions of dollars in earmarked funds for local projects.
For a basic overview of earmarks—what they are and who they benefit—see our post from early 2019.
GP: What is the status of earmarks?
LW: Federal budget uncertainty still makes this unclear. But indicators from both sides of the political aisle suggest earmarks be back in 2019.
GP: Who stands to benefit from earmarks?
LW: Nonprofits, higher education institutions, and local governments are the likely recipients of earmarks if they return. We believe the days of corporate earmarks are over.
GP: Why do earmarks matter for nonprofits?
LW: In 2010, $10 billion dollars in funds were earmarked by members of Congress for local projects—much of this to nonprofits. Earmarks are designed to fill the gaps that competitive grants leave.
GP: When do nonprofits need to be ready to act?
LW: The deadline for nonprofits to seek these funds is approaching, as early as even mid-March. Inquiries and conversations with members of Congress should be happening now.
GP: Generally what is the process for requesting an earmark from a member of Congress?
LW: Each member of Congress has an application process for requesting earmarks. There is a simple written application, usually only about three pages. Supporting letters from partners in the community are important too. But the most essential step is a direct conversation with the appropriate Congress person to get their buy-in. LNE Group can help nonprofits secure and facilitate these meetings.
GP: What factors outside the formal application process help nonprofits be successful?
LW: A good relationship with the member of Congress can be very beneficial, as can demonstrate support for the project in the community. A member of Congress wants to spread as much goodwill as possible among his or her constituents.
GP: How much can nonprofits request?
LW: It depends on the project and the case the organization makes for how much funding is needed. We’ve helped nonprofits secure as little as $25,000 and as much as a few million dollars, typically to span a one-year project.
GP: Do earmarks come with strings attached?
LW: Earmarks do come with a grant agreement that includes reporting requirements. But there is no cash match required.
GP: What kinds of projects should nonprofits seek earmarks for?
LW: All kinds of projects and organization types have benefited from earmarks. For example:
Early child care
Afterschool and summer programs
Social Service Agencies
Arts & Culture
Research and development
GP: If an organization is interested in seeking earmarks, what should they do now?
LW: Contact us at LNE Group. In a brief conversation we can recommend if it’s worth exploring earmarks. From there we can help prioritize an organization’s funding needs and guide a nonprofit through the request process.