Grants Primer

Grants are the life-blood of any grassroots fundraising campaign. Grants are basically cash awards given to projects that meet the foundation’s guidelines. There are national and state grants as well as smaller sources of funding that might be specific to a particular county, city, or even neighborhood. Grants are directed to projects that share a common mission. For example, the Tony Hawk Foundation awards grants primarily to skatepark projects in areas that are currently underserved by skateboarding terrain. In order to receive a grant from one of these foundations, the project must demonstrate its merit. This is typically done through a grant application though sometimes there can be a more involved process that includes interviews or presentations.

The more local you keep your funding focus, the less competition you will receive. It’s wise to focus most of your energy on grants and financial donations from local businesses, charities, and non-profit organizations that support community development and youth recreation. A local business has a lot to gain from supporting your effort.

You will want to tailor your grant application to the priorities of the provider. Naturally you should never distort the truth or accuracy of your mission. Still, skateparks are complex facilities with myriad benefits to the community and the facets of the skatepark that you choose to showcase may make the difference between an award and a “thanks but no thanks” letter.

In brief, the benefits of a skatepark might be summarized along these lines:

  • Provides recreational outlet
  • Fights youth obesity
  • Activates a fringe youth group
  • Supports positive youth activism
  • Provides positive social space for youth
  • Allows for inter-generational peer-to-peer contact
  • Creates a public, interactive sculpture
  • Encourages self-motivated physical challenges
  • Sustainable facility to require very little maintenance
  • Activates an underutilized neighborhood or park
  • And more!

There are precious few Tony Hawk Foundations out there and these funding sources are very competitive. No skatepark effort should ever rely upon a single source of funding or presume that any particular grant our funding source is a sure thing. Most skatepark
efforts apply for a THF grant so if your project will also apply for an award, you will need to demonstrate that your project is more worthy than the hundreds of other applicants.

There are lots of places to look at what grants are available though it will be up to you to decide which ones to apply for. While you can certainly apply for all kinds of grants, if the foundation’s mission doesn’t focus on youth recreation in some way it’s probably not a great use of your time. One funding source in Indiana, for example, is the Indiana Youth Institute. According to their mission, the IYI “…promotes the healthy development of children and youth by serving the institutions and people of Indiana who work on their behalf.” It looks like if you’ve got a skatepark project going on in Indiana, this is a potential source of support.

On a national scale, advocates will find that there are lots of funding sources but that it’s challenging to find sources that are directly applicable to skatepark development. It will be up to you to “make your case” to why a skatepark meets the foundation’s goals.

Sprint is a good example of a large company that operates a charitable branch. On their website you can see what their goals and guidelines are…

“The Sprint Foundation accepts grant requests from January through November each year. Grants for national partnerships are limited to those addressing K-12 Character Education, Safety in Schools and Diversity. Regional and Local grants focus on those areas as well as K-12 education more broadly, youth development, and arts & culture. Recipient organizations must be tax exempt and tax deductible, have auditable financial results and comply with all necessary laws regarding registration and reporting. Ineligible requests include those for political or religious organizations, individuals, international organizations and private charities or foundations. A more complete listing is provided in the Sprint Foundation section of the website. Generally grants are provided for specific program support not for operating expenses or events.”

The key phrase here is “youth development.” If you can demonstrate how the skatepark project is crucial to the development of your community’s youth, you may have a compelling application to Sprint’s review committee. Even if funding for the skatepark is denied, you may find other in-kind donations useful to your project.

The internet is a fantastic place to research potential grants. One quick search for “national youth facility grants” returns a result for the National Youth Development Information Center, which lists a number of grant opportunities, some of which may be applicable to your project. You may find that foundations with narrower geographic scope will tend to be less competitive, so try to focus your searches to a state, county, or city level.