By Penn Strategies

Important First Steps for Pennsylvania Municipalities

Discussing GrantsPennsylvania-based municipalities always seek opportunities to improve their community services, infrastructure, and development projects through competitive grant funding. While grant funding is attractive, it requires meticulous preparation and strategic foresight. To ensure success, municipal managers and their teams must understand the groundwork needed before applying for grants.

Navigating the Waters: Research and Alignment

  • Strategic Alignment: The first step in the pre-application phase is to align the grant’s objectives with the municipality’s strategic goals. It is about finding a financial match and ensuring that the project will serve the community’s needs and priorities.
  • Comprehensive Research: In-depth research is essential to identify potential funding sources. Managers should also understand the grantor’s history, mission, and previously funded projects. Platforms like and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) offer extensive databases for research.

Laying the Groundwork: Capacity and Community Engagement

  • Assessing Capacity: Municipalities must evaluate their capacity to undertake the project before starting the application process. This involves analyzing the available financial resources, staffing, and technical expertise. Understanding the gaps in these areas will help formulate a plan to address them, either by building internal capacity or identifying external partners.
  • Engaging Stakeholders: Engaging with the community and other stakeholders is crucial. This engagement can provide valuable insights into the community’s needs and preferences, strengthen the project proposal, and demonstrate widespread support for the initiative. Methods of engagement can range from public meetings to social media outreach.

Preparing the Foundation: Data Collection and Partnership Formation

  • Data and Evidence Gathering: Solid, data-driven evidence is the backbone of any successful grant application. Municipalities must collect relevant data highlighting the project’s need and demonstrating its potential impact. Working with a certified engineer to develop a site plan and cost estimate is required if construction is needed. This step might involve conducting surveys, feasibility studies, or utilizing existing data to build a compelling case.
  • Forming Strategic Partnerships: Collaborations and partnerships can significantly enhance a grant application. Partners can provide additional expertise, resources, and validation to the project. Municipalities should identify potential local, regional, or even national partners that align with the project’s goals and can contribute to its success. These partners are also crucial in requesting letters of support, which help strengthen every application.

Finalizing the Strategy: Financial Planning and Drafting

  • Financial Planning: A detailed financial plan that outlines the project’s budget, anticipated expenses, and funding sources is essential. This plan should also consider the project’s long-term sustainability beyond the grant period. Municipalities should have current Audits readily available to substantiate their ability to provide matching funds.
  • Preliminary Project Narrative: Drafting a preliminary project narrative can help municipalities crystallize their ideas and identify areas requiring further development. This draft can serve as a blueprint for the final application and help streamline the writing process. 
  • Overcoming the Dreaded Writer’s Block: Writing can often be a challenge. Recording your thoughts in a voice message and sharing them with your grant writer or participating in a short interview can be helpful. Penn Strategies’ team of professional writers is available to help you transform your ideas into reality and develop compelling grant narratives.


For Pennsylvania-based municipalities, securing grant funding is a complex but rewarding endeavor. The work done before the application process strengthens the proposal and ensures that the municipality is fully prepared to implement the project successfully. By investing time in strategic planning, research, and community engagement, municipalities can position themselves as compelling candidates in the competitive grant landscape. In doing so, they lay the groundwork for projects that can significantly impact their communities, paving the way for a brighter, more prosperous future.