Any municipality understands capital projects must be prioritized according to budget constraints. Often, supplemental funds are needed. Water and wastewater plants face the dilemma of balancing funds between necessary infrastructure upgrades and less vital issues. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 75% of funding for water and transportation infrastructure in 2017 came from the local and state level. But many municipalities still come up short on project funding.

Funding can be generated through taxes, bonds and public-private partnerships, but often this won’t cover all of the projects a municipality is hoping to complete. Communities with fewer than 10,000 residents face additional funding challenges, because fewer ratepayers means less money generated for water infrastructure projects.

Supplemental funds in the form of grants are needed across the country. In the past, California received much of the federal funding available due to the severe drought conditions in the state. Recently, more funds have become available nationwide because of widespread drought and reduced crisis conditions in California.

A successful grant proposal, appealing to the federal government for additional funding, can be part of the solution in a shortage of funding. Writing a successful grant proposal takes time, dedication and finding a way to stand out from other applicants. These tips may help accomplish this:

Tell a Compelling Story

Interesting writing can captivate reviewers and lead to a stronger proposal as they decide who will receive federal funding. The message should be articulated with accessible, straightforward language to demonstrate the benefits a project would provide to a community.

Additionally, well-organized writing will improve a grant proposal. Make sure all elements of the proposal criteria are included and thoroughly fleshed out, from economic growth to public safety. Reviewers will be looking for proposal criteria, so it can be beneficial to use the requirements as an outline.

Strategically Plan

Researching past successful project proposals is an instructive place to start. Ample time should be scheduled when planning for every step of researching and writing a grant proposal.

Additionally, it’s important to look to the future with any potential project. Highlighting how a long-term solution will benefit stakeholders can communicate the worth of the initiative. Grants can be of significant value, so it’s vital to demonstrate any benefits of the project.

Spotlight Innovation

Finding the unique edge of a project for a grant proposal can often make the difference between receiving federal funding or not. The federal government, along with everyone involved, wants to know its dollars are being leveraged for a new solution that’s going to work in the long-term.

The proposal should reflect the research backing how the innovation will be implemented, as well as why the funding is necessary to make it work.

Persistence Is Key

Many organizations allow applicants to ask questions when submitting a proposal and/or provide feedback afterward. If a grant proposal is rejected the first round, adjust for any comments received and resubmit for another shot at funding.

It never hurts to reapply for federal funding for the same project. A fresh set of eyes can provide an edge for a grant proposal. Consultants can find a unique angle for a project to create a more focused project idea, while professional grant writers can strengthen the proposal itself.


The grant proposal process can be daunting, but it’s possible to give a proposal the advantage needed to be chosen for federal funding. Learn more about how aging infrastructure can benefit from supplementary federal funding.

Discover Federal Funding Options

Tracy Streeter joined Burns & McDonnell in 2019 after 33 years with the state of Kansas. Tracy served as director of the Kansas Water Office, the state’s water planning, policy and coordination agency, from 2004-2018. Previously, he served as executive director of the State Conservation Commission. Tracy’s current duties with Burns & McDonnell involve assisting communities and industries throughout Kansas and across the country with water planning and water supply solutions.