Introduction to Funding Accessibility Projects: In Search of the Money Tree
Every organization experiences periods of time during which its economic resources are stretched, budgets are lean, and there is a need to set priorities for taking action on important safety, accessibility, and maintenance projects. In such economic times, identifying sources of external funding to support your accessibility projects can greatly enhance the likelihood your organization will move forward with those projects. Where internal funding may allow for the project to be completed with only the most basic necessary elements, external funds can bolster the project to provide optimal access for the widest spectrum of users through creative and innovative design. External funding may also allow your organization to move up its timetable for work on accessibility projects because most external funding sources will require timely completion of proposed projects with clear milestones for progress on all activities supported by the external funds.
Searching for sources of external funding can be a tedious and frustrating task. As you would expect, there is usually a great deal of competition pursuing the available external funding. Whether you are seeking grant funds, soliciting organizations for donations, or conducting fundraising activities, you must be able to clearly present a strong case for why your project should be supported. Potential funders are generally overwhelmed with solicitations and in almost every case; requests far exceed an organization's ability to accommodate requests. One CEO recently stated, "I get at least 10 phone calls, emails or letters per day from organizations soliciting support. It is impossible to even respond to all of the requests, let alone to fund them." Prior to soliciting funds from any source, it is critical to develop a strong case statement for your project, program, or activity. This may be the most important aspect of the entire fund seeking process.
There are a number of things that you can do to enhance the possibility of getting your project or program financial support. One of the best places to start is within your own organization. Involving accessibility in the initial discussions and planning stages for new programs, renovation of facilities, etc. can save your organization a lot of money.