Innovative Funding Ideas


Thanks to the recent Great Recession, words like budget cuts, layoffs, mandatory furloughs have moved to the forefront and become commonplace phrases in today’s world. Throughout its history, America encountered times of prosperity and times of despair.  Our country was (and is) shaped by significant events holding such importance they were named.  There was the Early Industrial Revolution (1790-1830), the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914), World War I also known as the Great War, (1914-1918), the Great Depression (1929-1939), World War II (1939-1945) — and this is just a few.  Each of these events created its own economic idiosyncrasies and left indelible impressions.

In government, we know that events such as these have a direct impact on our ability to implement missions because they affect our budgets. When we are continually faced with financial constraints there is often a choice to cut programs or staff.  Lack of funds can materialize as barriers which halt innovation and programs.  What if there was another option? There are ways, that government entities have maneuvered past financial roadblocks and found creative ways to fund projects without affecting the bottom-line.  Here are some tried and true examples:

  • Create a Private Foundation – Many areas of local, state and federal government use private foundations to fund programs.  Look at local law enforcement agencies for a great example. They know how to do it right.  Many use foundations to harness the power of volunteers and capitalize through fundraising.  They use community outreach and events to fund for life-saving equipment, K9 Officers, training, citizens on patrol, reserve deputy programs, search and rescue, homeless outreach, the Explorers (youth in law enforcement) and much more.
Successful foundations are not limited to law enforcement they can be found throughout government including, but not limited to higher education, health districts, and public housing.  Even NASA and the CDC use philanthropy to support their missions.  If you are considering starting a foundation, there is no need to reinvent the wheel just collaborate with others who have successfully gone through the process.
  • Apply to Private Foundations for Grants or Funding – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides equipment to public schools and supports many other programs. Most communities have local foundations whose mission might align with yours and they are great partners who can fund much-needed programs.  An example of a community partnership, the CHC Foundation in Idaho Falls Idaho was instrumental in providing Bonneville County’s Search and Rescue team funds for a new building to house equipment and conduct training.  Look around and see what foundations are supporting programs in your area.
  • Volunteers – What a sweet word.  People that choose to volunteer their time have an amazing passion, not to mention amazing hearts and souls. Volunteers are entwined throughout government.  The Forest service deploys them as camp hosts, trail maintenance, and educational programs.  FEMA has an army of trained volunteers who respond to natural disasters.  The ultimate program of volunteers can be found in our military’s reserve programs.

Often an untapped volunteer resource is the cadre of senior volunteers.  These folks have decades of experience that you can put to work for your agency at no cost.  How amazing is that?  Years of experience and knowledge is yours for the taking.  If you don’t know where to start, look for groups such as RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program), Senior Corps, Retired Brains, and Senior Services.  There are many more groups out there that are ready, willing and able to put their experience to work for you.

  • Renegotiate and Reallocate – Taking the time to review services and contracts can free dollars to be used elsewhere.  Don’t forget to include utilities in your review.  Technology innovations could allow for newer equipment at a lower cost than current charges for older systems.  Telephone service charges could be eliminated by implementing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system.

It is important that we reach out for support instead of tucking-in and slogging through difficult times alone.  We can do so much more together than apart.  If we share ideas, develop community relationships, and nurture partnerships there are funding options to be found in places normally overlooked.  What creative ways is your agency using to develop revenue resources and reduce expenses without reducing services?

Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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