Project Over Politics
Throughout your grant process, focus on the project rather than the politics. It is easy to lose that focus, so be sure to appoint a single individual as the heart and soul of your concept, who will follow-through the weeks and
months to see your project to fruition.
Some grant applicants think if they call in their local politicians and representatives before submitting their application to pressure an agency to approve a grant, they will succeed. But this has an interesting effect. The project, even if a grant is awarded, runs aground. When politicians get involved, it becomes all about the money. And, trust me on this, when your landscape beautification project becomes all about the money, the results are disappointing.
Politicians tend to insist on landscape designs submitted by their constituents to be approved as is—regulations, safety requirements, and design critiques be damned. Agency bureaucrats become wary of offering help and advice, knowing anything they do might make them a target for angry stakeholders. The assumption, when a representative or senator goes “hands-on”, is someone is angry with the selection process and the worker bees involved with the grant program. The important teamwork for project success is shattered.
Doing what it takes to create a beautiful outdoor space for the public should be the guiding mission. In fact, it’s good to put a mission statement in writing, with clear goals in mind. Landscape grant projects require flexibility and adaptation to public and agency input as they are molded into a workable plan, and having clear goals helps keep the project on focus.
Your heart-and-soul project coordinator should be someone likeable, who communicates well. They will be the touchstone for all the project activity, and should be in the loop for all meetings and discussions and correspondence. This could be a hired grant administrator, but a better choice would be someone with close community ties that can work with the grant administrator to keep the emotional momentum active. Public landscape projects need engaged stakeholders. Landscaping is considered unimportant fluff to a lot of people, so enthusiastic project backers are needed to prove the worth of the endeavor.
Focus on the project, the reasons for the project, and the momentum of the project. Leave politics out of the process.