by Ashley Kasprzak, JVA Consulting

U.S. senators and representatives are thrilled when federal money comes into their respective states. Hence, senators and representatives are often more than happy to sign letters of support for local federal grant applications to add extra credibility and political pull. Last week, Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall went above and beyond merely endorsing ideas and program—their staff hosted a three-hour Grants Workshop on Education and Nonprofit Funding Opportunities in Fort Morgan.

The highlight of the workshop was a special presentation by Helen Littlejohn, Senior Public Affairs Officer, with the U.S. Department of Education. She explained that the U.S. Department of Education makes approximately 19,000 grants annually with 10,800 of these grants being discretionary. A blueprint to re-authorize the department is expected to be released this week and should have a lot of news about school improvement.

As JVA Consulting’s Vice President of Design and Innovation, I was interested to learn about grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state opportunities to receive Americorps volunteers. Americorps is such a valuable resource to nonprofit initiatives. In fact, Telluride Foundation just hired an Americorps VISTA volunteer for its Strengthening Communities Fund grant; a federal capacity building program that JVA is supporting focused on building economic opportunities in Colorado’s West End communities. In Colorado, the Americorps program is coordinated by Mark Skinner, Senior Program Officer with the Governor’s Commission on Community Service. Interested organizations should watch for informational workshops in summer 2011 with requests for Americorps volunteers due during the fourth quarter of 2011.

In addition to the in-person workshop, Senators Bennet and Udall have good information on their Web sites about federal funding. Both sites also feature a 20-minute course on grant writing through the Foundation Center online. After perusing it, I agree that it’s an excellent resource.

At the same time, there’s nothing like in-person learning. JVA Consulting has several interactive, hands-on grantwriting courses available in the next few weeks: April 16, Write a Grant in a Day (Colorado Common Grant Application) in Denver; April 21, How to Write Successful Federal Grants in Fort Collins and again in Denver on May 21. Click here to learn more and to register.