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Grant Writing is Child’s Play

By Heidi Foxworthy


“Grant writing is child’s play,” or at least it can be. Several municipalities in our lovely state have utilized the grant process to develop multi-generational recreation places, including the Bay City State Park Spray by the Bay, and Marshbank Park in West Bloomfield. The current trends in childhood obesity, autism, sensory integration, importance of natural spaces, accessibility, and sustainability have created an increased awareness of the importance of innovative outdoor spaces for children’s development. Seveal grants are available to help address these issues. What should you do to capitalize on these opportunities? There are several steps in the grant writing process including:

children playing
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Bay City State Recreation Area.

1. Identify the need and provide a solution for that need.
“Well-identified, high-priority needs boost the priority of your project,” according to the National Parks Service. You may want to conduct a needs assessment of your community. Support that need with evidence. What percentage of the population is unable to access the current play structure? How many children are obese, have autism, or some other disability in your community? Meet with your local intermediate school district and solicit their input.

2. Identify partnership opportunities.
Could the local community schools provide park activities to encourage utilization of the park? Are there opportunities to partner with occupational therapists to educate families of children with autism how the park equipment benefit children? Are there other unique and innovative opportunities that relate to your community like programming days at the park for the disabled? Are local businesses willing to support the project with donations or “in kind” services?

3. Identify potential funding sources.
It is important to meet the needs of the funding source. Point out how your project connects with their interests. What sets you apart from others?

4. Determine grantor funding level and stick with that budget.
A consultant will assist with the design process in helping to choose equipment and fully understand realistic budgets to meet your objectives and provide innovative design solutions. There is no charge for this service from Superior Play.

5. Get a copy of a successful grant from the agency to which you are applying.

6. Write the grant.
Be sure to include all of the elements required by the grantor, including: who you are, the problem you are trying to address, the solution, your plan, your budget and how you will evaluate success of the project. Again, be sure you are addressing the criteria of the grantor.

7. Critique the grant writing before submission.
Review the grant with peers and as many different departments as possible. Multiple perspectives can provide a more robust grant application and creates greater buy-in within your organization and community.

8. Get awarded and implement the grant.
Provide the necessary reports and inspections during the projects construction and at completion.

9. Publicize & celebrate the success.
Be sure to recognize the grantor.

If you are seeking funds for a playground, spray park, skatepark, or some other large equipment purchase, involve a recreation consultant from a playground manufacturer early in the process. They can assist with site analysis, safety standard considerations, and providing information relating to ADA guidelines, recycle content, and LEED information. Consultants can also offer customized, innovative design capabilities which can help set your park project apart and create a destination location. Consultants can help you pursue funding options such as state and federal purchasing programs like MiDeal, HGAC Buy, NJPA, GSA, and leasing as well as fundraising opportunities. After your project is completed, they can help you celebrate by providing support for press releases and grand opening events.

Spray by the Bay
The Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area, an educational nonprofit organization, raised $300,000 to build a spray park, including donated materials and services. Cathy Washabaugh, a member of Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area says, “We worked with Superior Play for more than four years in developing spray parks of varying sizes that we could afford.”

“We needed an initial design and cost estimate in order to pursue grants. Every foundation or organization wants to see a picture of what you are proposing and how you plan on using their funds. Success builds on success. As other groups see that you are realizing your goals, they will jump on board. Begin by targeting the largest potential donors first. Ultimately, you will want to have something at every price point so that everyone can participate.”

The Spray Park was an instant success with the community—the usually empty parking lot immediately overflowed with users. Through a $300,000 donation from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the “Friends” are now planning for phase two of the spray park, which will nearly double the size.

For a sample needs assessment survey, email the author at heidi@superior For a list of recreation grant opportunities, please visit superiorplay


Heidi Foxworthy is the marketing manager for Superior Play. You may contact her at 810-229-6245 or



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