In 2010, Congress issued a moratorium on earmarks in response to negative polling, despite their total share of the budget adding up to less than 1%. In 2021, earmarks are making a comeback to a Congress where more than half of the lawmakers have never worked with them before. Democratic leadership insists that Congress has ceded its spending power to the executive branch for too long and that without this tool for negotiating and passing legislation, gridlock is blocking Congress from getting work done.
On February 16, Appropriations Chairs Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced they will allow earmarks in FY2022 appropriations bills – as long as they are directed toward nonprofits or local government. While they have not announced the process for making submissions for these “Community Projects” (earmarks by another name) we can expect significant transparency, with all requests posted online.
Here are some basic steps you can take now to prepare your nonprofit for this funding opportunity:
Determine Your Needs
There are a number of government funding sources from which nonprofits can pursue funding. First you’ll need to assess whether the Community Project funding would apply toward programming or capital expenses, as this will impact the amount of funding and which account you can apply for within the legislative process. Note, there are more opportunities to cover programming needs than to cover capital expenses in this process. Next you’ll need to pinpoint which of the 12 appropriations bills and which of the hundreds of accounts within each bill align as an appropriate source for your funding request. To learn more about the process you can visit the Senate and House Appropriations Committees' websites, which contain information on hearings, legislation and timing, then assess how you should position your nonprofit and decipher which bills and accounts are best to pursue. Please contact us for guidance through this process. Whether health and human services, violence prevention, STEM education or transportation, these accounts can offer between $100,000 and $1 million per nonprofit or local government. Finally, you must craft a clear explanation as to why funding is needed, how much, and what will be accomplished that is of interest to Congress.
Contact Your Members of Congress
Once you’ve defined your project, contact your House Representative and two Senators to introduce yourself and explain how your organization benefits the state and district. You can invite them for tours or set up calls with members of your board and those who use your services to demonstrate the value of your work. These interactions can be valuable whether with staff or the lawmaker, because you can share information on your work as well as hear details about issues they prioritize, funding levels and feedback on your project request. In discussing your project, what you need funding for and how their help will make a difference in the community, you can ascertain insights into how best to shape and refine your request. Lastly, be sure to stay in touch and share updates over the next several months on how your nonprofit is progressing in addition to why securing government funding is needed.
Follow the Rules for Making Submissions
It is essential you read requirements and follow the rules for making an appropriations request for a Community Project. Every office has their own process and unique form and deadline. Typically, though, all forms will require your contact information, an explanation of what the project will accomplish and why it is needed, a budget overview, a list of any other Members of Congress you are submitting the request to, and which bill and account you will seek funding from.
Garner Support in the Community
You can strengthen your submission by securing letters of support from community organizations. It's also a good idea to have these collaborators participate in meetings with the congressional offices if possible. Whether from a collaborating nonprofit, local government or a business, letters of support show the Members of Congress that strong community support exists for the project request and increase the likelihood of a successful application.
These tips should get you started on the right track in your pursuit of an earmark. But note that much is still in the air, with the final procedure for making requests still being determined and most in Congress without experience in the Capitol during the time of earmarks. Democrats have 89 House members and 33 senators with any experience with the pre-2011 earmarking practices, while Republicans have just 44 House members and 23 senators. Still, all lawmakers want to take care of their constituents and once the process begins, many on both sides of the aisle are likely to jump in. G2G will be monitoring and engaging in this process, so stay tuned.