Have you considered applying for a Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grant next year? According to the most recent TOP Update newsletter, in a column titled “Start Planning Now,” TOP Director Stephen J. Downs recommends that interested applicants begin now if they plan to apply for the 2002 competition.
The U.S. Department of Commerce administers TOP, which used to be called the Technology Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP). TOP promotes the development, widespread availability, and use of advanced telecommunications and information technologies to serve the public interest.
To accomplish this goal, TOP provides matching grants to the following eligible applicants: state, local, and tribal governments; nonprofit organizations; nonprofit health-care providers and public health institutions; schools; libraries; museums; colleges; universities; public safety providers; and other nonprofit entities. Individuals and for-profit organizations are not eligible to apply; however, they are encouraged to participate as project partners.
TOP will support projects that improve the quality of, and the public’s access to, cultural, educational, and training resources; reduce the cost, improve the quality, and/or increase the accessibility of health-care and public health services; promote responsive public safety services; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government and public services; and foster communication, resource-sharing, and economic development within both urban and rural communities.
With the next competition deadline nearly nine months away (this year’s deadline was in March), why start now? As I have stated in many past articles, proactive grant-seeking is the way to go! In the TOP article, Downs states, “A competitive grant application is based on a well-developed, carefully planned project. Between now and next year’s deadline, you can take the time to talk with community stakeholders, meet with potential end-users and assess their needs, raise matching funds, and turn your ideas into a realistic plan.”
Don’t be fooled–the competition for these grants is tough. TOP received 665 applications for the last competition. The applicants requested more than $366 million in federal funds, far more than the approximate total of $42 million TOP expects will be available in grants. In addition, applications included pledges of $479 million in matching funds. In fiscal 1999, 43 TOP grants were awarded, totaling $17.6 million.
As mentioned, this is a matching grant. Grant funds are released in direct proportion to the local matching funds that are used. TOP awards will fund up to 50 percent of the total cost of a project. In extraordinary circumstances, TOP will fund up to 75 percent; however, an applicant has to document the circumstances and receive approval.
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has several resources for potential applicants to use as they plan their projects. By going to the TOP web site (see link), applicants can find independent evaluation studies, case studies of individual projects, and a “lessons learned” series. There is also a searchable database of prior TOP grantees.
Potential applicants might want to attend the “Networks for People 2001: Focusing On Results” conference in Washington, D.C., in December. The conference will highlight TOP projects that have become models for digital network technology projects, and potential applicants will have an opportunity to meet TOP awardees and program staff. Information about this conference is also available at the TOP web site.
If you are not familiar with this grant program, go the web site and look at this year’s request for proposals to see if your project fits the guidelines. Call and discuss your idea with project staff and, if it’s a good fit, start the planning and project development process now!
Technology Opportunities Program