• 57°

BBAC hosts grant-writing workshop

LIVINGSTON-Leaders and business owners from all over the Black Belt gathered Tuesday at the Bell Conference Center on the campus of the University of West Alabama with one goal in mind. Each person in attendance was in town to learn to be self-sufficient when it came to securing grant money.

Vicki Locke, Project Manager for the Black Belt Action Commission, said meetings such as yesterdays were important in developing a strategy to improve their region.

“In order to make things happen one of the things we wanted to do from the beginning was to lay out a strategy of how we were going to take on this huge challenge,” Locke said. “The idea was to break it down into some variables and then work on those. There are committees on agriculture, work force development, family, community development, small business development, transportation and many others. We were also concerned with education, infrastructure and health.”

Overall, the commission has 13 committees to blanket most areas the Black Belt has the greatest need. Naturally, all solutions begin with funding. Locke said there were many programs out there that people do not know about. She said it was important to work together to find those programs that can make a difference.

“It is a shock to me that there are so many programs out there that people don’t know about,” Locke said. “There are a number of activities floating around out there and what we have to do is figure out where those activities are, try to identify them and develop partnerships.”

Locke’s most important message was to get everyone to take a proactive approach. She said no one could take a back seat or the plan would not work.

“We have to get everybody involved,” Locke said. “We have to do more than just tell people about it. We are talking about active engagement and look at a project and saw we need to do something about that.”

The commission is not funded so its purpose is not to arrive at conferences and hand out money. Locke said their purpose was to motivate people to take the initiative to help themselves, something most Black Belt residents are interested in doing.

“The Black Belt Action Commission is not here to ride up on a white horse and say we are here to save you,” Locke said. “It is not that at all. We know the people of the Black Belt want to have a very integral part of improving their lives. They also know that they have to keep everyone involved.”

Vera Jordan, of the Central Alabama Community Development Foundation, addressed the crowd to give them a better idea of which avenues to take in securing grant money. Jordan said the first step was to see the difference between raising funds and developing funds.

“Fundraising is a small picture,” Jordan said. “In the world of development we don’t want fundraising. Fund development is the overall picture. It is getting a game plan so it is really where the world of development is. It lets people know that you are going to come together and have a plan in place.”

Jordan said securing grant money goes far beyond getting the proper paperwork in place.

“Relationships are really important,” Jordan said. “Part of development is about relationship development. If you do not know the people that you are getting money from it is tough to get.”

Jordan said the best-laid plan does not always mean grants will be awarded. She said many plans are the same and a lot of times a personal relationship can carry an application over the top.

“More money is given because of personal relationships that you think,” Jordan said. “You may have the most dynamic in the world, but so do 55,000 others. What you are doing is not necessarily unique so you are really going to have to build those relationships.”

Throughout the afternoon the group reviewed state and federal grants as well as a summary of grant resources. Locke said the commission plans to have another session at a separate location.

“We are looking at having our next session at another location to make it easier for everyone to attend,” Locke said. “We had the first one in Montgomery and this one here so we will probably try to have the next one somewhere in between.”