Meeting match requirements

While “cost-sharing” and “matching” are oftenused interchangeably, many agencies and institutions make the followingdistinction: “Cost-sharing” means that the institution requesting funding must assume some of the project costs; “matching requirements” means that a certain ratio of funds will be acquired, spent or reserved in proportion to the award.
Matching requirements may or may not support the same project, although they frequently support similar projects. Inthis respect, matching requirements are frequently real dollars, asopposed to in-kind support, and are frequently obtained through otherfunding sources. Cost-sharing, following these distinctions, is morefrequently in-kind. It is sometimes referred to as a “soft match.” Forthe purposes of this article, we will consider cost-sharing andmatching to be synonyms, as do many grant-giving agencies.
As always, the RFP should be the first andlast stop for questions about application requirements. RFPs willgenerally state specifically whether matches must be in real dollars,or whether in-kind matches will suffice. They may specify an exactamount to be met through cost-sharing, or they may simply say thatcost-sharing is viewed favorably by reviewers. In the latter scenario,it is best to provide both in-kind (soft) and real-dollar (hard)matches to demonstrate a high-level of institutional support for andcommitment to the project. Regardless of whether or not a certain levelof cost-sharing is required, once those costs are written into thebudget, the grantee will be expected to honor those commitments even ifthey exceed the amount recommended by the grantor.
In-kind matches
In-kind matches provide applicants with agreat deal more flexibility than real-dollar matches, and in many casesdo not represent the formidable obstacle that many believe them to be.
Generally, the first place to turn to satisfyin-kind matches is salary percentages. Think about the individuals whowill be responsible for the work necessary to complete the proposedproject. About what percentage of their professional time will berequired to perform their roles? It’s important to be realistic in yourclaims—reviewers are quite good at sniffing out exaggeration—and toensure that any other in-kind salary percentages do not add up to morethan 100 percent. As much as it may seem otherwise, you and yourcolleagues do not work 110 percent of the time. Ifyour project usesvolunteers, the value of their services can similarly be computed andapplied to an in-kind match. A hypothetical hourly value should becalculated based on pay for similar work in your area.
Equipment usage is another likely candidatefor meeting an in-kind match, although it may be less easy to quantify.If a new piece of equipment will be devoted to the proposed project,the total value of the piece can be used as in-kind. If the equipmentwill be used for other purposes, but will experience heavy use throughthe grant, it might be worthwhile to calculate anticipated depreciationof the equipment throughout the grant. Supplies are occasionally easierto calculate, particularly if you don’t need to be concerned withestimating equipment depreciation, but will likely not represent asizable portion of your match. However, the costs of paper and pens,etc. add up and should be represented either in the budget or in thematch.
In certain circumstances, indirect costs maybe applied to the in-kind match. If it is not clear through the RFPwhether or not indirect costs are applicable, contact a program officer.
As with percentage of salaries, no in-kind match items may be simultaneously committed as matches for othergrants. Be aware that any exaggeration regarding use, hours or value ofservices is unethical and unadvisable. Remember, too, that while allgrants have ramifications for the grantee institution, this isespecially so when matches are required. Be sure that your proposal hasbeen approved by all necessary internal parties well in advance ofsubmission.
Hard matches
With hard matches—cash—the applicantorganization sometimes must reserve the required funds out of its budget. It may also be permissible to meet the match through grants ordonations from other sources. Occasionally, a federal program willrequire that matches in these circumstances be met through sourcesother than federal grant programs.
Hard matches are not only a way forgrant-giving agencies to be able to spread their resources further,they also encourage applications from well-prepared and committedapplicants. While this causes stiff competition among applicants, italso may mean a smaller applicant pool, since less willing or less ableapplicants may decide to pursue other, less demanding opportunities.
While real-dollar matches almost alwayscomplicate the application process, grant programs that have thisrequirement may be a solid bet for funding if your institution isintent on launching the project to be funded. This determination isoften best expressed by the answer to the following question: Will theinstitution launch the project if grant funding cannot be secured (evenif the project must be developed on a smaller scale)?
Unfortunately, success in meeting hardmatches usually boils down to finding the money—either in the budget orthrough aggressive fundraising.
Occasionally, it will not be necessary tohave the dollars in hand at thetime of submission, nor will it benecessary to be able to positively identify the source of matchingfunds. However, you should not claim the ability to meet the matchrequirements if there is reasonable doubt that you will be able toacquire the requisite funds. If you’re unclear on whether or not agrant program will allow for such flexibility, it’s always best tocontact a program officer.
Being a leader
Whether your matches are in-kind or in real dollars, if you are the lead organization in a grant application, besure to include the resources and dollars being provided by your partner organizations. Such commitments generally need to bespecifically summarized in a letter of support from each partnerorganization.
Matches aren’t intended to deter strong applicants. In fact, they’re designed to provide strong applicants witha playing field that rewards their commitment and likelihood ofsuccess. All grant programs seek to fund organizations that arecommitted to their goals and mission, that have a strong and competentstaff and leadership, and that are likely tosucceed with theirpriority endeavors. Matches simply quantify these factors and provide applicants with another way to demonstrate their commitment andcapability. They can complicate the process, but with an honest assessment of your resources, both internal and external, the barriersare certainly surmountable and well worth the reward. HST

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