Wheelchair Van Grants: How to Apply

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The benefits of obtaining grant money to purchase a wheelchair van are that you don't have to repay grant money, and you can combine money from a number of grants with money you've raised at fundraising events and even a small loan to purchase a van.If you're counting on grant money to buy your van, be prepared to put in the time it takes to make it happen.

Let's talk about the realities of grant funding--typically, relevant (disability-focused) grant-making organizations will not fully fund a wheelchair van. They may provide partial funding, which is where the ability to combine funding sources comes in handy. It's best not to put "all your eggs in one basket" when taking the grant route to buy even a used wheelchair accessible van.

Here are some tips to help you identify potential granting organizations and apply for a grant:

Start Today:

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How much money will you need? It's helpful to put the van before the grant. In other words, begin with research on handicap accessible vans--which make, model, wheelchair van conversion, auxiliary equipment, etc. will best suit your needs and lifestyle. Look for mobility vans for sale through online dealerships and locally. A carefully estimated dollar amount helps you determine your goal.

-If you plan to purchase from an online dealer, be sure to get an estimate for their nationwide handicap van delivery service to include in your total.

Practice Patience:

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Your application is one of thousands received by granting institutions on a continual basis, and each one must be processed fairly, which takes time. These institutions work in their own time frame. It may be frustrating, but don't take it out on your potential granting institutions. Instead...

-LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. When you accept that the process may take more time than you would like, you'll avoid disappointment.

Preliminary Preparation

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Because you'll be applying to several granting institutions, it's to your advantage to be as organized as possible. Remember, you're not limited to one grant, and the monies can be combined. The more applications you submit, the better your chances of obtaining all the money you need for your adapted van.

-Gather your basic information and keep it handy, so you can quickly apply for a grant the moment you identify another opportunity.

-Most every grant application will require your social security number, driver's license (if you have one), marital status, financial information, and basic background details.

medical-records -Send a letter to your doctor(s) requesting copies of your medical records, with an explanation of why you need them. When you receive them, make copies so you'll have a supply to submit one with each application. (It's possible the doctor will prefer to send the records directly to the granting institution.)

-Though not always necessary, a letter of recommendation from your physician (on letterhead stationery) might work to your advantage. If you get one, make plenty of copies and include one in each application. Ask your physician to address the letter generically, with "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam".

-Potential funding institutions will likely have unique requirements, so be flexible.Choose your closest friends, co-workers, neighbors, church members--those you know who will speak well of your character, accomplishments, attitude, and disability--and ask them if they would be willing to communicate with granting organizations on your behalf when requested. These references should also describe how a wheelchair accessible vehicle would improve your current situation.

Finding Potential Granting Institutions

-Use your Internet search skills (or ask a family member or friend for help) to identify every relevant local, regional, and national grant. Search with keywords like “disability grants”,“disability grant providers”, "disability grants for individuals." Add your state name to the search to find in-state options. Be aware that most large providers grant money to organizations rather than individuals, so local and regional disability-focused organizations might be your best bet.

woman-in-wheelchair-at -computer -Your local Chamber of Commerce and Office of Economic Development may have a list of possible grant opportunities in your area.

-If your dealing with a specific condition, like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy, look to your local chapters for grant opportunities.The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), United Cerebral Palsy, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society have chapters nationwide.

-If you're a disabled veteran, start with the U.S. Veterans Administration. They may or may not provide money, but the VA maybe able to direct you to grant opportunities in your area.

-Parents of a child with a disability? Look first at granting organizations focused on funding for children with disabilities.
 
-When you find those funders with potential, take the time to read each mission statement and request an application, which can often be found on their site.

-Cover letters should be customized and written based on the mission of each granting organization. Describe how their specific goals and objectives will be met by helping to fulfill your dream of personal handicap accessible transportation.

-Always keep in mind that you can combine money from a number of different sources!

Contact the Grant Providers

-When you begin the application process, it's a good idea to communicate by phone or email with the person in charge at the granting institution. A project officer or specific contact person my be assigned to assist with your questions and concerns.

smartphone -Keep a record of contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses for every organization to which you apply, so you can get application-status updates quickly.

-Ask each institution for their timeline to select an applicant for the funding opportunity.

-Always be courteous, upbeat, and pleasant when you speak with anyone and everyone at the organization, and thank them for efforts on your behalf.

Set Yourself Apart

-Your personal story can be a game changer. Help each potential funder fully understand the challenges in your life, the effect these hardships have had on you and your family, and describe how you've dealt with them.

-If you feel your writing skills aren't up to par, ask for help--or hire a grant writer. Your one-to-two-page story should be expressed honestly, frankly, persuasively, and as articulately as possible. Because you're competing for limited funds, your goal is to distinguish yourself with an emotional, inspiring narrative.

Stay Up to Date and Organized

-Continue exercising those organization skills! Keep track of every document and deadline. You'll have a number of applications submitted at different times--organization will enable you to access specific information and documents quickly.

-Dedicate a calendar to keep up with upcoming deadlines and important dates. SUBMIT ALL PAPERWORK ON TIME. -Show each granting institution you're serious about obtaining a grant and will do whatever is necessary to make it happen.

A word about rejections--don't let a rejection letter derail your efforts to get grant money. The reality is that every application won't achieve your desired result. Remain hopeful and HANG TOUGH. That first ride in your new wheelchair van will be beyond worth it!

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