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:
-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.
-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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!