Tips to Apply For a Wheelchair Van Grant
The beauty of grant money is that it doesn’t need to be repaid, and it can be combined with funds you obtain from other sources (loans, fundraisers, and even additional grants) to purchase mobility equipment, including wheelchair accessible vans. You’ll find relevant grant-making foundations and organizations that offer partial and sometimes, though rarely, full funding for handicap vans.
Here are a few tips for identifying relevant granting institutions and applying for a grant:
1: Wheelchair Van Research
- Find the most appropriate handicap accessible van for your situation and lifestyle by contacting online wheelchair van dealers and local wheelchair van dealers. They’ll help you zero in on the best wheelchair van conversion for your situation and lifestyle.
- While a new wheelchair van would be nice, it would be helpful to focus on used accessible vans for sale. Keeping costs as low as possible should better your chances of obtaining a grant.
- Determine an estimated price for a handicap accessible van that will serve your needs, so you can submit a target dollar amount to the granting organizations
2: Push Your Patience Button
- The process takes time. Yours is not the only application grant providers handle. They receive thousands of applications similar to yours, so don’t expect an immediate response.
- Do not vent even the slightest frustration to the grant provider—it won’t help and may even have a negative effect. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Granting institutions and foundations operate on their time frame—not the applicant’s.
3: Prepare for the Grant Application Process
- Organization is key as you make your way through the process, because you may be applying to several granting institutions simultaneously. Your basic information should always be at hand, so you can tackle an application the moment you’ve located a grant opportunity.
- Personal info: social security number, driver’s license (if you have one), marital status, financial information and personal background details.
- Obtain a copy of your medical records from your doctor(s), who should release them to you when you explain your purpose. Make several copies for multiple applications. (Sometimes, physicians will send records directly to the granting institution.)
- Request a letter of recommendation from your physician. While not essential, a physician’s letter on letterhead stationery can carry some weight when applying for a grant. Ask the doctor to address the letter generically, like “Dear Madam or Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern”, and, again, make copies of the letter so they’re handy when you discover another grant opportunity.
- BE FLEXIBLE. Funding institutions have different requirements.
4: Lock In References
- Ask your closest friends, neighbors, church members, work associates—anyone who can attest to your character, attitude, accomplishments, and disability in the likelihood that the granting organization requests references.
- Your references should also offer their take on how a handicap accessible vehicle would enhance your current lifestyle.
5: Identify and Research Potential Granting Institutions
- Comb the Internet for logical, relevant keywords like “disability grant providers”, “disability grants”, and other relevant keyword phrases to find granting foundations and organizations. Then add your state name to the search to locate any in-state options.
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and Office of Economic Development for possible local grant opportunities.
- Research by medical condition. Organizations supporting specific conditions will sometimes provide grants to people living with that particular disorder, like the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), United Cerebral Palsy, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
- Disabled veteran? Begin your search with the U.S. Veterans Administration.
- Parents of a child with special needs should first look for granting organizations that focus their funding on children with disabilities.
- As soon as you find a potential funder, read the mission statement and request an application, which may be easily available on their site.
- Working from the organization’s mission statement, write a cover letter that shows how your situation corresponds with the organization’s goals and complements their objectives. Customize each cover letter to the granting organization.
Remember—you can combine funding
from a number of different sources!
6: Make Contact with the Grant Providers
- Communicate via phone or email with the organization’s person in charge, if possible, when you start the application process. You may be assigned a project officer or specific contact person to assist with your questions and concerns.
- You’ll need a contact name, phone number and email address for every foundation and institution for application-status updates.
- Request their timeline for choosing an applicant for the funding opportunity.
- Be pleasant during every conversation, and don’t forget to thank them for their time and efforts on your behalf.
7: Be the Game Changer
- Perhaps the most important challenge for you is to provide insight about your life to the potential funder, so they recognize your challenges and the effect these difficulties have had on your life—and how you’ve handled them.
- Relate your story honestly and persuasively in an eloquent, straightforward, one-to-two-page narrative. Include your plans for the funding and what it would mean to your future. If you don’t trust your skills, hire a grant writer.
- An inspiring, emotional story will set you apart from other candidates, which is vital. Keep in mind, you’re competing for limited funds.
8: Stay Organized and Up-to-Date
- Be a well-oiled machine—stay on top of your documents and deadlines. When you have numerous applications at different points in the process, you’ll be able to access important documents and paperwork at a moment’s notice.
- Whether it’s online or on a bulletin board, create a system to keep tabs on important deadlines and dates. Submit all paperwork on time.
- Distinguish yourself from other applicants by making your desire to obtain the organization’s financial help crystal-clear—continually track the progress of your applications and meet every deadline.
"Do not become discouraged if you receive a rejection. Not every application will result in a grant. Grants are a growing source of funding source for many people and organizattions. Meanwhile, the providers of grants are placing more scrutiny on how these funds are used and even using grant management software to track them. So, PERSEVERE and STAY HOPEFUL. Your efforts will be tremendously rewarded when you take your first ride in your new (or used!) handicap accessible van.
Susan Hawkins is a writer and video producer for AMS Vans in Atlanta, GA. AMS Vans sells handicap accessible vans nationwide with a guaranteed low price on all newly converted AMS-brand wheelchair van models, often thousands of dollars less than other manufacturers. AMSvans.com also accepts trades, rents and buys vans at competitive prices. As a writer for a wheelchair van company, Susan has done extensive research on wheelchair vans and other handicap accessible transportation, focusing on the wheelchair van conversion process, peripheral mobility equipment, and the criteria for safe, reliable, affordable handicap accessible vans.