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Many organizations rely on competitive grants to fund their services and programs.

However, after a 10-year ban, the practice of Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS), formerly known as earmarks, has returned to the political arena, offering organizations an additional source of potential funding. 

This reformed CDS process has come into effect with added oversight and transparency and is now labeled “Community Project Funding” (CPF), reflecting lawmakers’ intent that it be utilized for local governments and nonprofits.  

The CPF is a way for members of Congress to allocate specific federal funds to support local community projects in their districts or states and fill in the gaps in services through the appropriations process. 

The House Appropriations Committee disseminated guidance and criteria regarding programs eligible for 2023 CPF requests. One senior director of legislative affairs explains that CPF is essentially a directed grant, noting if there’s something that you need or wanted to do, but didn’t necessarily have the resources or financial impetus to do it, this is an opportunity to reach out to a member of Congress to ask them to support an innovative initiative.” 

It is anticipated that a large number of projects will be requested this next year, but only a limited number can be funded due to Committee rules limiting the amount of earmarks. The Committee will accept a maximum of 15 community project requests from each member, though only a handful may actually be funded.  

Similar to the competitively awarded federal grant programs, CPF proposals also require information such as Project Purpose, Justification (history, goals, why the project is a worthwhile investment for taxpayers), Project Budget, Project Financing (the non-earmark funding dedicated to the project), and Timeline to Completion. 

Preparing a quality proposal and having a strong group of supporters for your project is important. Being able to secure congressional champions that are willing to put their name on your proposal will elevate your chances even further.  

The earmark and appropriations process is a year-long cycle, requiring months of advocacy and persistence to maximize the chances for success.  Often times organizations are too busy serving their community and require further guidance on how to efficiently navigate the CPF process from a third party; one that can advance their organization’s priorities, advocate on their behalf, and effectively apply for CPF earmarks for the upcoming fiscal year.   

If your organization wants a piece of the appropriation pie and has an innovative way to fill service gaps within your community in the areas of health care services, children and families programs, criminal justice programs, education, etc., then this is your time to consider pursuing a Community Project Funding earmark.

By Cindy Johnson
Cindy Johnson is a Research Specialist & Strategy Consultant @ TWG