As we begin looking to the New Year, the timing couldn’t be better to start discussions around preparations for the 2017 RUS-DLT grant from the USDA. Technologies like video conferencing and unified communications provide opportunities across the education and healthcare spectrum, but many rural entities have difficulty funding the technology. With help from the RUS-DLT grant, we see valuable distance learning and telemedicine programs reaching those in most need of these services. As many of you know, the RUS-DLT grant exists specifically for this reason. Eligible organizations include an array of entities such as state and local government agencies, for profit-businesses, and nonprofits. While the grant is without a doubt changing the future of education and healthcare for many organizations and constituents alike, we know the process can be difficult. So our grant experts have put together a few pointers and resources to help you on your journey to DLT grant success – and don’t miss the webcast on December 7 where you will hear from previous awardees and our own DLT experts.

Grant Scoring – The Breakdown

Perhaps the most important component to steering the grants process comes with an understanding of how RUS-DLT grant scoring works. According to the Polycom Grants Assistance Program (PGAP) experts, applicants stand out from others through an objective scoring system. According to Casey Rossetti, Grants Manager for Polycom, there are four areas that the federal government takes into consideration, which includes the level of rurality for the particular location, National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility, fund match capabilities, and, more recently a new category has been added for special considerations.  Casey says that your organization should have an aggregate score of 100 or more going before going into the grant process in order to stay competitive.

Elysha Gellerman, grants manager for the upper Midwest and Northeast territory, says it’s important to understand that the points for special consideration may only be used once throughout the scoring process. The special consideration category includes things such as being located on tribal land or trust land, Promise Zone communities, or connecting to a site that’s located in a county designated as Strikeforce. These are counties that have been deemed by the USDA as areas of the country that experience consistent poverty (over 20%).

Grant Preparation

There are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the application before it becomes available to the public. Here are a few things our PGAP experts advise you to get started on sooner than later:

  • Establish which locations you believe should be a part of the project.
  • Understand where you have partnerships and ensure your partner solutions are compatible with your current equipment.
  • Examine your budget – What are the specifications for the technology you will be implementing? What is the estimated cost/ need? What can your organization match?
  • Start conversations with stakeholders and work on gaining executive buy-in. Remember that board approval is needed to match funds.

Get community support. Ask for letters of support from anyone who will be using the technology. Community involvement will only help in the long run!


As the saying goes, it’s never too early to start planning. On December 7, 2016 Polycom will be hosting a webinar to discuss in greater detail how you can prepare for the RUS-DLT application process, how to manage the complexity of project development and implementation, as well as the resources and benefits the RUS-DLT grant can provide to rural organizations. Guest speakers include Randall Cole, CEO
Circle Park Behavioral Health Services and Carol Nelson, Distance Learning Consultant, CESA 10. You can register for the webinar here.

Grant Assistance Program

While finding and getting a grant can be time-consuming and overwhelming, the good news is that you are not alone. The Polycom Grants Assistance team provides help in every aspect of proposal preparation, funding selection, and submission of grant applications.  They will help you create a funding solution package to meet your specific and unique needs and achieve your project outcomes, and will continue supporting you throughout the award and post-award processes.