The application process for any grant can be overwhelming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning & Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) grant application is no exception. One way to ease the stress, according to Polycom Grant Assistance Program (PGAP) experts, is to get started early.

The RUS-DLT is intended to help fund the purchase or lease of telecommunications equipment used to deliver telehealth or distance learning services and content to rural areas. The grant is wide in scope and changes a little every year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started now. In the video , PGAP experts Dana Satterwhite and Elysha Gellerman offer tips for getting started before the grant even opens (which will likely be in March, by the way).

#1: Put together a site list.

One of the key pieces of your RUS-DLT application is a site list; that is, a list of the sites to which your organization plans to deliver telehealth or distance learning services. This can be relatively simple if you’re delivering services to sites within your own organization. However, it gets more complicated if you’re working with other organizations. And that brings us to…

#2: Create new partnerships.

To be successful, you’ll need to establish working partnerships with the sites you wish to connect with. Sometimes partnerships can take a while, so plan early to get them solidified before you submit your application. This extra legwork will pay off in the long run. According to Satterwhite and Gellerman, organizations that have solid relationships with their partners tend to be more successful implementing their projects later.

#3: Determine your budget.

The RUS-DLT grant is a matching grant from $50,000 to $500,000 per applicant. Experts advise taking a hard look at your budgetary resources to determine what you can spend and what you’re spending it on. You need to nail down the bills of material so that you can have realistic conversations with your executives about what those funds will be. On a related note…

#4: Start talking to IT.

The last thing you want to do is receive grant funds for equipment that you can’t use. A technology inventory is key, and it should include your IT organization. Getting IT involved early will provide assurance that pre-existing equipment will work with the equipment that will be purchased with the grant.

#5: Get executive buy-in.

The RUS-DLT application requires a match commitment letter from your CEO or CFO. Don’t expect to just pop into your exec’s office and walk out ten minutes later with a signed letter in hand. The match commitment requires board approval, and it may take a month or two to get on the agenda for the necessary meeting.

Finally, our experts agree: It’s never too early to start planning for your RUS-DLT grant application. If you’d like to learn more about preparing for your RUS-DLT grant application early, watch the video or reach out to our grants team.