To apply for a grant, use the application form at https://grants.ardc.net. You can apply for a grant at any time during the year. Four times a year, we review applications. We fund approximately $5 million dollars annually.
If you feel that you have a program or project idea that fulfills the mission of ARDC, but is not mentioned here, we suggest contacting email@example.com or calling +1-858-477-9900 before submitting your application to talk through your idea.
General instructions for all applications
- Review our grantmaking goals to make sure your project aligns with our work. In particular, please note that projects that are not open source and open access are not eligible. On this page, you will also find examples of past successful applications.
- Make sure your organization is eligible for a grant. Eligible organizations include:
- US-based 501(c)(3) public charities, government agencies, schools, and universities
- International charities, nonprofits, schools, and universities
- Radio clubs and groups who are NOT nonprofits may be eligible if you work with a US-based, nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Fiscal sponsors must be 501(c)(3)’s, local government organizations, universities, or schools. ARDC usually cannot find a fiscal sponsor for you, so reaching out to other clubs in your region may be your best bet. If you are an amateur radio club, you may want to consider applying for an ARRL Club Grant, since they do not have to require 501(c)(3) status.
- Individuals may be eligible if you work with a fiscal sponsor.
- US-based and international for-profit businesses are currently not eligible for ARDC grants.
- NOTE: If your organization is a 501(c)(3) public charity, please consider whether or not your organization will meet the public support test after you receive an ARDC grant. We cannot offer legal advice on this matter, but we suggest that you consult with an attorney or CPA to ensure that you will meet this requirement. For more information on the public support test, go to Understanding the 501(c)(3) Public Support Test.
Filling out the application
Include letters of support from any organizations that you’ll be partnering with, such as government agencies or nonprofit corporations.
As you write your proposal, keep in mind that the review committee will use the following criteria to evaluate your application:
- Meets ARDC’s goals.
- Clear mission/objective. Be clear about what you intend to accomplish and why. It should be clear how success will be measured, what the impact of the project will be, and why the project is needed.
- Budget. Your project’s budget should be appropriate for the results you want to achieve. For example, we don’t want projects to choose cheap equipment just to save money if that equipment is more likely to fail, but we don’t want to see unusually expensive equipment without explanation for why it is needed. Similarly, use volunteer labor when appropriate, and hire professionals if you don’t have adequate experience on your volunteer team.
- Project Design. Successful projects must have a clear design plan that outlines the steps you will take to accomplish your goals. The work schedule should be reasonable, and enough detail should be provided to show our reviewers that your team knows how to do the work and that your plan is viable. Lack of detail in the project plan is the most common reason applications are rejected.
- Sustainability. When appropriate, tell us how the project’s outcomes will be maintained and continue to have an impact beyond the lifetime of the grant.
- Community support. Your project should have community support. This can be in the form of financial support, donated equipment, or volunteer time. If a project supports or becomes part of school, city, county, or state infrastructure, it is important that those applications include letters of support from those organizations.
- Reach and impact. Big projects should reach many people and have a correspondingly big impact. At the same time, smaller projects that have a big impact on a smaller group of people, especially in underserved areas, are also looked on favorably.
- Geographic area. Preference will be given to projects that will serve areas not currently receiving ARDC grants, such as projects outside the U.S., and projects serving low-income areas.
- Service to under-represented communities. Projects that serve under-represented communities in amateur radio or technical fields, such as youth, women, BIPOC, and countries outside of the United States, are encouraged.
- That something special. In the spirit of innovation and flexibility, we may fund exceptional projects that don’t perfectly align with stated criteria or categories.
In general, please note that the larger the project, the more detailed information we may need in your application and subsequent reports.
If it’s your first time writing a grant, the video How to Write a Grant Proposal Step-by-Step may help.
- You can disregard the recommended page lengths and sections mentioned in this video under “What Goes in a Grant Proposal.” Instead, focus on answering the questions on our application. You can make your answers as long or as short as you need to fully explain your idea.
- You can also skip listening to the information in this video after the 21:45 mark.
Creating your budget
Group small things together like “building supplies: screws, paint, tape, etc. – $200.” Avoid grouping major expenses like “New Ham Shack $30,000.” Separate out any costs for materials, labor, and any other fees that might be included, such as permitting.
You can submit your budget in any format, though spreadsheets are preferred. Your budget may include:
- Personnel. This includes salaries and benefits for individuals working on the project (unless everyone is a volunteer). Include an estimate of how much time you expect these individuals will work on this project.
- Supplies and equipment. List the supplies and equipment that you will need for the project. Don’t forget about shipping costs, taxes, and any fees. It’s okay to round up slightly to give yourself room for these costs. Be specific about any radio equipment or big-ticket items that you want to buy.
- Travel. Include any travel costs that are directly related to the project.
- Marketing. Include costs for marketing materials that are directly related to the project. For example, include the cost of printing flyers or purchasing social media ads to advertise a class.
- Other costs. List other costs that are directly related to your project, such as costs for building permits, if needed.
- Indirect costs/contingency. You may include up to 20% for indirect costs, such as phone, internet, rent, accountants, software, bank fees, human resources, lawyers, small supplies, contingency for unexpected project costs, and anything else that can be hard to itemize. You can use these funds for any additional overhead costs. If your organization’s indirect cost rate is more than 20%, we ask that you cost-share any indirect amount over 20% to allow us to maximize the funds we can distribute to others.
- Other funds that are available for this project. Tell us about funds from other donors who are supporting this project and any money already set aside for this project. It’s okay if ARDC is the only funder, but it can be a bonus to know if other funders or people in your community are willing to invest in your project, especially if it’s a big one.
Your budget should not include:
- Funds for lobbying. Advocacy work is okay, but trying to specifically influence elected officials to vote in a particular way is something we cannot legally fund. See the National Council of Nonprofits’ Advocacy vs. Lobbying for more details.
If it’s your first time creating a grant budget, Writing a Budget for a Grant Proposal has many good tips on what to include (and what not to include) in your budget.
Amateur radio projects
- Regular use and maintenance. ARDC will support projects that radio amateurs will regularly use and maintain, such as repeaters.
- Strong outreach plan. Our mission is to promote and support amateur radio. We prefer to fund projects that have an outreach component that introduces new people to the hobby or strengthens skills and connections within the hobby. For example, if you plan to fix a broken repeater, will you use it as an opportunity to educate others and engage your community as volunteers? Will you send out a newsletter announcement or let folks know in some other ways about the project?
- Use of modern technology. We recognize that in some cases older technology may be the most appropriate for a given project, but in general, we encourage grantees to use the most modern technology available.
Here is some guidance for some particular project types:
- GMRS. GMRS systems are generally not eligible for an ARDC grant, except as a tool to enhance amateur radio public services or to encourage amateur radio licensing and training. All GMRS equipment must be FCC Part 95 certified, including repeaters. Network connection (linking) of GMRS repeaters, or stations, for carrying traffic is not permitted (see the tab marked Operations).
- Repeaters must be open for use by all licensed operators and freely accessible
- Emergency communications vehicles. This is a type of application that we receive a large number of requests for. See our blog post about how to be successful with making your trailer grant proposal stand out.
- Staff involvement. University and K-12 projects should have a teacher, professor, advisor, or other staff person involved, even if the project is primarily being carried out by students. This is to ensure that the program continues even after students graduate.
- General STEAM and robotics programs are not as closely aligned with ARDC values for funding, unless they have a strong amateur radio or digital communications / information technology component.
For more information about scholarships, please visit: https://www.ardc.net/apply/grantmaking-categories-goals-2023/scholarships/
Research and development (R&D) projects
- Share results. Results and documentation must be openly available for others to learn from. We prefer strong plans for sharing results with the public and other researchers.
- Advance the art. You should summarize in your proposal what similar research has been done already and how your project is building on that knowledge.
A note about event sponsorship
ARDC occasionally sponsors events, such as GNU Radio Conference and the Ham Radio Village at DEFCON. Sponsorships do not require a grant application. For more information on sponsorships, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pre-application meeting is not necessary to apply for a grant, but if you have questions, you may email us at email@example.com to set up a time to talk. Our staff can answer questions about our process or give you advice on if we think a proposal for your project is likely to be successful before you begin.
To learn about our reporting requirements and what happens after you receive a grant, click here.