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How to Find Funding for Your Mobile Health Clinic Vehicle

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

In this "Ask and Answer" session, a health center wanted to know if they could use grant funding to purchase a van for health services and other community health outreach efforts. The vehicle would travel to hard-to-reach communities, such as areas that are very rural, more than 30 miles from the health center, and to districts with lower primary care use. Could they get a grant for this purpose?

Can a health center get a grant for a Vehicle to create a mobile health clinic?

A health center can get a grant for a van, bus, sedan, or other vehicle type to travel and provide health services, outreach, and education. Many reliable sources cite mobile health services as a best practice.

Mobile health clinics bring healthcare to people who might otherwise not be able to make it to a healthcare appointment because they have a challenging work schedule, they do not have a car, they do not have a primary care doctor, or because of burdensome transportation costs or travel time. Mobile clinics may travel to homeless encampments, apartment communities, elder homes, migrant communities, and churches, to name a few.

With so many exceptional uses, you will not have to try too hard to build your case for funding.

But getting grant money will be more challenging than putting together quotes and accepting a check.

Most Grantmakers categorize vehicles as "equipment" or "capital" expenses, and exclude or place restrictions on these large purchases. So, the first question is, "Can you rent the vehicle?" because funders are more open to a property lease.

If the answer is no, we would like to understand why.

In this case, a purchase would be ideal because the health center wants to "wrap" the vehicle with a logo to build community trust and visibility of the services. Additionally, the health center anticipates expanding the use of the van as its outreach efforts increase.

What does your health center need to do to get a vehicle grant?

There are many things to consider and get in order before sending off your grant application. It would be best if you determined the vehicle's configuration and how much it will cost. Beyond the purchase cost, you will need to consider the cost of tag registration and titling and how you will pay for gasoline, preventative care, and higher maintenance costs.

Once you know what you need and how much money you want to budget, you must gather at least three cost estimates unless the grantmaker has a preferred supplier. Your organization may have procurement rules for large purchases that you will need to consider.

You will also need to think about safety and paying for vehicle drivers. When SGR has prepared successful grant applications for the Federal Transit Agency's 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program, the nonprofit needed to provide the following documents:

1) Driver Training and Requirements, 2) Insurance, 3) Preventative Maintenance Plan, 3) Retirement Plan (what will you do when the vehicle's useful life is over, 4) Plan to track mileage, 5) Procurement Plan with quotes, 6) Storage, and 7) Board of Directors Resolution.

Where can your health center find funding for a Vehicle?

Finally, you must figure out who will pay for the van. We use several grant identification systems, like Instrumentl, to identify corporate, government, and foundation funders that will pay for equipment or capital expenses.

Next, you must examine each funder's budget restrictions and exclusions. As previously discussed, some funders will allow you to lease a vehicle, while others may allow you to purchase with an explanation of why this is necessary. Furthermore, some funders will pay for vehicle operating expenses, such as driver training, staffing, preventative maintenance, licensing, and insurance. While other funders will not fund but require these expenses. It is important to understand your out-of-pocket costs, and how these will be sustained.

You may need more than one funder to cover all vehicle expenses. Our favorite approach is identifying government programs for vehicle purchase and including vehicle operating expenses into more significant grant proposals as direct program costs. Corporate funders may be better if you only need the vehicle purchase and the price is under $75,000.

Making Your Vehicle Purchase A Reality

As you can see, there is much to consider when purchasing a vehicle for your mobile health clinic. It would help if you had a clear understanding of how you will use the car and how much it will cost to purchase and maintain it. You will need systems for safety and storage, and finally, you have to figure out who will pay for it. Our experience has been that the total process for setting up a transportation plan, getting a grant, and procuring a vehicle is 6-18 months.

Does this process seem out of reach? With attention to detail, an all-hands-on-deck attitude, and persistence, you can get the money you need to purchase a vehicle for your nonprofit or a vehicle fleet. And Sidnae Global Research would love to help you. We have secured money to purchase more than 12 vehicles, and won money for vehicle operating expenses. To learn more, please visit our Service page or email for our Grant Needs Survey.

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