The Fund Finder News, by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant

 

 

The end of the year is in sight, and you should begin planning you department’s financial health strategy, right now. Departments should begin planning how you are going to allocate your dollars, and utilize them, in the most effective strategy to benefit your departments, citizens and officers.

 

Throughout this past year in these columns I have been educating you on some proper strategies to maximize your effectiveness at utilizing your shrinking budget dollars. I believe it would be proper to again summarize some of those once again.

 

Conduct a comprehensive “Needs Assessment” of your department.

 

Do the homework now and conduct a good hard look at what your most critical needs are and then prioritize what those needs are. When you are prioritizing those needs, be sure to keep in mind that it is better to plan these things in stages. Do not put too much on your plate to be handled in one year. Plans for upgrading, starting new programs and equipment replacement should be done in small increments. Look at starting a program by first training your personnel and getting them certified to perform the tasks and or to use equipment that you intend to purchase. Start small with a “scaled down” mini-program, and document some success with that program. Then, in the next year, build upon the success of that program and seek funding to “expand” the scope of the program based upon a proven track record. This is a proven strategy for achieving funding success.

 

Look at forming a grants team.

 

It is really impossible, as public safety officers, to research, gather statistical data, compose, write and apply for all the grants that exist out there every year. Although we strive to ease that burden for you, we will never be able to do ALL of the tasks that need to be accomplished for a successful application. Remember, Together Everyone Accomplishes Much.

 

Consider using alternative funding methods to satisfy your needs.

 

Beyond public sector grants, there are lots of different types of funding sources that can provide the funding you need, and sometimes there are creative approaches you can utilize that get a problem solved. Get out of your box and trying being a creative thinker in terms of innovation or making your needs mesh with those of funding sources which may be present within your regional area.

 

Conduct private fundraising activities.

 

We are many times way too sensitive about asking taxpayers to further contribute to our budgets by having them dig into their pockets to donate to us. Get rid of this “political guilt trip” here, folks. These citizens are NOT taxed at levels which even begin to cover our needs.

 

Today’s economic plight has been responsible for negative growth and continued budget cuts both now and for the foreseeable future. Tactfully seeking additional funding through private funding drives will serve to fend off future tax increases. What is oftentimes mistakenly considered to be “unprofessional begging” is in fact your department heads practicing sound fiscal responsibility. What is unprofessional is to ignore a glaring deficit in your equipment or training programs and operate in a reactive vs. proactive mode with your department. Grant makers offer a hand-up, not a hand-out!

 

It is vitally important to show the grant maker that you are trying to deal with these problems yourself but, you are just experiencing difficulty in funding all of it. Private citizens and businesses will in fact appreciate, and respond, to your internal and self-initiated efforts to raise the “matching dollars” so that you can get a bigger piece of the pie.

 

Think “training aid” not “equipment”.

 

You may not find a grant which will fund the “equipment” itself but, if you put on a training course which requires that equipment to teach the course, it now becomes a training aid and as such may become eligible for using grant funds to purchase.

 

Utilize and consider looking for private and corporation grants.

 

The private sector knows the importance of funding vital community assets, and they know it’s good PR too.

 

Start looking and identify and quantify what “critical infrastructure” you have in your area.

 

DHS grants are given based upon known and identified risk or potential risk to a community. By seeking out, identifying, quantifying and listing what critical infrastructure assets your community or area has within it, you afford yourself greater priority in the funding selection process. This is how you justify that your department is worthy of DHS grant funding.

 

Begin researching past grant programs that you may wish to apply to in the coming year.

 

Grants are usually quite cyclical in nature. As such it is generally very easy to go back and look at previous grant program RFPs and Program Guidance documents in order to determine the program’s suitability and eligibility of your department and what you are seeking. This will then allow you to predict and plan for matching dollars to be available in your upcoming budget so that you may apply and accept a grant award if you are successful.

 

This only makes common sense as it is a colossal waste of time to develop and apply for a grant funding program, only to have to refuse the award because you did not have the matching dollars available.

 

Use these suggestions as a checklist for planning your financial strategies for the coming year. In doing this homework now, you will make future grant application processes much easier to deal with.