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



Writing and composing a strong grant application is not difficult if you understand that the funding source must have some basic questions answered in every grant application it receives. Even before the actual RFP or Program Guidance (the grant program’s playbook) is published and released, you can start preparing for any grant by simply following the elementary school lessons you learned as a child. Answer the 5 W questions: Who, What, When, Where and Why.




Any grant funding source will want to know who it is that is applying for funding. Begin by describing, in detail, exactly who your department is. Ask and answer questions such as:


  • Are you a volunteer organization or career oriented?
  • How many staff do you have and how well are they trained to national compliance standards?
  • What is your call volume for the year?
  • What is the population of your area’s jurisdiction and how many sq. miles do you cover?
  • Are you a 501c3 non-profit organization? Are you staffed by volunteers, career people or a combination of the two?


Under the question of “who”, we need to also explain who this money is going to benefit. Funding sources often state clearly that they have targeted groups of people they wish the money to benefit. You have to show them that your program will be doing that. The Fire Prevention and Safety grant program from FEMA is a good example of this. The program identifies 2 high-risk targeted audiences that the funding should benefit:


  • those children 14 years old and younger, and
  • senior citizens over the age of 65.




Tell the funding source exactly what the problem is that you are asking them to give you a grant award to try and resolve. Be specific and not general in nature with your descriptions here. Make sure that you tell them how you know that this problem exists. Talk about exactly what you did to determine that this problem existed and what the scope of the problem entails.


Be able to relate to the reviewer exactly what it is you intend to do with the grant money, be that buying or replacing equipment, putting on an educational program or increasing your technological capabilities. Be certain to list specific goals and objectives for your program. This lets the reviewer know that your program is both comprehensive and well thought out.


Do not forget to think about how you would evaluate your program to prove that it was successful. You should also explain how you will sustain the program and continue it after the grant funding has been spent.




The reviewer is going to want to know how long it will take to accomplish your goals. If allowed, be sure you make up a timeline showing exactly what is going to take place and in what chronological order those activities will occur.


This also allows you to gauge how much time you will actually need to set aside to accomplish this project. Consult with others who may be involved with the grant, such as training officers or community stakeholders. Doing so also can serve to alert you, ahead of time, that maybe your project is too complicated to complete within the stated time periods allowed. This will allow you to adjust accordingly prior to submitting the grant.




Did you know that geography is the most failed subject in school these days? Many high school graduates, if given a blank map of the United States, could not point to New Hampshire or Rhode Island.


You should always make a very concerted effort to geographically orient the reviewer to where you are located. It’s not good enough to simply say “we are located in Springfield”. Is that Springfield Illinois or Massachusetts? Did you know there are 13 cities and towns in the US called Springfield?


Never assume the reviewer knows where you are. Always orient your location to well-known cities in the US by distance and compass direction. Here’s an example of how to say this: ”We are located in Springfield, Illinois, which is 96 miles NE of St. Louis, Missouri, and 200 miles SW of Chicago, Illinois. Talk about your area, and tell them some things such as:


  • What is the town famous for?
  • What drives the local economy?
  • Are you mostly industrial, agricultural or residential in nature?
  • What is the topography like?
  • What critical infrastructure is located in your area that you have responsibility for?


As you know, a lot of mental pictures can be drawn by the correct use of a few well-placed words. This can be crucial in your application especially, since many applications nowadays have space limitations imposed. For instance, if I say “we are located in Eagle, Colorado, on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains,” there are mental images that automatically come to mind when you think about those few words. Things such as:


  • Cold weather with ice and snow for 6-8 months out of the year
  • Rural and isolated area of coverage
  • Wildfire problems
  • Hilly mountainous terrain requiring 4x4 vehicles


See, right there we saved almost 27 words and 170 characters.


It is important for the reviewer and funding source to know exactly where this money is going to and what areas will be served by the money coming to you.




Last but not least we need to tell the funding source “why” we need the money. The items you are going to want the reviewers to be paying attention to include, but are not limited to:


  • What is wrong with your existing equipment?
  • Are people getting hurt? Are they at risk of getting hurt from old dilapidated equipment you are being forced to function with?
  • Is it creating liability issues for your agency?
  • Do you need to take advantage of technological improvements offered in newer equipment? How will that help you?
  • Will this new equipment cut down on your expenses?
  • Why can’t you buy the equipment yourself?
  • How will this grant help your agency to better serve your citizens? In what ways?


You need to fully justify every dime that you intend to spend. There should be a direct correlation between what you are asking for and what the funding source says are their funding priorities. If you fail to understand and form the nexus between your need and their need, then you will not get funded.


Using the 5 Ws in Every Grant


The 5 Ws of Successful grant writing can be used on just about any grant funding program out there, in doing the pre-planning and research in anticipation of actually completing a grant program application. Gather the information discussed above, and you will be well prepared to answer most questions or provide the requested information for a funding source, regardless of it being a federal, state, local or corporate/ private foundation program.



Photo: Horia Varlan