Continuing Resolution Slowing Grant Award Process

Image: Arend - https://flic.kr/p/cSQvD9
Image: Arend – https://flic.kr/p/cSQvD9

Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant

On September 29th, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal Government through December 3rd. President Obama signed it into Public Law on September 30th (P.L. 111-242). Under the Continuing Resolution, programs are not to start new projects.

Up until this date, a flurry of activity had been occurring in September in several major Federal grant programs.

Awards had been announced for the Solving Cold Cases through DNA analysis program for law enforcement and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program had begun updating direct deposit forms (1199a) with new award numbers and had finished conducting peer review for the Staffing For Adequate Fire & Emergency Response ( SAFER). They also finished up on peer review of the remainder of the 2010 AFG applications that had not been accomplished during the initial peer panel review. Everyone was in “ready, set, go” mode and happily believing that the “slow/delayed award release” debacle that occurred in the 2009 grants was being corrected.

With the recess of Congress, to tend to their mid-term election activities, all grant activity just about came to a screeching halt…. no awards, no rejection notices, no updating of direct deposit forms and no information from the program offices of when it would resume. Considering that Congress is the engine of the country, it is as if someone simply turned the car off and removed the key from the ignition.

So we sit here and wait. That mentality just fuels complacence and procrastination and is hindering departments and cities, which are already reeling from the effects of the country’s economic meltdown, from trying to properly plan their financial strategy.

There is no sense in crying over spilled milk. Eventually the grant awards will resume and hopefully get back on track. But, in the meantime, that does not mean we should be sitting around and twiddling our thumbs.

This is the time to be conducting those long postponed needs and critical capabilities assessments or dragging out the boxes of past statistical data and starting to organize and collate that data in preparation for the 2011 grant cycle to begin.

It’s time to start researching what opportunities my be available to you next year and learn what will be expected of you in an application. Bone up on your grant knowledge, maybe take a grant writing class and gain that upper hand now. Competition for 2011 grant money is going to be the fiercest it has been in many years. A smaller pool of money and more applicants than ever, mean you need to bring your “A” game to the court this year.

Grant Strategy: Gaining Buy-In from Administration

Image: Flazingo Photos - www.flazingo.com and flic.kr/p/nbAu8Y
Image: Flazingo Photos – www.flazingo.com and flic.kr/p/nbAu8Y

Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant

One of the most frustrating problems, for any public safety grant writer in trying to establish a proper grants strategy in their agency, is to gain the consensus or “buy-in” needed from our administrators that hold the check books. My experience has shown that this is predominantly a problem of the administrators relying on preconceived, outdated information or myths in regards to the current arena of grants.

Those charged with the responsibility of establishing or developing a grants program within their agency need to begin their agency’s overall grant strategy by carefully taking the time to assure that those who have the ultimate decision of saying “yes or no,” are properly educated well ahead of any program that you are thinking of applying for.

This issue has become so critically important that we have recently seen some grant programs that have promulgating rules that require proof that the administration has been properly briefed or informed prior to submission of an application.

One of the absolute worst things that can happen to an agency or a grant writer is to develop, submit and win an award, only to have the administrators refuse the award once it is brought before them because you failed to inform them of what their responsibilities would be. Being properly armed with the correct and accurate information is your first order of business. After all, you would not go to a gunfight, armed with only a knife would you?

One of the more popular shows on TV for the past several years is on Discovery Channel and is called Myth Busters. So let’s do a little “myth busting” of our own here in regards to grants. Just exactly what are some of these myths that administrators need to be aware of in working with you and your agency’s needs?

Myth #1

How many of you have heard this from an administrator?

“Don’t apply to any grant that does not cover 100% of the costs”.

If you eliminate corporate and private foundation funding (which is somewhat limited for public safety agencies) you just knocked yourself out of applying for more than 98% of all government funded grants. The fact is, that most grant programs are going to require a “matching dollar requirement” of somewhere between 5%-50%.

Grants should always be treated as a “hand-up” not a “hand-out.”

The stark but realistic way to look at this, or to counter a statement such as that, is quite simply “would you rather have 80% of something or 100% of nothing?” I don’t know how things work around your household, but if my wife sees 75% off something at Wal-Mart, in most cases she is going to get it regardless of if we need it or not.

Know thy opponent! You should speak to these politically elected officials in their own language and that language is “being fiscally responsible with tax dollars”. Most would prefer that the taxpayers view them as being fiscally conservative. In fact, gauging by this last mid-term election, that was a political platform battle cry. You should ask them point blank” would their constituents rather them pay 100% of the cost of some critically needed item by raising taxes to pay for it, or would they rather only pay 20%”?

It has never ceased to amaze me at the number of administrators or elected officials that have absolutely no idea where Federal, State and local grant program dollars originate from. When you receive a grant into your community you are in essence re-capturing your resident’s tax dollars for them. Not only are you recapturing your own resident’s tax dollars but, you are also getting a little piece of every taxpayer’s dollars back for your community’s benefit.

So what is the lesson here? Always have some dollars set aside in your budget for local matching dollar requirements and set the record straight with administrators regarding the fact that there is no “free ride.”

Myth #2

“We are too small of an agency to get a grant; they only give them to the larger municipalities.”

Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Our firm has specifically targeted medium to smaller size public agencies and has assisted them in winning approximately $200 million in awards so that just totally debunks that statement.

Now that is not to say that there is not some truth in a statement that “size matters” in some Federal and State grant programs however, it should not be the sole determining factor in gauging your chances of success or your decision to apply. You have to play, to get paid!

Most grant programs, especially from the Department of Homeland Security, are given based upon the “risk and need”. Now even the most experienced grant writer cannot create need, where need does not exit but, many public safety agencies are somewhat perplexed at what actually constitutes the need or risk.

There are several types of needs and risks. You have “actual” risk which is typically dependent upon statistical values such as how many people you protect or how many buildings there are and how many calls for service that you answer a year. Then there is “perceived” risk which is based upon what is actually present which, by its very nature, has a likelihood that a critical incident would occur there requiring your people to be properly prepared to deal with it.

IE; Several years ago we helped an agency that had been trying to get a new fire truck for several years to replace their only fire truck which was over 40 years of age. The population of their area was only just slightly over 2000 residents.

The local fire chief had been trying to win a new fire truck from the AFG program for three years with nothing but rejection notices in hand for his efforts.

Once we started working with them we discovered several things about them in terms of “critical infrastructure” in their area which he had neglected to put into his application. Once we got the Chief to make some inquiries we discovered that he had three 72″ natural gas pipelines buried through his jurisdiction and also had a major Department of Defense contractor with a manufacturing processing plant there as well.

Once those items were properly highlighted in his grant application, he was funded in the first round for his new fire truck.

The moral of the story is that the size of your community or agency is often not as big of a stumbling block to receiving a grant award as you might think.

Unless you have been properly educated to know how to present something to a grant funding source which forms the nexus between your needs and the grant funding source’s needs, you are only guessing at your likelihood of being a good candidate for a grant award.

Educating not only yourself, but also your elected or administrative officials to these grant programs and what is required to win an award, is just plain good common sense.

Myth #3

“We cannot afford to spend the money on training or consultants!”

To which my response would be, “how can you afford not to do this?”

Look around folks, tax based revenue has fallen drastically and the end is still nowhere in sight at this point. We are unlikely to recover that tax base for the next 5-10 years. Yet what happens in regards to public safety during times of economic crisis? Calls for service go up!

EMS gets more calls because people have no health insurance because they lost their jobs and then they wait too long to seek medical attention until they are in a crisis stage. Their lack of insurance fails to cover your costs and so billing revenue becomes harder to collect.

Crime rates typically go up as more and more people without income become homeless or start committing crimes to feed their families. Typically robberies and property crimes increase proportionately with the unemployment rate. Money issues are the number one topic of domestic violence incidents and a high unemployment rate naturally escalates these feuds between domestic partners thereby also increasing the local law informant agency’s work load.

The mortgage crisis has a huge number of people upside down in their homes. Bank foreclosures and bankruptcy are at record high numbers during the past two years. Fire Departments typically notice an increase in their activity due to arsons from disgruntled homeowners who look to insurance settlements a way to avoid foreclosure or they set the home afire to punish the mortgage holder. Vehicle arson also typically increases for insurance fraud purposes. Squatters and the homeless start occupying vacant homes and buildings and set accidental fires in an effort to just keep warm in winter.

This leaves these agencies with little or no choice other than to seek grants to replace or upgrade safety equipment needs. The number of agencies applying for grants these last two years is huge and growing as the tax based revenue they depend upon for operational budgets, shrinks ever further. This increased competition means the programs are becoming more and more competitive and an agency will need every competitive edge it can get to fight for those also shrinking grant dollars.

Seeking and obtaining professional assistance is a fiscally responsible move when you consider the average return on investment after receiving a grant award is around 80:1.Spending $1K to assure that competitive edge by having professionals assist in training you and guiding your through the process, is without exception a wise and prudent investment.

Conclusion

The lesson to be learned here is simple. Professional assistance and training costs far less than most people actually think yet, the return on investment is huge.

Look at it this way. If you needed 10 MDTs or 10 sets of new firefighting turnout gear this cost is less than buying one set of gear or 1 MDT. Those versed in providing this assistance also have to live as well though so the old saying that “you have to spend a little money, to make a lot of money”, has much truth here.

Having a sit-down session with your administrators, to set a proper grant strategy in motion, is a worthwhile use of your time and effort. Dispel their myths, impress upon them that many things have changed in the world of grants and that you and they, need to be brought up to speed.

Maximizing the use of your available budgetary resources in times of economic austerity, does not simply mean cutting out all spending. Wise analysis of what spending offers a high rate of return on investment, means that everybody wins; the administrators, your department and your community’s citizens.

How to Convince City Hall: Professional Grant Writing Training Is Worth Every Penny

Image: JLS Photography - https://flic.kr/p/yVUcom
Image: JLS Photography – https://flic.kr/p/yVUcom

Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant

You get what you pay for

There are two old sayings that state: “You get what you pay for” and “you have to spend a little money, to make a lot of money.” These statements ring especially true in grant writing.

The value of formal training and professional instruction in grant writing cannot be emphasized enough. So how do you convince your governing bodies and administrative officials that grant training is a wise worthwhile investment of your limited training dollars?

In the public safety profession, we are constantly being held to standards requiring certification. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs all have to go through long hours of formal instruction in order to meet the certification requirements of our various states. Most of us also have to continue this education process throughout our career, in order to stay proficient and maintain those certifications.

How much time and money do you spend trying to maintain those certifications? If you are like most departments, a portion of your annual budgets go to “training funds”. We routinely spend thousands of dollars annually in assuring that our personnel are professional in everything that they do and that they have the certifications needed to prove that point. This reduces the governing body’s liability exposure.

Ask yourself a question though. How much money has your city or agency expended to assure themselves of having supplemental budget money to carry out operations, for training, equipment and expansion of services? If you are reading this article, the answer is probably “not much”.

If you don’t play, you can’t win!

An effective grants program strategy for a public safety agency should be a priority in every agency. Unfortunately, grant writing is usually given a low priority until a crisis situation develops. This should never be the case in your agency. The continual and persistent search for grant monies should be at the top of every chief’s or agency head’s financial strategy. This is especially true under the current economic crisis we are facing which is demanding us to do more, with less.

Why do you continually risk not having enough money in your budget to cover these items, when literally there are millions of dollars a year available for you to receive? It is like playing the lottery: “If you don’t play, you can’t win”!

Get the training, to get the grant, to get the gear

The first strategy to apply to your grants program is to assure that you have a trained, informed person working for you when pursuing grants.

The return on investment for sending an individual to receive professional grant writing training is enormous. Our students and clients have an 80% success rate and have an average Return on Investment (ROI) rate of 100:1 within the first year after attending our training. It is not unusual for a student to recoup over 100 times what was originally spent for grant writing training, in the very first grant award they receive after attending.

You must maximize your efforts at receiving a grant award by training someone to fully know and understand the process; and then give them access to professional consulting services, thereby giving your organization the “competitive edge” advantage in this extremely competitive arena of grants.

One grant writer can bring thousands of funding dollars

A well-trained grant writer can, on average, bring in thousands of dollars per year to your agency and we can provide the references to prove it. This is a fact that needs to be “force fed” to local governments and agency heads who often times scoff at expending just a couple of hundred dollars to send an individual to a professional school to become a grant writer.

Ask your citizens if they would rather you spend $3,000 on sending two of your commissioners to a retreat or send an individual to training for less than $1,000 who could bring back a return of 100 times that amount, in just one grant. That, my friends, does not take a Harvard MBA to figure out!

Not only do you recover the cost of the training itself but, you assure yourself of a continuing source of funding for many, many years to come. You cannot ignore the documentable facts here! Ask any agency who has an on-staff professionally trained grants writer how much that person is worth. Just about any agency will tell you that their grant writer is a KEY person in the agency, and for good reason.

I encourage you to make use of the training courses offered by First Responder Grants. We can make a real difference in your agency’s quest to obtain supplemental funding.

Find and train the right person

Part of our services is to train you how to have an effective grants program within your department or agency. The first thing for you to do is to get someone within your agency professionally trained.

You should make a concerted effort to locate someone in your organization that has an interest in learning the “art of grant writing,” and then do everything in your power to encourage them. When you locate that individual, you should look for training that is offered by organizations whose specialties are in grant writing training for Public Safety Agencies and First Responders. Send them to our training and start maximizing the return on your dollars spent.