Public Safety Grant News and Tips from Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
Did you apply for grants in 2011? Was it another year where you thought about applying for grants, but found it too daunting? Did you apply and win, or did that application get a “better luck next time” letter?
No matter what your previous years for grants have been like, 2012 is a new year and a blank slate. With a new year comes new opportunities for this to be the year your agency lands the grant funding it needs for essential training, equipment and programs. Here are 12 tips to make 2012 your year for public safety grants.
1. Know your facts.
Your grant application looks stronger when you present facts and statistical data relevant to your service area and the grant you’re applying for. Keep a current list of items such as population, square-mile size of region, critical infrastructure, history of natural or man-made disasters, and the number of calls your agency responds to each year.
2. Get your records in order.
Whether checking your almost-done application for errors, or if a grant review panel asks for more information, be sure you can back up facts and figures in your application. Make copies of relevant data, and keep notes on your sources for information used in your application.
3. File it.
Whether it’s a manila folder in your desk or a “grants” folder on your hard drive, have a dedicated place for all files, documents, applications, supporting data, etc. for anything and everything related to your department’s grant efforts. Not only will your information stay better organized, but when it’s time for you to work on a grant, you have everything you need in one ready-to-roll spot.
4. Learn the ins and outs of writing winning grants.
Just as you train on how to properly respond to different incidents, it takes training to properly “respond” to a grant application too. Look to the First Responder Grants website for online grants resources. Our grant writing training classes also give you the “grants 101” training you need to write a competitive grant application.
5. Conduct a needs assessment.
A “needs assessment” might sound complicated, but really it’s pretty simple. A needs assessment is a way for you to figure out where your agency’s “pain points” are. Ask your fellow department members and staff what they think your agency needs. Is there outdated equipment that needs to be replaced? Do you need training but don’t have the budget? We all know how it is to sit around the table and solve the department’s problems over a cup of coffee. A needs assessment is a good step towards getting grants that actually fix some of those problems.
6. Review previous grant applications.
Has your agency applied for grants before? Find out and, if possible, get your hands on those old applications. There may be valuable information in there that you can use for this year’s grant applications. Can you spot where the application was weak and didn’t make enough of a case? Do you see a need that’s still unmet? Try to find a grant for it in 2012.
7. Talk with other agencies in your area.
Mutual aid isn’t just for incident response, it also makes for stronger grant applications. Many grant review panels, especially at the federal level, like to see multi-agency or regional grant applications. It’s not uncommon for agencies in the same area to have similar needs, such as obsolete equipment or a need for new, area-wide systems. By tackling a need on a larger level than just one department, you can make a stronger case that takes care of not just your agency’s need, but the folks down the road too.
8. Read the RFP, and then read it again.
The RFP, or “Request For Proposal” is the gospel for a grant. Everything you need to know is in that document. Read it. Take notes. Read it again. Address what the RFP requires, and you’ll already have set yourself apart from many applicants. Always remember: it’s their money, and if you want their money you have to play by their rules!
9. Have someone else review your grant application.
No one is expecting your application to be a great work of literature, but your grant review panel does expect it to meet their requirements, be free of typos and errors, and arrive in a legible format. Turn to an area copywriter, editor or English teacher to read over your application. They can help you fix factual, narrative and format issues that could mean the difference between winning and losing your grant.
10. Beat the deadline.
Ever hear the expression, “If you’re on time, you’re late”? Its meaning is simple: always be early. This is especially important for grants, which have firm deadlines. If your application was due at 1 p.m. and you try to file it at 1:01,” sorry charlie, better luck next year”. Beat the deadline instead. Set your deadline a few days earlier than the actual deadline, so you have some buffer should your work on the application get delayed.
11. Follow through.
Whether you win or lose, always follow through on a grant application. If you win the grant, that’s a major battle won, but there’s still work to do: bidding equipment, procurement, and fulfilling paperwork and budget tracking requirements for the grant. Be just as diligent after the win as you were during the application.
12. Review, learn and improve.
Did you get a “better luck next time” letter? Don’t sweat it too much. No one bats 1,000 in grants. If you lose the grant, try to pinpoint any weaknesses in your application. Learn from your losses, keep your spirits up, and work to make your next application stronger. This goes just as much for winning the grant too. Keep doing what you’re doing right, and figure out how your next application can be even stronger.
BONUS TIP 13. Keep at it!
Win or lose, the true secret to success with grants is to keep applying. You will get better with every application. To riff on an old saying, “you lose 100% of the grants you don’t apply for.” Apply, apply, apply.
2012 can be your year for grants. Look for open grants now, sign up for a grant writing training class, or contact a Grants Consultant today to make 2012 your agency’s year for success with public safety grants.