$5,563,108 in Fire Grants Awarded in Round 4 SAFER 2013

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) GrantsThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the fourth award round for the FY2013 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER).

FEMA awarded 13 Fire grants, totaling $5,563,108, to departments around the country. Award amounts ranged from a $85,198 Hiring grant, awarded to Four Oaks Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., Four Oaks, NC, to a $758,952 Hiring grant, awarded to the Marysville Fire Department, Marysville, CA.

See the full SAFER award list here. Check back weekly for more SAFER award updates!

Cowboy Up: What To Do When Your Grant Is Rejected

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

The letter has just arrived from the funding source! You have been sitting on pins and needles for months now, waiting to hear if your grant was funded or not. You open the letter…

But the news is bad. You’ve been declined funding.

What Are You Going To Do Now?

Outside of the string of epithets being hurled across the station house, stop and take a breath. Resign yourself to having lost a battle—but remember that you have not lost the war.

There are other methods, funding sources and alternatives. You can cry in your beer, lamenting and deciding that grants are not worth all the hard work you just did. Or, you can suck it up, grab the bull by the horns, and climb right back on that bucking bull!

Competition for grant money is fierce, and this is not a place for wimps or crybabies. You took one on the chin? Big deal! You didn’t get knocked out. What are you going to do now, throw in the towel?

No, sir.

Cowboy up, buckaroo!

Learn From Your Mistakes

Government agencies and the private sector are both notoriously famous for just sending a “blanket” letter of denial to you. They may or may not tell you in the letter what you did wrong or why they refused to fund your project.

Sometimes you have to read between the lines of what they send you, or pay attention to subtle details.

Look for clues such as “your program does not meet our current priorities.” A message such as this means you failed to address the funding source’s priorities. Go back over the original RFP or NOFA and critique yourself on how your application addressed or failed to address those priorities. It’s their money, and if you want their money you must always first meet their priorities.

Sometimes you can tell by the date you received the letter. For example, if you had received a rejection letter from FEMA regarding the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program within the first 3-4 months after submitting the grant application, you could almost bet that your grant never made it through the initial computer scoring process. Therefore, your grant was not considered to be “competitive”. That means a human being never even read it!

Examine the numbers that you put into the questions at the beginning of that application process. Many of the departments I have talked to, that received rejection notices, had placed a “0” in the “number of firefighter injuries or civilian injuries occurring from fire” columns. But the grant’s main stated priority was to “prevent civilian and firefighter injuries and increase firefighter safety.”

Too many chiefs were worried that their Workman’s Comp insurance would go up if they reported their actual injuries, no matter how minor they were. In this particular instance, failure to show that you had any injuries hurt your chances for funding from a source that had firefighter safety as a primary objective. The Workman’s Comp issue was actually a non-issue; they were not the ones reading your grant application.

If you have a friend at the Federal or State level in one of the funding source’s offices (remember what I’ve said before about making contacts), try to call them and get their feedback on what you did wrong. Honor their confidentiality with you, and take what they tell you to heart.

Remember: they have no reason to withhold grant money from you. Rather, it is their job to give the money away, but it is your job to make a convincing case of need for why you deserve a piece of the pie.

Persistence

Just as a cowboy has to learn to climb back on the bull that bucked him off, you must be just as persistent.

There is always more than one funding source. There are always other grants to be applied for. Rejection of your grant by one funding source does not necessarily mean it will be rejected by another funding source. Sometimes, the reason your application is rejected is simply because the funding source had run out of money!

Let’s face it, when you have 1,500 grants to give away, and 18,000 agencies apply, someone has to win, someone has to lose. “No”, does not mean forever, it may simply mean, “not this time.” Try again! I have seen grant applications rejected 2-3 times, then get funded on the fourth try—without the applicant ever changing a word of the grant application.

First thing you need to realize is that a good grant writer in the US right now only wins about one out of every six grants that they submit for; and that’s a good experienced grant writer we are talking about. If you have won even one out of six, you’re doing well. The more you apply for, the more you win.

You just can’t give up. Try and try again! Don’t feel bad that your first couple of tries at the grants game result in a rejection notice. Live and learn.

Critique The Application

Give a couple of copies of your rejected grant to others in your community.

But don’t give it to another officer in your department or your City Manager. Give it to the local high school English teacher, or that friend of yours who is a bank vice president. (You can also send it to me, and I will look at it for you.)

Ask their opinions and listen to what they tell you. This is a process that I always recommend you do before you submit the grant. However, if you did not do this to start, perhaps you should now. The lessons learned from this exercise can be eye-opening.

Maybe you got too technical and the average Joe could not understand the jargon. Perhaps you did not paint a clear enough picture of financial need. Keep an open mind about their feedback, and remember that they are trying to help. Sometimes the best form of help you can get is a critical review of what you did wrong.

Rejection is a hard pill for anyone to swallow. Too many of you walk away after being rejected, and this is simply the wrong tactic to use. Get over it and get on with it! The effort you expend will eventually pay off, and one day, that letter from the funding source will be telling you your grant was funded.

Photo: Sean MacEntee

$13,233,669 in Fire Grants Awarded in Round 3 SAFER 2013

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) GrantsThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the third award round for the FY2013 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER).

FEMA awarded 4 hiring fire grants, totaling $13,233,669, to the following departments:

  • Alachua County Fire Rescue, Gainesville, FL, $2,194,324
  • Atlantic City Fire Department, Atlantic City, NJ, $8,661,585
  • City of West Lafayette Fire Department, West Lafayette, IN, $1,155,000
  • Saugus Fire Department, Saugus, MA, $1,222,760

See the full SAFER award list here. Check back weekly for more SAFER award updates!

2 First Responder Grants Students Win FY2013 SAFER Fire Grant Awards

Two First Responder Grants students have won a combined $13,994,358 under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) awards. The awards were received in the first two rounds of awards of the popular fire department hiring grants. These grants are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Is your department trying to figure out how it will compete for 2013 grants? Check out the First Responder Grants grant-writing training classes.

Public safety agencies nationwide rely on First Responder Grants for grant writing training, grant consulting, and the latest news and tips for writing winning grant applications. Since 1998, our Certified Grants Consultants have helped America’s public safety agencies win over $900,000,000 in grant funding.

New Applicant Tools Available for FY2013 Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) and FP&S Research and Development Grants

Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) GrantsStart planning your FY2013 FP&S Grant application now! Although the dates of the FY2013 application period are not yet final, we recommend that you start your application today by reviewing the updated FP&S applicant tools, including the first Research and Development (R&D) Get Ready Guide. These tools were produced specifically to help potential applicants begin to plan their 2013 applications ahead of the application period. The tools can be viewed on the AFG website or downloaded to your computer.

First, review the updated FP&S Get Ready Guide or the R&D Get Ready Guide, depending on which activity you plan to apply under. These guides will identify and help you prepare to address the most important elements of your grant application.

Then review the updated FP&S Self-Evaluation Sheet for those applying under the FP&S activity. The Self-Evaluation Sheet has been developed to help you better assess your organization’s readiness to apply for a FY2013 FP&S grant and also to help you better understand the criteria that you must address as you prepare your application.

FP&S Grants Help Desk: If you have questions about the Get Ready Guides and Self-Evaluation sheets listed below, call or e-mail the FP&S Grants help Desk. The toll-free number is 1-866-274-0960; the e-mail address for questions is firegrants@fema.dhs.gov.

Tools for FP&S Applicants

FY2013 FP&S Research and Development Get Ready Guide »

System for Award Management (SAM)

All applicants must have their organizations registered in SAM.gov. If you do not yet have an active SAM.gov registration, the AFG has produced a presentation on SAM.gov that can help you get registered. To view the presentation, go to the SAM.gov presentation on the AFG website. The presentation also can be downloaded to your computer so that you can watch it at any time.

Starting with the FY 2013 AFG Program, all applicants will be required to register in SAM.gov BEFORE submitting an application. If you are thinking about applying for any FY 2013 AFG funds, you should register your organization on SAM.gov as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the application period to open to start your registration. It can take several days for registrations to be processed.

Your Data Must Be Correct! Make sure the banking information, employer ID number, and DUNS number you report in SAM.gov are accurate and match the data in your grant application. If the information does not match, your registration will be delayed.

Registration on SAM.gov is completely free of charge. There is no fee for you to register or to renew or update your organization’s information on SAM.gov. Private businesses or contractors will register your organization in SAM for you—for a fee. Their websites often look like government websites at first glance. BUT remember that no fee is charged to register in SAM.gov or to use its resources.

Active SAM.gov Registrations Required to Receive New Awards and Grant Payments

Applicants: No new awards can be made to organizations that do not have active registrations in SAM.gov.

Grantees: Your future grant payments and amendment requests will be delayed if you do not have an active and accurate SAM.gov registration in place. Avoid unnecessary delays by ensuring that your organization is registered and that all of your SAM.gov data are accurate. Use the resources listed below if you need assistance.

To Obtain Help with SAM.gov

Become familiar with SAM.gov Website. Read the Guides, Top FAQs, and other information that can be found on the SAM.gov website, the SAM Helpful Hints page, and the Federal Service Desk at www.fsd.gov.

View the AFG’s SAM.gov presentation and the prerecorded SAM webinar from the General Services Administration (GSA). They cover topics like:

  • How to create a new SAM user account;
  • How to migrate permissions from the legacy Central Contractors Registry (CCR) system into SAM; and
  • How to update and renew an existing registration.

Contact the AFG Grants Management Specialists (GMS). Send questions by e-mail to the AFG Grants Management Specialist for your FEMA region. A list of the GMS for each FEMA Region can be found on the AFG Website. You may send questions by fax to the GMS staff at 202-786-9905.

Notice to All FY2013 Safer Hiring Grant Applicants Regarding Safer Veterans Hiring Program

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) GrantsRegardless of the status of your SAFER Hiring grant application, we would like to provide additional information about the SAFER Veterans Hiring Program. As FY2013 SAFER award announcements are made, grantees will be sent specific information about how to request additional funds for SAFER Veteran hires and the documentation required. If your department receives notice of a FY2013 SAFER award, you should anticipate receiving a separate e-mail message with this information within a week.

The FY2013 SAFER grant program has set aside $20 million for the Veterans Hiring Program which provides successful FY2013 SAFER grant program awardees with the opportunity to request additional Hiring Grant funds should they recruit and hire military veterans to fill the SAFER-funded positions. All successful awardees of grants to hire new firefighters, or fill positions vacated through attrition or rehire laid-off firefighters will have the option to submit an amendment request to extend SAFER funding from two to three years for those positions being filled by military veterans.

For example, if an application is approved for 50 new hire positions and 10 of the positions are being filled by military veterans, the applicant may request extending funding (salary and benefits) for those 10 positions from two to three years. In conjunction with the additional funding, the period of performance of the grant will be extended for the number of SAFER-funded positions being filled by military veterans.

The deadline to submit a FY2013 SAFER Veterans Hiring Program amendment request is June 1, 2014; however, funding is limited, and requests will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Below are answers to some basic questions about the SAFER Veterans Hiring Program

How is the SAFER Veterans Hiring Program defining a “veteran”?

Under this program, a military veteran is defined as an individual who has served on active duty at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days, and who has been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions.

Are successful FY2013 SAFER grantees that were awarded funds to retain firefighters facing imminent layoffs eligible to participate in the Veterans Hiring Program?

No. The objective of the Veterans Hiring Program is to encourage successful applicants to recruit and hire military veterans to become new firefighters.

Can I use SAFER grant funds to hire personnel for additional firefighter positions (in addition to what was included in my FY2013 award) if the positions are being filled by military veterans?

No. The number of positions being funded by the SAFER grant cannot be increased from the original application.

Who should I contact if I have questions on the FY2013 SAFER Veterans Hiring Program?

Contact the AFG Program Help Desk with questions or comments by calling 866-274-0960 or email at firegrants@fema.dhs.gov.

What happens after the grant concludes? Do I have to keep the SAFER-funded firefighters employed?

Awarded recipients do not have any obligation to retain the SAFER-funded firefighters after the conclusion of the period of performance for FY2013 SAFER awards.

Veteran Recruitment and Hiring

Many veteran resources and job search websites offer employment information. While this is not an exhaustive list, below are a few suggestions that offer fire departments information on hiring veterans.

VetSuccess: Department of Veteran Affairs

VetSuccess assists employers with information about workplace accommodations, best practices for employment success, and resources to hire veterans. It also provides employers an opportunity to post jobs targeting military veterans. For more information, please visit their website at www.vetsuccess.gov.

Career One Stop Centers- Department of Labor

The Department of Labor Career One-Stop Centers, a partner of the American Job Center Network, offers the Gold Card to unemployed post-9/11 era veterans that include intensive one-on-one and follow-up employment services needed to succeed in today’s job market. For more information about posting job descriptions and employer resources, please contact the One-Stop Career Centers at 877-US2-JOBS (877-872-5627) or visit their website at www.careeronestop.org.

Career Fairs

While there are many job search websites devoted to connecting military veterans with employment, organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the Department of Veteran Affairs VA for Vets program host career fairs around the country. Whether you are looking to hire veterans to fill one or more positions, career fairs provide the opportunity to meet face to face with candidates and conduct on-the-spot interviews.

iHeartRadio’s Show Your Stripes

Show Your Stripes is a media campaign to assist veterans transition into the civilian job market by providing one location for valuable employment resources. For more information, please visit their website at www.showyourstripes.org

SAFER Grants Help Desk

If you have any questions about the FY2013 Veterans Hiring Program, call or e-mail the SAFER Grants Help Desk. The toll-free number is 866-274-0960, and the e-mail address is firegrants@fema.dhs.gov

$21,994,105 in Fire Grants Awarded in Round 2 SAFER 2013

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) GrantsThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the second award round for the FY2013 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER).

FEMA awarded 9 Fire grants, totaling $21,994,105, to departments around the country. Award amounts ranged from a $966,000 Hiring grant, awarded to Higgins Area Fire Protection District, Auburn, CA, to a $6,519,150 Hiring grant, awarded to the Orange County Fire Rescue Department, Winter Park, FL.

See the full SAFER award list here. Check back weekly for more SAFER award updates!

Competitive Grant Applications: Making the Cut and Justifying the Need

Image: North Charleston http://flic.kr/p/eyJUY8
Image: North Charleston http://flic.kr/p/eyJUY8

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

Grant reviewers have become increasingly more demanding and critical of applicants in making their decisions regarding who will, or will not, be funded. If you’re going to make the cut for a grant, you can’t just state you need something—you have to justify the need.

The economy has not only reduced the amount of money that is available to compete for, it has also increased the number of agencies who apply for assistance, thereby increasing the competition for those dollars. Simply making the statement that your community or agency has a problem, or “need,” is in and of itself insufficient to gain a funding award for most grant programs now.

Consider the Facts

Let’s get some facts out here that need to be considered.

In a popular federal grant application period, the funding source may receive 18,000-20,000 applications for the existing program dollars for that year.

For logistical purposes, they cannot simply read each and every application. That herculean task would take need large teams of reviewers doing nothing but reviewing applications for months, if not years. It would also cost a considerable sum of money, which must be taken from the allocated program dollars, to pay for the administrative functions needed to accomplish that.

The money that is used to accomplish those tasks is money that is taken away from the money that was going to be awarded, and let’s face it: the government does not ever do anything cheap.

The end result? Less money would be available to award the agencies who are applying.

The pool of money is finite, and they can only fund so many agencies with whatever money they have available. Because of this, they must have a process whereby agencies “qualify their need.” As such, the program can begin screening who has a bigger need and start to cull the number of applications down to a manageable number.

It is therefore essential that you, as a grant writer, not simply just say that you “have a need.” You must thoroughly discuss and justify that “need” in order to be funded. This justification process is accomplished in a grant application in a couple of different ways.

By The Numbers

Many Federal grant applications now require the applicant to answer what are known as “agency and activity specific questions.” This is done for two reasons:

The funding source is asking you to answer these questions in an attempt to give your agency the opportunity to statistically document the work that they are actually doing. It’s a chance for you to let them know that “Hello, I have some pretty important stuff here that we have responsibility for as well, and we need to also be prepared to deal with it when something goes horribly wrong.” This is also how they begin to compare you against other agencies in determining who has the greater need and stronger case for funding that need.

First, the Computer Review

At this particular point, a human being is not reading your application. In most case, during this initial stage a computer reviews and analyzes submitted applications.

When you push that submit button on your application, in a nano-second your application is already scored for purposes of being what is known as “in the competitive range.” Remember: computers add, subtract, divide, and multiply numbers, and they use complex “secret” algorithms to weight those responses. Computers then crunch those numbers all together to come up with a score. If you score high enough, you move on to the next stage of review, which is “peer review,” and it is only then that a human being actually reads anything you have written.

Don’t Ignore the Numbers

Many departments fail to really pay attention to these questions. Instead they believe, erroneously, that this is just “fodder” material to describe their agency or activities. The actual relationship to your overall score is often overlooked, and the importance of these questions is ignored—to the application’s peril.

These questions and their subsequent answers should first be read thoroughly, examined carefully, and addressed accurately. When you are answering these questions, the grant writer should always strive to have the most accurate answers possible.

This is not the place where an “estimate” or an “educated guess” is going to suffice. Nor should you just plug in any old number. Sometimes these numbers are assigned a crucial weighting factor. Failure to give proper thought and response to these questions can knock you right out of the competition from the very beginning.

No Need, No Grant

For example, the number and types of calls that your agency responds to is used to determine need. If you were asking for funding to purchase a new vehicle for your department, the decision to fund you is based in part on the number of times that vehicle will be used for the purposes stated. If your call volume fails to properly justify that you answer a large number of the types of calls needing that particular vehicle, you will not be funded.

This is why so many agencies fail in their grant applications. They may request, say, an aerial apparatus, yet they have no real definable reason for needing an aerial apparatus in the first place. When they ask you to list how many 3-story or taller occupied structures are in your first due area and you answer “0,” well there you have it. There is no need here, and if there’s no need, there’s no grant.

Want Is Not Need

Every year I deal with two or three departments whose only real need for an aerial is simply because the neighboring agency has one and they are trying to “Keep up with the Jones,” or they believe that every Fire Department must have an aerial. Remember: there is a huge difference between a “want” and a “need.” Learn to recognize the difference!

Include Mutual Aid Calls

Likewise, it is important to adequately and accurately state not just your own calls, but to take credit for your mutual aid calls.

DHS grants place great emphasis on “interagency cooperation and interoperability.” Therefore, you had better be able to show that you are a regular visitor to the “community sandbox” and that you “play well” with others in that same sandbox. Your mutual aid numbers add significantly to your justification of need.

Are Your Needs Their Priorities?

Another example is in the relationship that a particular question plays in establishing that you are addressing the grant maker’s program priorities.

For instance, in the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), the stated primary purposes of this program is to:

“enhance through direct financial assistance, the health and safety of the public and firefighting personnel and to provide a continuum of support for emergency responders regarding fire, medical, and all hazard events.”

What Do You Mean, Zero Injuries?

I have seen hundreds of departments completely miss this point in their application through one grave mistake.

There is a question in the Applicant Characteristics Part II of the grant application which asks you to “provide the number of firefighter and civilian related injuries that have occurred in the last 3 years as a result of fire?”

I don’t know how many rejected applications I have reviewed, and when I look at the answer they provided to this question they had “0” in all the boxes.

Bear in mind: a computer, not a person, is weighing and quantifying these answers. That computer is also assigning a score based upon those calculations. If the computer sees nothing but zeroes in those boxes, then it’s going to give a zero score. As far as the computer can determine, if no injuries are occurring, then no need exists for your department to receive grant money to improve the levels of safety being offered.

Although this is a noble achievement to actually achieve, it more or less nullifies your reason for needing assistance.

When I question Chiefs about why they put zeroes in those columns, the answer I usually get is not that they actually did not have any injuries, it is that they do not want to put the numbers there for fear that someone would believe that he/she runs an unsafe department.

Really? Poppycock!

You just shot yourself in the foot because a human did not read that box, a computer did.

Truth be known, the problem usually resides in the fact that nobody bothered to take the 30 seconds it would have taken to document the injuries to either their own staff or to the civilians.

How many times do you roll up on a structure fire and find the residents in the front yard or street, and almost every one of them is coughing from minor smoke inhalation? You, of course, send them back to the rescue or EMS coach and have them suck some oxygen. Almost always the victims claim they will be all right and don’t need to seek formal medical attention, right?

Let’s ask ourselves a simple question here:

Was the smoke inhalation a result of a fire?

Why, of course it was. But did you make a note on your run call record? How do you expect to recall all of this 12 months from now, when you are trying to apply to the grant program, unless you documented that fact, when it occurred?

Use Current Census Data

Agencies should also keep in mind that the numbers here, regarding your population and demographics, also play a critical role in determining your need. You have to take credit for every single human being that lives in your areas.

Remember that the US Census is done every 10 years, the last being 2010. So why did I see so many applications this year quoting census statistics from 2000? How much do you think things have changed in your area since 2000, the last time a national census was done prior to 2010? Has your population grown, or decreased, during the last 13 years?

For many of you, that growth can be significant.

But Remember Current and Recent Events

Consider a community that reported in the US Census in 2010 that there were 1,200 residents living there.

Now let’s say that in 2012, the State DOT 4-laned the US highway through their area and leading into the next major metropolitan area, making commuting a viable option for many. A developer saw this potential growth corridor and developed a 500-home subdivision to go in alongside this highway, which will draw the “city slickers” into your town. That subdivision was completed in 2013, and now there are 500 homes filled with residents and an additional 1,250 people.

That represents a more than 100% increase in your population. It would be critically important that this actual number be answered accurately and the situation leading to this was properly explained.

Do not just rely on what the US Census said in 2010. That data will be 4 years old in 2014. By putting up current figures instead, you may say quite a bit about your community. Do the research, do the math, and report it accurately!

Use Your Narrative

The narrative statement of your grant application is your second shot at justification of needs. If your application survived the initial computer screening process, and you have been fortunate enough to make it to peer review, this is where you do not want to squander you opportunity to really drive home the gravity of the situation in your community which you are trying to remedy.

Always keep in mind here that for every item you ask for in a grant, you must provide a proper, comprehensive justification of need for that particular item.

Think about that statement for a second.

What should you be telling the grant reviewer? What it is saying is that the more items you put into your grant and ask for, the more diluted your justification for each item will have to become to fit the space requirements imposed on most grant applications these days.

Leave the Shopping Cart at the Store

Don’t take a shopping cart approach; the grant might say that you can ask for all things, in all areas of need, but that’s a fool’s choice. Ask for one or two item, and then do a better job of justifying the need. There is always another grant somewhere else, or next year, for the rest of the list.

Fact Blast

The narrative statement is where you accomplish that task. It is not simply enough to make a statement that “the crime problem is out of control in this city” or that your equipment is “old and outdated.” Blast them with the facts, like these two examples:

“In 2010, our department responded to 81 burglaries of residential properties in our community, and the total value of property stolen during those crimes was $167,426.00. During the same time period in 2013, we investigated 105 residential burglaries within our jurisdictional control, and the value of property stolen increased to $224,589.00. This represents an approx. 25% increase in this major index crime in less than one year. It is obvious that we have a very severe problem with residential burglaries, and it is only a matter of time before a homeowner is severely injured or killed when they encounter one of these criminals burglarizing their domicile.”

Or

“Our department has recently completed a critical needs assessment, and it was determined that at this point our turnout gear is our most critical problem. The turnout gear that we are currently using is all in excess of 20 years old. It is torn in places, has burn holes in the shells and is mismatched. There are female firefighters wearing turnout gear that is two sizes too large for them, and which causes them mobility problems and is not offering them proper protection from heat. The gear has closures and zippers which are missing or broken, and the stitching in many places is coming loose. Repeated washings of this turnout gear have reduced its fire-retardant qualities. Our current budgetary restraints preclude us from replacing this equipment except on a piece-by-piece basis. At that rate, it will take more than 10 years for us to replace all the turnout gear for our firefighters.”

These statements paint a clear picture, using facts and a full explanation of circumstances to state the case for need. They don’t just say, “our gear is old,” or, “our number of burglaries is increasing.” They provide fact-based, quantifiable data that someone can clearly make a comparison with and draw a logical conclusion form.

Conduct a Survey

Many grant programs are extremely dependent upon proper studies being conducted to actually determine the need.

I can see many of you asking the question, “How do I go about conducting a study? Don’t they require a lot of money or hiring consultants to do this?”

The answer is not simple. But, depending upon what you are trying to study, it can be accomplished in most cases with relative ease and little expense. You first must ask yourself the question: “is it worth spending a little money, to get a larger pot of money?”

For example, let’s say that your fire department thinks there are not many smoke detectors in the homes in your community. Now notice I said, “thinks” there are not enough.

They apply to the Fire Prevention & Safety Grant Program, making a request to gain an award so that they can buy 1,000 smoke detectors. You could never apply to the Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) grant program with just that statement, and it would never get funded on that alone, because the first thing a reviewer is going to ask is, “How do they know they need 1,000 smoke detectors?”

Folks this is 2013, not 1953. Modern building and fire codes have been around for quite some time now, and those codes demand that new construction or significant remodeling must meet certain electrical, building and fire codes, which include working smoke detectors to be in place prior to human occupancy.

Smoke detectors are the norm, not the exception—so how do you make the care for that lack of smoke detectors in your community?

Address the Program’s Priorities

What you should do instead, is to keep in mind a number of things. First on that list is to also recognize, from your careful and thorough reading of the program’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (or FOA) that the stated program priorities are to address fire prevention and safety, with the identified high-risk, targeted audience being juveniles under the age of 14 and senior citizens over the age of 65.

Now, in plain English, what did they just say? They said that they want to fund things that are related to fire prevention and safety, specifically for those people who are under age 14 and those over age 65. Now, I don’t know how they could be any more specific than that about what they are primarily interested in giving money to your department to accomplish.

Surveys on a Shoestring

I would prove that need to them by accomplishing a simple study in the following manner.

Approach the scout leader of a local scouting troop and ask them if they would help you with a “community service project.” Most scouting programs require that the achievement of civic and other merit badges is tied directly to community service. We tend to usually think of this as the troop picking up trash along the highway or in local parks. On the contrary, “community service projects” cover a wide range of activities.

Have the troop agree to station several scouts in front of the local Wal-Mart for the next couple of weekends. Provide them with a simple questionnaire with 4 questions on it:

  • Are there children under the age of 14 in your home?
  • Are there any persons over the age of 65 in your home?
  • Do you have a working smoke detector in your home?
  • Do you live in “Your-Town-Here,” USA?

Most people will gladly take 30 seconds to answer 4 questions for a Boy Scout or Girl Scout (and maybe they can place an order for their annual cookies while they are at it).

Now, have the scouts ask every adult that enters the store these questions during that time period. If you have 10,000 residents in your town, a good scientific cross representation of them would be considered with 25% of the population polled. So you need them to get responses from 2,500 people. That might seem like a lot, but have you watched Wal-Mart on Sunday afternoon lately? It won’t take very long to poll 2,500 citizens. Once you have the results, add up the figures for each category and multiply by 4.

Hey, guess what?

You just conducted a scientifically based study that is statistically accurate and actually proves your theory that there are not many smoke detectors in your jurisdiction. The inclusion of this data in your narrative statement can substantially increase the chances that your program would be funded.

Another Way to Get the Data

This same technique could be used with school children to test their actual knowledge of fire safety or crime safety.

Enlist the aid of a few school teachers and come up with a simple test of 10 questions regarding crime or fire safety. Now have the teachers make the questions age-appropriate for their age groups that they each teach. Then gain permission from the local school principal or school board to have the test distributed in all classrooms with children under the age of 14. Collect the tests and tabulate the results.

Once you have been awarded your grant, you can then conduct your education program with the school, re-administer the same test, and notate the subsequent increase in their knowledge.

Hey, here you go again!

Now you have conducted a true study of their actual knowledge.

You identified the problem, established a baseline of their exciting knowledge, educated the students, then retested them and provided an effective evaluation of your program’s success to report in your final report for the grant program.

Documenting the success of your program is critical to obtaining additional funding nowadays. Those departments who take the time to conduct these types of surveys are consistently funded more frequently than those that do not.

It should also be noted that neither of the 2 scenarios above actually cost the department anything other than a little time to conduct. No big consultant fees or extensive mass mailings. Simple, easy and effective!

Justify the Need, Get the Grant

Conducting and properly documenting need is a critical part of any grant application. It is not something that should be done in haste. Proper planning, in advance of the grant program opening, is the ticket here.

There is no way to guarantee an award. But, if you justify your need, you greatly improve your chances of getting the grant.