Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
Why Should I Solicit Letters of Support for My Grant Application?
Departments frequently ask me, “Why should I solicit letters of support for my grant applications?” So let’s take a few minutes here and discuss letters of support (LOS). It’s an important but little understood part of putting together a solid grant application.
For Starters, Download This Template
Our simple Word .doc template below gives you what you need to write an LOS:
Do Politicians Understand Public Safety?
When departments ask me about getting an LOS, my first response to that question is usually “Why would you not want to do that?” Let’s face a simple fact here. The federal grant system is a political mechanism, plain and simple. We need to remember that when we elect a new cadre of US Congressional types and put them on the hill in Washington D.C., most of them have never held that office before and they really have absolutely no idea what makes this country tick.
It’s also pretty safe to say that most of the freshman Senators and US Congressman probably don’t have a really good idea of what their actual job entails. Quite a few of them probably find out the hard way that many of those political promises they made to get elected are in fact going to be impossible for them to accomplish singularly. Oh, they are well-meaning. Most of them “think” that they can truly make a positive difference. There is, however, a learning curve for many of them.
How many newly elected members of Congress do you think have any background whatsoever in public safety? A scant few. If we are lucky, maybe 1% could check that box in the affirmative. That means they literally have no idea what it takes to run a modern fire department or police department. All they pretty much know is basically what most citizens know about us: when their house in on fire or the burglar is kicking in the front door, when they pick up the phone and dial 911 they expect to hear sirens in the distance getting closer and closer to their abode, and they better be hearing it pretty darn fast too.
But do you think they know how much it costs to have those two fire trucks, with 8-12 FFs on them, to show up? Do you think they know how much a bulletproof vest, body camera and a squad car actually costs? Well, no. They haven’t a clue in most cases.
This is where seeking a letter of support becomes so important.
About More Than Just Your Grant Application
When you are seeking an (LOS) from a Congressional Representative of Senator, it’s not just about your grant application. It’s an opportunity to educate them about our profession, our communities and the challenges that we all face on a daily basis.
If you are soliciting your letter of support correctly, then you will have sent your request for a letter along with a complete copy of your grant. When you do that, you are now giving them a real chance to find out a little about what is going on in the communities and towns that they were elected to represent and support.
An LOS Lobbies Congress for Your Agency
Think about your grant application for a minute. What all is talked about in there? You usually have the following sections in most grant applications:
- Community Information
- Department Information
- Financial Need
- Problem Statement
- Program Approach or Project Description
- Project Budget
- Cost Benefit statement
- Impact or Statement of Effect
In a single document you have educated the reader as to who you are, where you are, what problem(s) you are facing and why you cannot handle this problem alone. You are asking the Congressman or Senator to support your effort to get back some of the Federal Income Tax money that you, and your citizens, have been paying every year.
Now, let’s think back to the campaign trail for a minute, when these Congressman and Senators were trying to get your votes. What is almost every one of them promising you at election time? No more tax increases. Now, if grant money comes from federal income taxes, are you not just giving the Congressman or Senator the chance to deliver on what they said they were going to do?
You also doing your part to effectively lobby for your particular career path, be that Fire, Law Enforcement or EMS.
If a Senator or Representative understands your challenges and needs better, don’t you think that just might have an influence on how they might vote when considering the appropriations for our grant programs? The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was supposed to be funded at $1 billion dollars per year; in 2014 there was only $304 million available for funding. 75% of the money that should be there, is not there. Part of the reason it is not there is because there is very little advocating occurring for why that funding needs to be there, every year.
After reading your grant application, that Congressman or Senator just might think a little harder about what they approve or disapprove in the coming years as far as funding for grant programs for public safety agencies is concerned.
A letter of support can extend itself far beyond just your application this year. It just might have benefits for you and your department in future years as well.