AFG Fire Grants: Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure!


The Fund Finder News by Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant

Well, here we are again. Another year, and it seems like the grants season was just beginning a few weeks ago. It has been an incredible year for us here, and for many of you out there, in the world of grants. Many of you became first-time grant awardees after years of trying and being rejected.

Tired of the rejection letter blues?

As evidenced by the tons of email we receive weekly here at First Responder Grants, many of you are still singing the “Dear John” rejection letter blues. It’s getting to be an old melody for you, isn’t it?

It is also quite evident with the economy in turmoil and dealing with the pandemic, that many of you are beginning to recognize that grants are one of the only ways that you can try to keep up with the constant demands and technological advances being made for use by public safety agencies. Obtaining updated and technologically advanced equipment is expensive. At the same time, your budgets are still not growing at a rate which will keep up with the demands of this growth and the technological advances being made. We are still faced with being asked to do more, with less, and we must learn to work smarter, not harder.

Don’t get mad. Get funded!

Our controlling government boards and officials need to be re-educated in the world of “growth management” and “proper financial planning” for these needs. Grants are certainly something that should be in your financial toolbox and you should be planning on using. However, your governing boards need to understand that the topography of the grants arena has changed considerably during the last several years. The terrain has gotten to be very steep and has many slippery slopes.

Unfortunately, in the words of Ronnie Milsap, our governing boards are still “locked in the fifties, tonight.”

All of you should be planning your grant strategies for the 2022 Fire Grants year and beyond, right now. This is not the time to be sitting and bellyaching that “the other guy got the grant and you did not.” Buck up here folks! Don’t get mad, get funded! To quote one of our founding fathers (Benjamin Franklin) “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail!”

Plan for the realities of grants, not your wish list

All of this starts with proper planning and doing the homework. You and your boards need to understand a couple of basic facts and start accepting these facts. Adopt them into your planning, or you will be left behind. Not to mention you’ll find yourself singing that same, sad refrain again at this time next year.

So, what are some of these facts that we need to drive home to our “powers that be?” Let’s do the short list of the basics here:

  • “Brick and mortar” building grants are few and far between.
  • “Vehicles” are hard to get as well
  • “Manpower and staffing” are also the hardest to get

There are reasons for this being the way that it is. We may not like the reasons, but they are valid reasons.

DHS takes the general philosophy that if a community has a need for public safety, then that community needs to be supplying the basics for that agency to function. What are those basics? They include a building, vehicles, and professionally trained manpower to do the job.

The key to success in obtaining grant funding

Now, public safety grants will fund many, many other things. Unfortunately, our governing boards often still think in terms of the way grants were 15 or 20 years ago, where you held out your hand and they just gave you a check. That does not exist anymore.

Grants will replace things that are obsolete or are wearing out after 10 years or so of use. They will support procurement of things that enhance or protect your members from being hurt and can bring liability issues to bear on your budgets.

Understanding these parameters and planning, within those guidelines and the program priorities that these funding sources are trying to fulfill, is the key to success in obtaining grant funding for your agency.

Start next year’s grant homework now

In our overall planning for the year, we should also be doing the “homework” that every grant will require to prove and have that data readily available at our fingertips. If you always have this basic information available, it will save you from having to “hunt it down” or wait for someone to supply it for you when you are facing the tight deadlines that these grants programs all have.

Some of the things we need to be accomplishing right now include:

  • Area demographics
  • Census data
  • Economic data
  • Your agency’s statistical data, such as run calls or calls for service statistics (broken down into categories)
  • A complete copy of your agency’s budget
  • The budget from the past 3 years
  • Do a proper needs assessment of your agency identifying how old, and in what condition various equipment is.
  • Compile a list of your fleet of vehicles with year of manufacture, number of seat belted riding positions, mileage, and maintenance figures
  • A recent or current risk assessment of your city for what exposures you are charged with protecting and what “critical infrastructure” is within your scope of responsibility
  • Establish contact with your State Administering Agency for grants and Homeland Security Directors, and understand where you are in their overall plans. In the event of a critical incident, what are your assigned responsibilities?
  • Get compliant with NIMS (National Incident Management System). This is a MANDATORY requirement after October 1, 2006, to be eligible to apply for DHS grant funding.
  • Update all DUNS and SAM.gov registration data. Remember: There is a new Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) you must have. Get registered at FEMA GO. These things take some time to accomplish. They are not conducive to waiting till a week from deadline to try and get them done.
  • Get educated in the grants system. Quit stumbling around in the dark. You can’t be expected to be making proper decisions and be successfully applying for these grants without a real understanding of the requirements of the programs. You must have the proper tools to do the job!

Make the plan. Do the plan.

First Responder Grants (FRG) solely exists to help you in all these tasks from research and development of programs and grant applications, to supplying you with consultant advice from experts in this field; timely up to the minute information on our website and grant training to educate you on how to play this game on the winning team.

Start up on these tasks and get ready for next year but start now. For example, the opening salvo the FY 2022 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program will begin as early as October 2022. The more prepared you are when the application period opens, the better you can write and submit a competitive grant before the deadline.

Let’s see… That is just a relatively short time from now! Try to get prepared for these grant opportunities now. Don’t procrastinate here, folks. Give us a call and we can get you recruited onto our winning team. Maybe your agency will see its name listed on our “grant award winner’s page!”