Get Ready for FY2013 AFG: SAM.gov, Workshops, Technical Assistance Tools

Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG)As part of preparing fire departments and other qualifying agencies for FY2013 AFG, FEMA has released an announcement for the following resources.

SAM.gov Registration Required to Submit Your FY 2013 AFG Application

Starting with the upcoming FY2013 AFG application period, a valid registration in the System for Award Management (SAM), formerly the Central Contractor Registry, or CCR, will be required in order to submit an AFG application.

Federal law now requires that applicants to Federal grant programs have a valid registration within SAM.gov at the time of registration. Applicants will be asked to affirm that they have a current registration prior to submitting their application.

As part of the SAM.gov registration process, every eligible grantee must have their SAM.gov account validated through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and have their CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code validated in order to be eligible for award. These validations are conducted as part of the registration process after the organization has submitted their SAM.gov registration.

A valid SAM.gov registration is now also required for any payment or amendment request to an existing, open award. A valid SAM.gov registration is now also required for any payment or amendment request to an existing, open award. If your department has not yet registered within SAM.gov, you are encouraged to do.

SAM.gov is administered through the Government Services Administration (GSA). Technical assistance may be obtained through the Federal Service Desk at 866-606-8220. Please be advised that during peak activity periods, it may take more than 2 weeks to complete the registration process.

AFG Regional Workshops and Webinars Now Being Conducted

In preparation for the FY 2013 application period, workshops and webinars are being conducted by AFG Regional Fire Program Specialists.

Whether in person, or through webinars, these presentations provide a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the funding priorities for the upcoming application period as well as provide an opportunity to bring your questions about the AFG grant programs directly to the experts. A current listing of the workshops and webinars scheduled are now available on the AFG website.

Schedules are subject to change and are updated frequently. Visit this website or contact your Regional Fire Program Specialist to confirm the workshop schedule for your region.

FY2013 AFG Technical Assistance Tools Now Available

In preparation for the FY 2013 AFG application period, the following resources are now available on the AFG website:

  • FY 2013 AFG Get Ready Guide
  • FY 2013 AFG Narrative Guide
  • FY 2013 AFG Self Evaluation for Operations & Safety
  • FY 2013 AFG Self Evaluation for Vehicle Applicants
  • FY 2013 AFG Regional Workshop Presentation

AFG has recently introduced a series of videos designed to provide additional technical assistance. Topics include:

  • Getting a Grant
  • Procurement Integrity
  • AFG Vehicle Grants

Additional videos as well as the FY 2013 AFG Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will be available soon.

Public Safety Grant Training in Guam

Image: NASA's Earth Observatory https://flic.kr/p/bwDohR

Public Safety Grant-Writing Training from First Responder Grants

Are you in Hawaii or the Pacific Island Territory Islands? We’re bringing our grant training to Guam!

Our 2-day Grant Writing for Public Safety and First Responder Agencies training class will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Guam Community College, Barrigada.

All are welcome to attend this course, a considerable cost savings to your agency as opposed to the cost of sending students to the mainland for our regularly scheduled classes.

Cost to attend: $500 per student. Registration and payment of tuition fees for this class will be handled directly through Guam Community College. For further information contact Senior Grant Consultant Kurt Bradley at 863-551-9598 or kbradley@firstrespondergrants.com at First Responder Grants, or contact Director of P.O.S.T certification, Dennis Santo Tomas, at Guam Community College directly at coronetst@gmail.com or by phone at (671) 788-1537.

This is a unique opportunity for those agencies eligible for and seeking federal grant assistance for their agencies through DHS that are located in the South Pacific.

Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory https://flic.kr/p/bwDohR

How Do I Actually Write a Public Safety Grant?

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

If you are on this webpage you have probably resigned yourself to the fact that the “budget axe” has chopped you off at the knees again, and you are faced with the fact that there is no money to get the equipment your department needs to do your job, right?

That is why we began this service: to offer grant consultant services to you as public safety professionals. Here you have access to a very comprehensive and informative website bringing you a “one stop shop” for information concerning grants for public safety agencies and first responders. You also have access to 2 of the nation’s top professional public safety grants consultants, to assist you in developing your grants strategy, locating the right grant and developing your applications for these funds. We have provided research tools for your use in getting the statistical data and for finding out what programs are available.

Apparently our efforts are working, as departments contact us for assistance every day. We have listened to your wants, needs and desires, and one of the things we consistently hear is, “How do I actually write the grant?”

“Investing In the Financial Health of Your Agency”

All of us understand that we wish to receive true cost-benefit in the expenditure of what little budget dollars that we have. The public we serve expects us to be good stewards of their tax and donation dollars. You have limited resources in the first place, or you would not have a need to find a grant program to help you out, and we understand that.

One of the ways to always ensure that you are maximizing the use of your available budget, is to invest in ways to assure that you have the money in your budget and use the grants process so as not to take away from those allocated budget dollars that you have. This is not something that you learn by having a few conversations with a consultant or reading just a few articles about it. To be really good at what you do, and I believe we all wish to approach our tasks in a professional manner, takes knowledge and a set of tools to properly accomplish the task.

Most of us have recognized that we have to “invest” money in ourselves in order to secure our retirement. We use 401ks and IRAs to do this, which are managed by professional financial advisors to stretch and provide growth of those funds. What is the difference between them and us? They were trained to do it!

“Maximize Your Ability to Obtain Grants for Your Agency”

If you could take $1,000, put it in the bank, and go back within one year and get $25,000 given back to you, how many of you would jump at that opportunity? I know I would! Believe me, I try hard every day to get that kind of return on my personal investments.

If you want to play in the “arena of grants”, you have to know the game. Just as you had to learn how to be a public safety professional at the “police academy” or “local fire academy” in order to do your job, you must also learn the rules of engagement if you are going to be successful at obtaining grant money for your agency.

Spending a small amount of money to learn how to properly play this game makes absolute perfect sense. You need to be trained how to research and develop grant programs that will be looked upon, by the grant makers, as strong applications and will result in your agency receiving the financial help it deserves.

Just as a bank would ask you to produce a business plan to receive a loan to startup your new dream business, a grant maker wants to be sure that your program is going to accomplish what they wish to do. It is not difficult or complicated to learn how to write those plans and present them in a manner so that you do get funded. It just requires proper knowledge.

OK, I Want The Training, But Where Do I Get The Money From To Attend The Training?”

Even if funds are tight, you can still find the money to attend a training seminar.

Remember: $500 has the potential to win your department tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding. Try these ideas to beat the tight budget blues:

  • Talk to City Hall about sponsoring. Tell them that in exchange for sending you to the training, you will also use your seminar training to help other departments with grant-writing
  • Approach the local Chamber of Commerce for a donation Talk with area businesses, both local shops and larger companies such as Wal-Mart
  • Run a local phone fund-raising campaign with area citizens
  • Hold a raffle, sponsor a bingo game, a BBQ or car wash etc.
  • Pass the hat. Got a 10-member department? If everyone gives $25, you’re halfway there
  • Coordinate with other area departments and pool resources to send people who will use the training to help all the departments with their grant writing

Remember one thing: A businessman, and a citizen, loves to see you making efforts to utilize their tax dollars in an efficient, prudent manner. Spending a few bucks to train someone to get thousands back in equipment, means that you are not walking around to them with hat in hand nearly as often. It also means you may not have to be going before their city council every year asking for another tax increase. That, my friend, is sound, efficient, financial management of your budget dollars.

Photo: Orin Zebest

What Separates the Winners from the Losers in Grants?

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

Most public safety agencies fight a continuous and ongoing battle in funding their existence. Shrinking tax bases, poor economy and swings from the budget axe all take their toll on departments daily and have become the norm, instead of an occasional problem area. Most fundraising activities, if you are allowed to conduct them, are only marginally successful. Generally they allow you to keep fuel in your vehicles, keep the lights lit and the phones turned on at the station, but little else. So how do we continue to wrestle with this beast and yet continue to keep our employees operating safely?

One answer to that question is through the use of grant strategy; planning, researching, developing and applying for grants. The grants ballgame is very much like playing the lottery. Simply stated, “If you don’t play, you can’t win.” From looking at the recent application numbers it appears that quite a few of you are in fact playing the game. Many of you may have gotten the dreaded “Dear John” rejection notice letters,” and some of you may even have received them multiple times. When you don’t win a grant, I am sure many of you are asking the obvious question: “What separates the winners from the losers”?

One year, I took on 18 departments who had previously had their grant applications rejected for a minimum of 2-3 years. This was done purposely, with the intent of conducting an experiment to see what impact “applying the rules” would have on the outcomes. Apparently my observations about what they were doing wrong were correct. That year, 14 of those 18 departments were funded after using this approach to their grant applications.

Lessons Learned

Part of this problem lies in not understanding exactly what a grant is, or what is required to get a grant. Let’s examine these two issues and see if a little knowledge can tear away the frightening mask that covers the face of this imaginary “boogey man.”

One of Mr. Webster’s definitions of a grant is particularly applicable to public safety grants: “giving to a claimant or petitioner something that could be withheld.” In the world of public safety, it is a gift or monetary award to perform certain deeds or services and to achieve certain goals and objectives while solving a unique, particular problem(s) exclusive to your agency and community.

Applying for, and being awarded a grant, is not just simply sticking out your hand and saying, “I need money”. In that scenario, the only thing likely to be placed into your hand will be a rejection notice. All grant programs are offers to fund solutions to problems that exist for your community, and for which no other source of funding is available. Grants are, in essence, a program or project to resolve community problems. Please pay particular attention to the use of the word “program” here.

Understand That It Is Not Just About You

The first thing everybody needs to understand is that all grant funding sources have “funding priorities” assigned to them. We need to remember that it is their money, and if you want their money, you must address their priorities. The successful grant writer is always the one who can form the proper nexus between the funding source’s needs, and the needs of their agency or community. If you don’t accomplish that first step, you have just failed the first litmus test of getting your grant to score high enough to be considered in the competitive range and be passed on to the next step, peer review. Let’s look at one federal grant program.

In the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, the Program Guidance document states that, the “primary reason” for this program is “to enhance firefighter safety.” What can we infer from that statement? They are seeking to make the individual firefighter safe. Those of you who have previously applied should now ask yourself what was your response to the questions that was asked in the grant application about, “How many firefighter-related injuries has your department had during the last three years?” Almost without fail, every rejected application I read had answered that question with “0.”

Now, if the primary purposes of the grant is to enhance firefighter safety and you answered that you had no injuries in three years, what do you suppose a grant reviewer, or in this case the “computer review” would conclude? The computer will assume that you run a very safe operation and that you do not need any help with safety-related matters. If you didn’t list any injuries and the program’s stated purpose is to prevent firefighter injuries, then why would they want to fund you? The key to this is you need to have “documented” these injuries.

On top of that when I asked the Chiefs why they had answered the question that way, the number one answer was “I did not want anyone to think I was running and unsafe department!” Really? Guess what? In the words of the noted Southern comedian, Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign!”

My inquiries of these fire chiefs also showed that many of you did not understand how critical these answers are that the application asks you to answer in the front of the grant. People, 20,000 departments just like yours have filed for this single public safety grant program. Do you think that a human being reads every one of them first? No, they don’t! When you are dealing with this many grant applications you have to “screen” them somehow. A computer tabulates and assigns points to the answers you provide to those questions in all those little boxes at the front of the grant. If, in the end, your score as compiled from those little boxes does not reach a certain level, then your application does not score high enough to be considered in the competitive range. That means a human being never reads your request! All of the work you did in the narrative section now becomes moot.

It is vitally important that the answers to those “activity specific” questions are not put in “willy-nilly”. The numbers need to be researched thoroughly. They should be accurate and they need to be complete. You have to do some research here folks; just throwing in a number is a sure-fire way to get your grant scored lower than it needs to be. The decision to fund, or not to fund, can sometimes is decided by as little as .25% of a single point. You need to fight and claw to gain every fraction of a point that you can gain.

Paint a Complete Picture

A grant writer must be an artist. You are providing the funding source, or “grantor,” with a picture of your community, its problems, your department’s problems, and the proposed solution. The problem with them is they lack sufficient detail. Many times I have received grants for review and am presented with what amounts to a black-and-white picture describing the proposed program. What is needed is an 8×10, color glossy, 12-megapixel digital image.

The grant writer is painting their picture with too broad of a brush stroke and the reviewer is left with no sense of scale. Here is what I mean; let’s look at describing a common piece of critical infrastructure, such as Interstate 75 as it goes through Atlanta, GA. Obviously, there might just be a little bit of difference in terms of scale between I-75 in Venice, FL and I-75 in Atlanta, Ga., right? However, without stating that detail specifically, and providing some sense of scale, the problem or concern can be totally lost, especially if the reviewer happens to be a person that has never been to your area (which happens quite frequently). Which of the two statements below does a better job and provides you with some sense of scale?

“We have a critical infrastructure concern with 5 miles of I-75 in our area”.

or We have critical infrastructure concerns with 5 miles of I-75. This is a limited access, 16-lane highway with and Average Daily Traffic Count of over 750,000 vehicles daily, of which 30% are commercial vehicles.

Never Underestimate The Value Of A Professional Consultant And/Or Formalized Training

Utilizing someone who deals with grants as a profession or increasing your level of formalized knowledge as it concerns grants is always a wise investment. Gaining their insight and knowledge on your applications prior to submission can save you countless hours and eventual hair-pulling frustration vs. having to learn through the school of hard knocks. A word of caution about this though! Picking the right grant consultant or trainer is crucial to your success. Writing successful public safety grants are very much different than writing for non-profit or social services grant writing. Be sure that the grant writer you use has a specific background in writing and winning these specific grant program awards; all grant writers/consultants are not created equal!

Photo: Athena Workman

Updated USFA Manual on Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recently published the 2012 update of the publication, Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services. This updated document includes sources of Federal funding as well as other new and innovative funding sources not discussed in previous editions.

The USFA Funding Alternatives manual can be read online using the preceding link or may be downloaded free of charge (PDF 3.7 MB) from the USFA Website. Some topics covered:

  • Chapter 3: Writing an Effective Grant Proposal
  • Chapter 4: Local Revenue and Funding Alternatives
  • Chapter 5: State Funding for Emergency Medical Services
  • Chapter 6: Federal Funding for Emergency Medical Services and Fire Agencies
  • Chapter 7: Foundations and Corporate Grants
  • Appendix A: Successful Grant Application Example

Download the manual: Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services