Grants have their own language and complexity. They’re not always easy to understand. There are rules, details, and requirements that you have to follow to the letter… or else your grant won’t get funded.
Sometimes, though, those confusing grants can get pretty overwhelming. And when that happens, we’re here to help:
“Critical infrastructure.” It’s a phrase you might find in many grant guidelines and requests for proposal. But what is it? Where is it? How much does your area have? The answers might surprise you.
What is critical infrastructure?
According to DHS, critical infrastructure comprises physical and virtual systems “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
There are 16 sectors:
Food and Agriculture
Healthcare and Public Health
Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
Water and Wastewater
Where is critical infrastructure?
Critical infrastructure can be anywhere.
How much critical infrastructure does your area have?
And that, folks, can be the big hairy unknown. Critical infrastructure can be in or around your area, and you might not know it.
What to do about it?
We are working on some new resources to help agencies like yours plan around critical infrastructure and how to include details about critical infrastructure in grant applications.
Once summer gives way to fall, we all know how close we are to the holidays… and then to another new year. As we head into the final months of 2018 and look ahead to 2019, there is lots your department can be doing right now to prepare for next year’s grant opportunities.
Conduct a needs assessment
Proper planning involves a myriad of things, one of which is assuring that you have proper manpower and equipment to carry out your basic mission for your citizens. A needs assessment gives you the facts you need to know about how well prepared your department is to carry out its primary function.
Each year, public, private, corporate, and non-profit organizations provide thousands of grants worth billions of dollars. What programs are out there that your agency could benefit from? What program will you try for for the first time? What programs have you tried for and gotten rejected, but you’re determined that this year be the year you get to the winner’s circle? Remember: Lots of grants open for applications during the first quarter!
Know and practice the 4 things grant winners have in common
Over the years we’ve looked at thousands of grant applications, and we have seen it all. The good. The bad. The ugly. And there are things that consistently set the winners apart from the losers. Put our 4 tips to work in your grant efforts, and you will be far more likely to celebrate a grant award in 2019.
You can make a well-stated case for why your department needs a grant more than another, but you also have to back up your story with hard data. Luckily, there’s lots of that out there. Demographics, critical infrastructure, economics, you name it.
Law Enforcement, EMS, Emergency Management, Fire Service. You name it, no matter what part of the Public Safety sector an agency is in, when it comes to winning grants those winning agencies have 4 things in common.
1. They all got an early start.
Winning agencies don’t wait till the last minute. They tend to start their application and narrative 3-6 months ahead of the grant program’s opening date.
2. They all know the NOFO backward and forward.
The number one reason grants are rejected is that the applying agency committed “failure to follow directions.”
Know where these directions are?
Every single direction is in one document, known as the NOFO or RFP, the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Request for Proposal. This vital document spells out every detail of a grant program. Losing agencies sometimes barely open or skim the NOFO.
Winning agencies read, re-read, and re-read these documents again, and keep them close at hand for further reference throughout their application process.
3. They know what they need and why they need it.
Winning agencies have conducted a “needs assessment” in order to identify the highest priority item not just for themselves, but that also falls into the high priority category defined by the grant funding source.
In order to be competitive, you have to know the difference between a “need” and a “want.” They are distinctively different. Only seek “high” priority projects to go after in your grant.
Be sure you have thoroughly vetted your project with agency administrators and command staff. That way, prior to you even starting the grant application, everyone is reading from the same page and knows exactly what you will be writing for and why.
4. They seek out professional training, advice, and consulting.
Winning agencies know that you don’t just train for incident response. You train for writing grants too. They get the professional expertise they need to understand the grant process. They seek professional advice and assistance to guide their efforts and check their work for mistakes prior to submission.
As an example, the wrong answer to a single question can result in lowering your grant’s priority from a “high” to a “medium or low” priority. As such, your grant would end up rejected by the computer as not being competitive enough to go further through the vetting process. All because of one error.
While no one person or no amount of preparation can guarantee a grant’s success, these 4 steps can make it far more likely that your grant will make it to the winner’s circle.
How can you put these 4 things to work in your agency’s grant efforts today?
Two Kentucky-based First Responder Grants clients won a combined $294,100 in fire grants from the FY 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program. Both awards were announced as part of the 86 Round 6 AFG fire grant awards announced Aug. 17, 2018.
A first-time AFG applicant, New Castle VFD & Rescue Squad in Kentucky will use its $84,500 fire grant to procure new SCBAs and SCBA masks.
Nelson County Fire and Rescue of Bardstown, Kentucky, had applied on their own to AFG in both 2015 and 2016. However, those efforts were not successful. In 2017 NCFR became a First Responder Grants client. We were successful in gaining them an award of $209,600 to purchase new SCBA and masks for their entire department.
To-date First Responder Grants clients and students have won a combined $1,958,149 in fire grants under FY 2017 AFG this year.
AFG fire grants are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Sometimes departments think that they’ll never have a shot to win, or that if they’re rejected they think they shouldn’t try again,” says Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant at First Responder Grants. “These two Kentucky fire service organizations are reminders of two important things: Even a first-time applicant can win a vital fire grant. And, if you get rejected one year, the best thing to do is try again next year.”
About First Responder Grants
Public safety agencies nationwide rely on First Responder Grants for grant writing training, grant consulting, and the latest news and tips and news for writing winning grant applications. Since 1998, our Certified Grants Consultants have helped public safety agencies like yours win over $1,000,000,000 in grant funding. Our grant writing training students learn to write competitive grants that bring home additional funding dollars to your agency, but that’s not all. Students receiving First Responder Grants training in grant writing maintain a documented +80% success rate at winning a grant award after attending our classes—many on their very first application.
The Fund Finder News, by Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant, First Responder Grants
Firefighter jobs: The need is there—but do you have the funding to bring on the personnel?
NFPA 1710 and NFPA 1720 lay out guidelines for staffing levels for fire departments to maintain proper fireground safety during responses to structure fires. For example, if you’re responding to a structure fire at a 2,000 square foot, two-story, single-family home, here’s the staffing NFPA says you should have:
In an urban area (>1,000 people/square mile), at least 15 staff should respond within 9 minutes, 90% of the time
In a suburban area (500–1,000 people/square mile), at least 10 staff should respond within 10 minutes, 80% of the time
In a rural area (<500 people/square mile), at least 6 staff should respond within 14 minutes, 80% of the time
In a remote area (travel distance greater than 8 miles), at least 4 staff should respond, 90% of the time
Are you now looking around the fire hall and thinking, “Well that’s nice, but where am I going get the people to fill those boots?”
The SAFER way to staff fire jobs
Every year, fire service organizations around the country recruit and hire personnel. That’s not because they all suddenly discovered gold in the back of the bunker gear lockers either. It’s because they received SAFER grants, ranging from a few thousand dollars, to millions of dollars in direct grant funding to the department.
Analyze your call logs for the past three years. How many times have you had insufficient numbers of personnel responding to an incident?
Having adequate personnel decreases the time it takes to respond to an incident and get a fire under control, which also decreases the chance of harm to firefighters and the public you are supposed to be protecting.
If you don’t have the numbers, you have the need. Now you can build your case for why your department should receive a SAFER grant.
Make sure your SAFER grant application includes…
Remember, your grant application isn’t you asking for a handout. Your SAFER grant application’s job is to paint a picture of why your department is in need, and to offer a solution to the problem you’ve outlined. SAFER funding is just to help you carry the ball into the end zone.
When working on your SAFER grant, any solution you offer must:
Result in compliance with NFPA1710/1720 at least 85% of the time
Reflect that you reviewed records for the past three years
Determine how many times your department did not comply and what that percentage is
The lower the compliance rate, the better chance you have to get funded. Again though, remember that your solution must gain your department NFPA 1710/1720 compliance at least 85% of the time.
Keeping those jobs after SAFER funding is essential
SAFER isn’t a permanent solution to your staffing levels though. The intent of the program is to help get your department to better staffing levels. It’s your department’s responsibility to keep those jobs going after the SAFER funding period.
As part of your application, detail out how your department will continue funding these new firefighter jobs beyond the SAFER grant’s funding timeframe. You need to offer a sound sustainability plan, such as funds coming from:
Tax abatements from lured industrial facilities or new developments expiring
Attrition through retirement
Measured economic growth
Completion of projects that are already underway that will yield tax revenue upon completion. This cannot be “maybe projects,” though. Work must be underway, with a completion date prior to the grant performance period ending, in order for this to be considered a viable source of revenue to a proposed sustainability plan.
Better staffing and improved incident response
SAFER is a competitive program. But for a department that can demonstrate need and show a path forward beyond the SAFER grant, odds are decent that you just might be filling some more fire boots, complying with NFPA staffing guidelines, and improving your overall department safety and incident response.
If you wish to start considering a SAFER grant for your department for hiring firefighters, it would be beneficial for you to read the Notice of Funding Opportunity for last year’s SAFER grant. Typically the rules don’t change much from year to year.
Before we know it, summer will be on the wane. Vacations will be ending. School will be starting. Someday the temperature might even cool off…
As we start to think about fall and–can you believe it?–the year to come, it’s also a great time to talk with your department and municipality about getting grant-writing training. Since our training is only for first responders, emergency management, and public safety agencies, it’s tailored exactly for what you need to write and send out the most competitive grants you can.