An Introduction to Grants
The following is a tutorial to get you up to speed on the basics of identifying, applying for and securing grants. Following the 5 essential steps detailed below will put you on the right track to a successful grant application.
• What are grants?
“Grants" is a general term for the multitude of federal, state, local and corporate programs available to assist state and local governments, nonprofit social service groups, and community based organizations. This assistance can take many forms, including direct funding, loans, surplus government equipment and other resources.
Grants are not simply “free money”; each individual grant program has strict prerequisites and eligibility requirements that must be satisfied by your organization. You must also consider that the number of funding requests usually far outweighs the available funds of a particular grant program.
With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that a considerable amount of research and planning will be essential in order to submit a strong application. While the overall strength and completeness of your application will certainly increase your odds of success, sometimes even the strongest of applications fail to achieve funding. Disheartening as this may be, an attitude of unwavering persistence often times pays off for those willing to live by the old adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
• How can grants benefit my department?
While it may surprise you, countless fire and EMS agencies choose not to pursue grant funding for department projects. Whether your department needs NFPA compliant PPE, a new ambulance, advanced life support equipment or funding to hire additional staff, grants can help bridge the gap between a budget shortfall and successfully funding your project. Most grant programs have specific eligibility requirements and are often intended to provide funding for a particular operational area of your department. Careful grant research will ensure that your department’s project meets any program requirements.
• Sounds good, but where do we begin?
While no two grant programs are exactly the alike, we at EMSGrantsHelp.com have developed Five Steps to Grant Success. This step-by-step guide will steer you through the sometimes tedious process of collecting the information critical to nearly all grant opportunities, regardless of their origin. Follow these five easy steps and you are well on your way!
Step 1 – Identify Projects/Budget
The first and most obvious step is to identify and prioritize department projects that would benefit from grant funding. When considering potential projects for grant funding, give priority to those that will produce a quantifiable operational benefit. Be prepared to fully explain how the proposed project will enhance your department’s operations, and predict any potentially negative impact to your department’s operations if the project is not funded.
Once your department has identified a particular project, it is now time to determine the project’s cost and prepare a provisional budget. Your budget should include all costs associated with the project’s implementation: equipment, accessories, additional training if required, etc.
Step 2 – Search for available grants
Once your project has been identified and a provisional budget has been drafted, it’s time to search for available grant opportunities. Use the EMSGrantsHelp.com search engine to locate available grants. You can perform a search by category (Federal, state or corporate) or by selecting your state on our interactive grant map to show all available opportunities. Search results will provide a brief synopsis of the grant, as well as: application period dates, contact information, links to the grant homepage, and more.
We are constantly looking for new and exciting grant opportunities to provide you with the most up to date grant information available. If you know of any grants that aren’t currently appearing in our database, please submit them to us.
Step 3 – Grant Research
Now that you’ve successfully located an available grant, it is imperative that you research the opportunity so that you fully comprehend all eligibility requirements, eligible activities, local cash match (if required), etc. Take advantage of program-sponsored information sources and workshops. Most grant programs will provide applicants with thorough guidance documents and workshops, which can provide potential applicants with invaluable information about program eligibility requirements, eligible activities, deadlines and more.
The number one reason why grant applications are denied is failure to follow the directions. When looking at a guidance document, the best bet is to go through it three times, looking for items that are "must do's," "should do's," and "could do's."
Obviously, pay the closest attention to the “must do's”; these are the items that can cause immediate elimination if not followed precisely. They may include stipulations that your department must be either a non-profit or municipal-based or non-affiliated EMS agency; that you must have a DUNS number; and that you must comply with all NIMS and NFIRS requirements. To sort through these stipulations, the resources section on EMSGrantsHelp.com will provide you with direct links to utilities and information such as: grant basics, research, reference and tools.
Step 4 – Narrative Writing/Application Preparation
On to the most dreaded portion of the grant process: the narrative. With the narrative, preparation is the key. Long before a grant’s application period nears, departments should gather information about where grant funds could be best utilized. Which areas would best improve your department’s ability to safely train and respond? Build a strong case for your department by explaining how this new equipment/capability will enhance your department’s response capability. It may also be beneficial to explain how a lack of funding might negatively affect your department’s operations.
Prepare your narrative in advance; by doing this, you allow for others to proofread your draft prior to submitting your application, which is critical since you can’t make changes later. Narratives should be clear and concise, thoroughly explaining your department’s needs and how funding will enhance your department’s operations. Avoid preformatted grant narrative templates; your firsthand knowledge of your department’s operations will enable you to write a more persuasive narrative.
Lastly, always write your grant narrative in the required format when applicable.
Read a Sample Narrative
Step 5 – Prepare and Submit your Application
We’ve come a long way, and now it’s time to prepare and submit your application. This is the time to verify and re-verify that you have followed the instructions carefully, all information requested in the application is accurate, and you’ve had a third party proofread your grant narrative.
Always use online applications when possible. Many grant programs now offer the ability to apply online, which can dramatically simplify the application process. Online applications also automatically prevent you from submitting an incomplete application. Once your online application is submitted, an email confirmation receipt will follow. No need to worry about your application packet getting lost in the mail!