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5 myths about grants for EMS agencies

Start on the path to grant success by knowing the facts to refute common grant myths


EMS agencies and fire departments seek out grant opportunities to fund and support important and impactful agency needs. Every grant has some sort of application process, but for many applicants the most difficult step maybe differentiating fact from fiction. If you don't understand the process or fall prey to one or more of these grant myths you are less like to succeed. Here we debunk five of the grant myths we hear most often 

Myth 1: Show me the money!

Since EMS helps people at their time of greatest need EMS grant proposals are easily approved. 

Fact: You can submit a well-designed grant proposal and still not get funded. Grants are typically given on a competitive basis which means that the applications that are scored the highest by a review committee are funded. 

Unfortunately, there is only so much money to go around. You may send out a proposal many times before it is funded. 

Even if you are funded one year, it is no guarantee that you will be funded the next year. This is often experienced by agencies applying for Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG). With over 22,000 applications last year it is difficult to stand out in an extremely competitive environment. I have seen agencies submit an application one year and get rejected. The same agency makes a minor revision or amendment to its application and is awarded an AFG grant the next year! 

Myth 2: The work is done once the money is in

Once you are awarded a grant the process is over and it is time to celebrate! 

Fact: If only it was this easy. All grants require awardees to submit a carefully prepared and detailed progress reports on the project. 

The grant maker needs to ensure that the funds they gave your department are going towards the plan you submitted. Failure to demonstrate progress or correct allocation of the funds may result in discontinuation of the award. This is especially true with Federal grants whose audits can be intense. 

A local civic group or non-profit agency may prefer to do site visits and see in person the impact of their grant on the agency. Be proactive and invite local foundations to your station or training course to see the results of their grant. 

Myth 3: There is no money for EMS

All grants are for police or fire departments only. 

Fact: Yes, most federally funded grants target police and fire departments. However, pay close attention to the language, the majority of federal grants are eligible to EMS agencies. 

Don't limit your search to just federal grant programs. State government grants, local business and civic groups, and other foundations might offer funding opportunities specific to EMS. 

If you don’t apply, you won’t be funded. If you are frustrated from rejections, contact the grant maker and see why you were rejected and how you can improve your application. Never give up! 

Myth 4: Stats don't matter

I don’t need to add run volume or other statistics to my application to get funded. 

Fact: Using statistics about your agency shows more than just a number to grant makers. It gives a reference of the workload involved in providing EMS and perspective on how frequently equipment funded will be used. 

Statistics are incredibly important! Without them your odds of being successful are much lower. 

Myth 5: Grants are only for big red trucks

Equipment purchases, especially fire and rescue trucks, are the most funded grants. 

Fact: Wrong again. Grant funding for vehicles is becoming increasingly harder to fund. One reason is because grant makers see them as one-dimensional. 

Fold the equipment purchase into a program or research project. Look to get more out of the equipment than just use on the ambulance or in training. Additionally, equipment depreciates quickly in the eyes of many grant makers. It is important to communicate that a new monitor, ambulance, or training manikin will last your organization a decade or more. 

Buying into any of these myths can stifle your agencies efforts to obtain grant funding. Continue to educate yourself on the grant process to avoid the pitfalls of these common myths. 

What are some other myths about grants? 

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