Successful Grant Writing for Public Safety
By Sharon Lotonuu
Writing and applying for Public Safety government grants is often a complicated entanglement of understanding the application, registration, eligible and non-eligible uses, budget requirements, and the applicable grant guidelines. Understanding the grant requirements, process, deadline due dates, stringent eligibility requirements, and supporting documentation is crucial.
Successful grant writing involves the coordination of several requirements including planning, researching resources, writing, assembling and submitting a proposal.
Preparation is the most important aspect of the grant application process. Clarify the purpose of the project and write a mission statement clearly defining the scope of work to focus on the funding search. Determine project goals, identifying the specific objectives that define how to focus on the work and accomplish its goals.
Plan the approach and understand and prioritize grant opportunities that will be most advantageous for the organization’s needs. It is imperative to understand the internal and external procedures when writing a competitive grant. Always read and re-read the grant proposal guidelines and ensure the funding being sought fits the project outlined by the local jurisdiction.
If the grant is bound by rules, such as state, city or county procurement rules, understand what that means for the grant process and for disbursing monies received through these grants. Federal grants and proposal rules are much more stringent and should be followed precisely to be considered for funding. It is important to understand these guidelines, read all applicable federal registers which outline all the rules, and the final notice of opportunity for each grant and any updated versions distributed. Taking the time to read and understand the requirements in the federal rules can make the difference between having the application accepted or rejected.
Many grant programs allow for the costs of professional services – review the eligible/non-eligible section of the grant requirements to be certain. All professional services used in the grant should be outlined in the proposal submitted by the consultant.
Writing grant application is complex and often time consuming. Because many local jurisdictions have little or no experience in grant writing and may be pressed for time with their regular workload, hiring a consultant is generally the best option. Consultants have the expertise and understanding of the process and generally have a better track record in securing grants.
Applications Process Tips
Grants applications and processes vary widely, so following each individual grant guidelines and meeting all deadlines is crucial to the application outcome.
Tips to consider when writing a grant proposal include the following:
- Build a timeline for the grant completion and follow it closely to ensure there is appropriate help to complete each section. Most project managers use Gant charts or workflow software to keep their projects on track.
- Know the deadlines – deadlines are changed and held up all the time. Regularly check for grant submission opening dates, application submission dates, and whether there are extensions.
- Call the issuing granting agency to ask for clarification with questions. They prefer answering questions than to receive an incomplete application.
- Build a “contingency plan” that covers disruptions to the workflow if a team member goes on vacation, falls ill or leaves the job.
- Ensure the application has a “hook.” Clearly outline the purpose of the grant proposal and articulate why these funds are vital to the community, county, state, or other jurisdiction, and why the application meets all requirements of the grant. This may help the application stand out in a field of many other similar applications that are being scored by the grant funding organization.
- Grants are awards for funding – carefully think through everything that costs money that is involved in the grant application. Leaving things out can have a major impact on the budget if the grant is awarded but the project is underfunded. Leverage subject matter experts in this review. Get more than one quote from trusted suppliers.
- Clearly articulate the matching grant requirements, if any, and how the jurisdiction is addressing them. Problems with this process can cause risks for receiving future grants as well as potential audit issues.
- Ensure the appendices are in the correct order – complete them according to the application instructions.
- Ensure the required authorized signatures are provided; check with the required signatories to be sure they will be available to provide the signatures prior to the grant deadline. Don’t miss a grant opportunity because someone is on vacation — it happens more than you think.
- If subcontracts will be part of the grant, solicit bids and determine the winning bid based on the needs of the local jurisdictions. It does not necessarily have to be the lowest bid.
Finally, read and re-read the rules of the grant yet again, and then have others do the same to be sure nothing has been missed or completed improperly.
Identify the Funding Source
Look for a match between the project needs and the grant being sought. Look for consistency between the goals and scope of work and the funder. Determine whether the funding amounts of the grant selected are appropriate for the project at hand. Ensure that the project follows the proper guidelines and there are not supplanted funds.
Know the Submission Deadline
Build timelines that include enough time to write multiple drafts and gather the resources needed to prepare the proposal for review. When it is complete, be certain to submit the proposal on or before the deadline in case clarification is needed. Understand the funder’s policies on exceptions and how to submit electronically, in the mail or both. Know the proposal receipt notification process and factor those dates into all project timelines.
Exhausting the Grant
After the funds are expended, it’s rare that the project is over. Ongoing maintenance, training, and other expenses often follow. Plan for those contingencies and follow-up activities because after that process is finished — depending upon the state’s budget structure — local jurisdictions may still be responsible for maintaining the level of service required by NG9-1-1.
If the Grant Application is Rejected
As with most things in life, learn from the experience. If the grant application is rejected, contact the funding source and ask for specific feedback about why the application was rejected and whether there were any deciding factors that worked against the application. If the grant was rejected because of a technicality, be sure the problem is not repeated in subsequent grant applications.
If the granting body is not forthcoming with feedback on a rejected grant, it is possible to ask for public disclosure on the grant recipient process through public information requests. Maintain the lines of communications with the grant sources and apply again.
Being rejected from a grant might feel like a setback, but there are many grant opportunities available. Keep focused on upcoming opportunities and begin the process again.