Learn the Intricacies for Obtaining Grants and How the Ultimate Technology for Operational Readiness Streamlines Reimbursements
Numbers. Data. Statistics.
Many of us cringe at simply hearing those words. However, in the fire service these are important for us to do our job. It starts with a budget narrowed through line items saying where we are going to spend our money. From there it exponentially blows up. How many times did you check off that engine last year? How many calls did we run last year? How many hours of training do I have so far this year? You get the point.
TargetSolutions, the leader in training, operations and workforce management, has your answer. We have a robust system of products that help maintain all the data and statistics you need. TargetSolutions is here to aid you in compliance management with all that data that you must compile and need at your fingertips. What can our solutions do, you may ask? Well, our solutions can keep records on training and credentialing. This makes it easy to show who has been trained and met the standards we must meet as firefighters.
TargetSolutions can provide scheduling solutions for you and your department. Are you still working with paper scheduling? It's 2020. Let’s change that now! Wouldn’t it be nice for someone to have a mobile app that you can use to check off your truck inspections? Well, TargetSolutions does. Hopefully by now you can see how TargetSolutions can save you time, money, and headaches while making compiling this data easy and efficient!
What is the big deal? In today’s world, we are focused more and more with justification. We must justify every dollar we get. We must justify why we did this action instead of that one. We must justify what our average response time was for last year. It goes on and on. You have seen the headlines.
Funding is a big part of this with statistics and data. Every year your department likely creates a line item budget and must demonstrate why you need that money. The statistics, taken from TargetSolutions products, can provide undeniable proof of why you need the funding you are requesting.
Furthermore, during this COVID-19 Pandemic, there is a lot of funding being pushed down from the Federal Government to local levels. Municipal, County, and State leaders are not going to give you any of the CARES Funding because you want some of it. If you went to them with data-driven information from your TargetSolutions data, you could prove with statistics why you need what you are asking to fund. Grants are the same way as special funding like the CARES Funding. For special funding like the CARES Act and Grants, you will be in heavy competition for the funding so having detailed data to back you up may just be the difference maker allowing you to be successful.
The CARES Act is a large potential funding source where data-driven information would be important. The CARES Act allows for payment to state and local governments for responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic and that the funds cover the expenses that meet the following:
1. Necessary expenditures for responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
2. Were not included in the department’s budget as of March 27, 2020
3. Were incurred from March 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020
There is a lot of information that you could gather from TargetSolutions products in order to apply for this assistance. For more on the CARES Act, click here.
Many departments and firefighters are not aware of grants and how they operate. TargetSolutions’ products can make grant writing a lot easier with data.
First, we need to understand what grants are and a little more about them. Grants are a financial award from an agency with a vested interest in a topic to an awardee. The financial award is a gift and is not required to be repaid.
Normally these grants are given for one of a couple reasons. The funding agency (the agency that is giving the money away) has a passion for the focus of their grant. For example, a funding agency may really want to make a difference by helping the world become more “green.” Therefore, they may want to fund projects that promote that ideal. Another reason why funding agencies give out grants is to spur research and development. Grants oftentimes lead to unique solutions to problems or issues. Finally, many funding agencies require that grants are awarded to non-profit organizations (e.g. 501(c)3) so they can use this as a donation or tax write-off.
There are three main types of agencies that provide grants: government, businesses, and foundations. Governments at all levels provide grants for a variety of reasons. These grants are normally very specific and have a fair amount of guidance to aid someone with them. With these grants there is normally a high level of accountability even for the agency that was awarded the grant due to these funds being public or tax dollars. Many firefighters have heard of the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Grant which is a public or governmental grant.
Businesses also provide grants. These grants have less guidance in general. A lot of business grants like to focus on emerging issues in the communities where they are located. Many of these grants require the awardee to provide services within a set distance from the business providing the grant. An example of this type of grant is the Wal-Mart Local Community Grant.
When I wrote my first grant, I spent a lot of time working to find and compile the data needed. Going through needing the statistics first-hand, I am able to use our products and services to help others save time and effort in applying for grants and justifying their needs.
Finally, there are different types of foundations that provide grant funding. Some of these are nonprofit arms of a business and others are simply foundations organized for the advancement of a certain interest. There are a wide array of foundations and interests that they fund. This leads to a strong focus on what they want to fund. Time should be spent to ensure that your project fits their interest well before wasting time on the work knowing how specific they may be on their interest. A related example, which we will discuss here shortly, is the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant. This foundation is part of the restaurant Firehouse Subs.
When writing a grant there are obviously best practices to follow to increase your chances. The more you become a “student” of grant writing and continue working in it, the better you will get on it.
It is imperative that we know the process and ensure we give it time for the process to work. A grant is not something you can develop properly in a day. This process begins by having a good list of projects that you would like to find funding to achieve. This is a simple list, but we also must include in this the “why” we need it. That leads us to finding prospecting grants. This will take time. The more effort you put in here, the more likely you are to find applicable grants. You will then write and prepare a proposal or application for the grant that you chose to apply to fund your project. There are multiple submission methods including online, hard copy through the mail, or various others. The funding agency will review the proposals and then make notifications of awards. If you were awarded the funding, then you should execute the plan (your proposal) exactly as you stated you were. If you were not funded, do not get frustrated. Do an after-action review and see what you could have done better and try again!
Another important aspect to grants in the Twenty First Century is to say things with statistics. In many years past, you could state that you wanted a new shiny item just because and you had a chance of getting funding. Today, we must show with numbers, why do we need this. For example, your volunteer fire department is having problems doing training due to the various work schedules of their members. You can use the statistics of the State and department requirements for training hours, what your members training hours are, etc. You can use a product like TargetSolutions online training platform to increase these hours and provide relevant post implementation statistics to show the increase in training hours. This use of statistics allows for the funding agency to show the need and the impact of their funding.
“I have seen using statistics firsthand with grants,” said Robbi King, who now serves as a solutions engineer with TargetSolutions but previously worked as an Assistant Fire Chief with Camden County Fire Rescue in Georgia. “When I wrote my first grant, I spent a lot of time working to find and compile the data needed. Going through needing the statistics first-hand, I am able to use our products and services to help others save time and effort in applying for grants and justifying their needs.”
Do not submit your proposal last minute or late. Give yourself plenty of time to meet every step you must take. Late or barely on time proposals often show that this was a rushed project or that you are not able to manage projects which leads to the funding agency questioning whether you could manage the grant itself. Make a timeline and do your best to stick with it.
Proofread and edit. Do not rely on Spell Check or any other program. Spend time reviewing the proposal and having others do the same. Try having someone who is not in the fire service to review it. What questions do they have? Consider revising based on this. Finally, spend time looking at what you are saying and how you say it. Just because you are not wrong saying something in the manner you do, does not mean it is right.
Do not add fluff or unnecessary appendices. You want your proposal to be succinct, specific, and powerful. Do not let the reviewers get lost in fluff. Use powerful verbs and adjectives. Remember, your proposal is not the only one that the reviewer will see. The more that you drown them in unneeded information the more they are likely to start skimming and not paying attention.
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant
Firehouse Subs is a local restaurant that many of us have likely visited, if only due to their name. However, this restaurant has a foundation that they have built called the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. It is through this Foundation that Firehouse Subs provides grants to fire departments.
The Foundation accepts grants proposals on a quarterly basis. Submissions must be done online through their portal. The entire process is digital, and no hard copies are required.
This grant, like all of them, have requirements that must be met to apply. This is the first step in the process for this digital process. Some of their requirements are:
Since this proposal is all digital there are some recommendations for this type of grant. It allows you to print a copy of the application. Make sure that you write the application up in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, edit it, and save it. This will allow you to ensure that the proposal is written the best and a copy can be saved for later purposes.
This grant also does a great job of giving guidance on how they would like things done. For example, they have a handful of attachments they want included. Some examples are a departmental budget and a vendor quote for the items you are requesting to purchase. To increase your chances of being funded, print these recommendations out and refer to them often.
The actor Gary Sinise, whom many of you know from playing Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, is a big supporter of military and first responders. He created a foundation that provides grants for these kinds of agencies to support them and their missions.
This grant does not have a deadline like many other grants but does limit proposals to one per department per year. There is also a limit of $50,000 per request. This process is also purely digital. Therefore, spending time researching and learning about the grant in the early stages will build a strong focus for your proposal. More information can be found on their website here.
Interestingly enough, many of the recommendations for this grant follow the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant above. Use a word processing program. Prepare documents ahead of time. However, note that this grant does request multiple quotes from vendors. You cannot print out the application like the Firehouse Subs grant but you are able to easily jump between the different pages of the grant application without issue.
One final recommendation with this grant since it does not have a deadline. Do NOT rush. Make sure that your proposal/application is top notch prior to submitting it. A proper and top-notch proposal/application is worth more than a rushed one when there are no deadlines.
We are likely all familiar with the department store Wal-Mart. It seems that there is one on just about every street corner. This company has become a staple in the United States. They have built through their company a grant for agencies that provide services within their service areas. It is called the Local Community Grant. This grant also does not have a specific deadline. The process is open normally from February 1st-December 31st each year. You can apply any time during this period. Proposals are active for 90 days and then they are automatically rejected. The good news is that an organization can apply and receive up to 25 per year. Grants have a limit from $500-$5,000.
The Local Community Grant has one major requirement to meet and that is that your organization has to either be a 501 (c) 3 organization as defined and confirmed by the United States Internal Revenue Service, a local or state governmental organization, or a K-12 non-profit or private school. If you are not sure if you meet one of these requirements, then I recommend contacting your departmental CPA or lawyer for confirmation.
The Local Community Grant is also mainly digital. You can find more information on it here. Use most of the best practices mentioned above for this grant as well.
Grants can be a scary thing for those that are not familiar with them. Hopefully, you feel more confident in understanding grants through the short discussion including sharing some grants that fire departments can use for awesome projects and how a service like TargetSolutions can help you be successful. As you begin or dive deeper in your grant writing work there are two quotes that you should always remember:
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work,
and learning from failure.
Grants do not come without effort and learning. They come from exactly what Colonel Powell just mentioned; preparation, hard work and learning.
You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.
The hockey great and hall of famer is truly right in this belief. You will never get a grant you do not apply for. A grant funding agency is not going to come and give you funding because they know you need it. You must apply. So do your due diligence working on your grants and submit them and learn.