Grants are definitely not “benefits” or “entitlements.” They are financial assistance from a public or private source to fund a specific purpose or project. To obtain a grant, you must put forth your best effort both in applying for the grant, and in managing the project for which the grant was obtained. Such best efforts may also help with winning another grant in the future.
Fortunately, good resources are available to assist you in obtaining and administering a grant. Concise courses are offered by Grant Writing USA (www.GrantWritingUSA.com) in applying for grants, and in managing grants. Cost is reasonable, especially if an agency hosts one such seminar.
The Performance Institute (www.performanceinstitute.org) offers courses in useable practices for government agencies, including grant writing and management. The website www.PoliceGrantsHelp.com is a comprehensive resource for grant information and assistance. Its extensive database library covers Federal, State, local, corporate and private grant opportunities.
The edge offered by such resources can be beneficial before you even begin the process of exploring the Internet, the prime source for grant information, applications and variety. You learn how to explore and use the grants process to your best advantage, and you also learn that the work takes discipline.
Through such courses and studies, you hone your abilities and efforts so that they are exact and exemplary when compared to your competitors—who are also seeking that grant money. With such a foundation, you can then move toward exploring potential grants sources.
Develop and know the detail of your project so that you can match it to the grantors most likely to fund it. Grantors do have priorities for their money, and you must match those priorities before you will be seriously considered as a contender for the grant. Determine what the grantors funded in past years, what is at the top of their list for the current year, and what details they require from their applicants.
Remember to check for the “obvious” such as due dates, geographic restrictions, applicant qualifications, and even grantor-offered seminars about their grants. Thorough exploration of the grantors’ websites should yield the information you need, but, if necessary, follow up by e-mail, phone, mail or in person for questions not answered on the grantors’ websites.
Introductory sources for learning about the process of locating, writing applications, and managing grants are available at www.bja.gov/gwma/index.html; www.ojp.gov/grants101; and (non-Federal) Grant Writing, by Dr. Bridget Newell, as prepared for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in its Smaller Police Departments/Technical Assistance program, and located at www.theiacp.org/Portals/0/pdfs/Publications/BP-Grantwriting.pdf. Such sources will introduce terminology, methods, processes and other information of value, regardless of whether the grant is Federal, State, local, corporate or private.
In searching for a grantor, you might think first of a government grant, but consider all potential sources of money, including private or corporate grants, and mini-grants from county and local foundations, service clubs and similar sources that provide money for smaller projects that might not get a second look from a government or large grantor.
The primary resource for Federal grants is www.Grants.gov. This central storehouse of information about Federal grant programs helps you in researching grants, applying for them, and keeping informed about upcoming grants or grant timelines. By law, the website is supposed to list every Federal grant available, however, log on to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (www.cfda.gov), a website that, once in a while, leads you to information that might be missing or incomplete on www.Grants.gov, for example, in the use of keywords.
If a private sector grant is your quest, start with www.FoundationCenter.org. It even lists seminars relating to private grants, and you can browse Requests for Proposals and other non-governmental grant sources. A non-profit organization, The Foundation Center offers subscriptions to its newsletter and other information services. (At most any foundation or corporation grant website, or at a clearinghouse’s link, it is wise to sign up for e-mail updates. They can streamline searches and matches, and could reveal grant sources you might not have previously considered. Such newsletters often contain grant deadline changes or other timely information.)
The Grantsmanship Center at www.tgci.com lists State sources, with links to various websites. It was the first organization to offer grants training programs. Its current five-day instructional course covers planning projects, locating funding, and writing of proposals. And, yes, search engines such as Google ™ or Bing ™ can be of help. Enter key words such as “government grants,” “equipment grants,” “private grants,” “grants clearinghouses,” etc. and you might find quick access to government, tribal, corporate, foundation or private grants not yet listed on other, more traditional, clearinghouse websites.
If you are wondering how much a grantor is likely to fund, check www.GuideStar.org, a website that also displays the tax returns for non-profit organizations. You can study the patterns of grants, the agencies that have received money, and whether your project is a match. (You must register on the website, but it is a free service.)
Your next step is organizing your information into a logical and useable guide, with notes about deadlines, trends, grantor preferences and priorities, geographic restrictions, and whether you can obtain enough for your particular project. Create a master list of potential grantors for your project. Know what the grant application must contain (usually an executive summary, statement of need, statement of introduction, project description, work plan, budget, memorandum of agreement, and evaluation process).
If appropriate, build contacts with other agencies in your area to create a regional project. There has been a trend for the past few years of grantors favoring regional projects. Sometimes, two or more grantors may choose to fund a project, but before actually doing so, the grantees must be sure each grantor permits matching, and to what dollar extent the matches can go.
Know what your project will do, how it will benefit the community to be served, why it should be funded, and how much money will be needed to make it a reality. Match to the grantors most likely to fund it, and know each grantor’s requirements, deadlines, and trends. Because grantors change their preferences from time to time, a project that might have been funded in years past may be rejected now.
Start crafting the grant application. Be sure the project matches the grantors’ priorities, and present your project that way. Think “who,” “how much” and “for what” when applying. Be concise in your wording about your agency, the project, its benefits, and how the grant money will be spent. Write in a way that is clear and logical, and that tells your grantor about the project’s merit and why it should be funded.
Because online grant applications make the “who,” “how much,” and “for what” obvious, develop information about the steps of the project, the problem to be solved, goals, methods, and evaluation processes. If the application must name specific personnel, do so by job titles, not personal names. And if the application must describe equipment to be purchased or used, avoid brand names (unless the grantor requires otherwise).
Use correct spelling, grammar and syntax, and write in layperson’s language because the reviewer of your application is probably not someone in law enforcement. Use the third person (e.g. “the police department”). Verbs should be in active, not passive, voice. You are judged by the quality of your writing because it reflects your degree of care and your competence. If you are not comfortable with writing or editing, enlist the help of someone who can assist.
Grantors know you need and want money. They want to learn why they should provide it. You must emphasize the needs of your community or the problem, and the project that will solve the problem. Completely describe the problem or project with facts, statistics, survey results, and interviews or anecdotes from competent or authoritative sources. Be logical even though you are striving to be persuasive in telling how your project will benefit the community or solve a problem. Helpful statistics might be found at www.Fedstats.gov. It is a source of census and other data that can be used when writing about comparisons or contrasts.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder at www.factfinder2.census.gov can provide you with demographic information. Enter a zip code for “Fact Finder” information about people and their communities—something you might want in your grant application’s needs statement. Similarly, crime statistics can be obtained from websites of State or Federal crime data. Browse by State or region. When using national statistics, bring them down to your local level. If your project involves community service and jobs in your region, use www.bls.gov. Online grants applications and management systems require a Duns number (www.dnb.com) and Employee Identification Number (www.irs.gov) for your agency.
The reviewer of your grant application might not start at page one, but might begin with your executive summary, a synopsis, or something else in your application, so be sure the entire application is honed to its best, that it presents everything in clear and direct language, and that it motivates the reviewer to keep reading.
Corporate grants are usually direct, discretionary monies, and the application and approval processes tend to go quicker than government-sourced grants. Private foundations and the non-profit sector are diverse in projects and amount of funding, but can be good sources. Mini-grants from corporate and non-profit sources are generally simple to seek, and are good for basic projects. But even though these grant sources may seem streamlined or even “easy” to use, be just as thorough, professional and concise as you would be for a more complex grant.
Letter of Inquiry
A letter of inquiry can be a letterform of your executive summary. If the grantor does not invite unsolicited letters, ask if the organization matches your need. If so, request an invitation to submit your proposal.
In the Statement of Introduction, you describe your agency. Its credibility will show in descriptions of its mission, goals, major accomplishments, programs, endorsements, awards, other grants and projects, and partner agencies.
In the Needs Statement, use the format and style requirements set by the grantor, but present your proposal by concisely focusing on the need for the project and not the lack of money to do it! Describe community needs or the people you will serve with the project, and include appropriate statistics, anecdotes, surveys, and quotes that reinforce the need for the project. Focus on the social, economic, geographic, or other applicable benefit, and express it in a logical and credible way.
The budget section describes facts and figures, and is the money side of what the project will do. You must accomplish what you propose to do with the money the grantor gives because you will have a contract requiring that. The contract will contain the promises made, procurement rules for purchases, employment/personnel, equal opportunity law compliance, the agreement’s terms, and the obligations of multiple agencies and the lead agency if it is a collaborative project.
Because subcontracts or short-term contracts might be necessary for a particular project, a Memorandum of Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding may also be needed to explain the work to be done. Grantors fund a project, but will not let you make money from a grant. Grantors must know that the grant is spent prudently and honestly.
The budget must be specific and complete, including as much detail as possible, even down to rent, utilities, postage, phone, office, travel, fees, auto rental, etc. (You may need a grant for your main project or the work plan, but smaller, non-designated funds from other grantors to pay such miscellaneous costs.)
Your application tells about the project, but also says that your agency can handle the project. That is a legal obligation, and the budget reflects the contract, and the prudent management and use of the money. In a collaborative project of multiple agencies, the grantor usually has all the agencies under one contract, with one agency as the leader. This helps smaller agencies expand their service area, or allows a project to serve a wider population more efficiently.
Follow the grantor’s fiscal rules. Any misuse of grant money, however innocent, will have to be paid back, and there may even be criminal penalties for such mismanagement. Such mismanagement may also spell doom for any future grants from any other source.
For a project involving something of value, but given at no cost (e.g. the use of a vehicle, volunteers, facilities, or an employee from another agency), use www.IndependentSector.org for the money value of such help.
If one party to the contract does not or cannot comply with the contract terms, the grantor might allow modification. But the grant manager or lead agency should monitor everything so that problems are identified and solved before they escalate into major stumbling blocks to the project. Likewise, if a new grant administrator or key person is emplaced during the running of a grant-funded project, the grantor should be informed. (Always follow the instructions of the grantor about process or updates.)
Maintain a notebook of records, audits and documents pertaining to compliance, including the application guidelines, grant proposal, contract, subcontracts, amendments, reports, objectives already met, objectives yet to be accomplished, financial records, major receipts, procurement process guidelines, bid solicitations, and correspondence written or e-mailed that confirms phone conversations. Grantors can audit at any time so be ready to produce any information needed to prove compliance and good management.
A project might be outcome-based and/or process-based. Outcome-based tells how the community will improve, while process-based will say what has been implemented and how the implementations will be controlled. Use the writing that best describes the process. Show the project “at a glance.” Grantors may expect even more than the achievement of the objectives because most objectives are written broadly. Keep records about staff, budget, partners, activities, delivery of the product or service of the project, outcomes and benefits for the project’s participants, and impact on the communities and/or agency’s systems.
The Project Plan
The project’s work plans, goals and objectives are most often written in narrative, rubric (grid-based), or logic models (super charged rubric). “Goals” are usually broad and non-measurable, but “objectives” tend to be outcome based or process based and thus more specific and measurable. (Outcome-based objectives describe how conditions will improve. The objectives use words such as purchase, serve, obtain, publish, develop, assess, raise money, survey, build, hire, implement, create, refurbish, coordinate, and provide. Process-based objectives most often set a time period for something to be done, and define what will be implemented and how the implementations will be managed.)
Methods describe work done by staff and partners, or such elements as the budget, activities, output (delivery of the project’s product or service), outcomes (how participants benefit from the project), and impact (changes in communities and/or systems).
At www.ExpectMore.gov, there are rating tools for performing and non-performing Federal programs, and you can learn what is being phased out. The website’s Program Assessment shows programs, ratings and improvement plans to delete or modify programs.
Federal grantors usually expect outcome-based performance so provide that information in your reports. If you can demonstrate excellence managing one grant, that may boost your ability to gain a future grant. And if required, or appropriate, describe the project’s sustainability—how it will grow and function on its own after the grant.
The Evaluation shows your grantor how you succeed because you describe how outcomes are measured and how objectives are attained. The grantor might specify how to evaluate. You might be able to hire an independent consultant to evaluate, or you can do the evaluating yourself, but evaluations must be concise and exact. You may have to emphasize reports to the grantor, site visits, board of directors’ actions toward effectiveness, efforts of the project coordinator, or client satisfaction surveys. You might not be able to guarantee certain outcomes, but at least you can show that evaluations do occur.
The Kellogg Foundation at www.wkkf.org has a handbook about methods of evaluation. The foundation is also a source of grants and usually favors projects that help children of a community.
Internet Resources for Grant Research
Here are some websites that can help with a grants search, but because grantors change their preferences or strategies, keep updated with the grantors that best match your project. Current trends are that many grants go to collaborative projects within a large geographic area, or to preparedness, homeland security and response projects, including those needed equipment, training exercises and scenarios, and counter-terrorism techniques.
This is the definitive starting point for nearly all Federal grants and grant research. You will find guidelines about grant eligibility, and free downloads, links, grant management tips, and other information. Register for the newsletter about new grant opportunities.
The Department of Homeland Security’s grants are meant for preparedness and response. The website describes grants available for your region, and funding for preparedness planning, equipment acquisition, training, practice exercises, management and administration. The main programs include the State Homeland Security Program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, Metropolitan Medical Response System, and the Citizen Corps Program. There are links to FEMA-directed projects for port security, critical infrastructure protection, regional/local mass-transit system security, and first-responder equipment and training.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s grants relate to disaster-specific situations, but grant money is also available for environmental and historical preservation, hazard-related grants, non-disaster programs, and repetitive flood claims programs.
The Transportation Security Administration’s primary grant focus is on projects that enhance the safety and security of such modes of transportation as intercity buses, transit systems, and ferry services.
This frequently updated website gives access to a database of Federal grant programs available to State and local governments, recognized tribal governments, domestic public and quasi-public groups, and private profit and non-profit groups and individuals. The homepage links to a User’s Guide, Search for Assistance Programs, and other links such as www.Grants.gov, www.FedBizOpps.gov and Federal Asset Sales listed at www.USA.gov.
It also describes the assistance available, how to apply, how to write grant proposals, the top 10 percent program list, new programs, and a full index. Included is information about formula grants, project grants, direct payments for specified use, direct payments with unrestricted use, direct loans, insurance, sale/exchange/donation of property and goods, use of property/facilities/equipment, and training categories.
Here, the focus is on safe transportation of hazardous material and technical assistance for State, territorial, tribal or local HAZMAT emergency planning and training. There are also links to conferences, training seminars and meetings offered by the US Department of Transportation.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program has grants for rural area facilities, equipment, housing, utilities, and businesses. Program loans, loan guarantees and grants are available, including business loans and grants, cooperative grants, community facilities loans and grants, telecommunications loans and grants, and community development programs.
The Office of Justice Programs in the US Department of Justice website has solicitations and application kits for grants for a variety of projects in training, crime prevention and emergency management. There are links to past funded projects. The links may benefit your research into what is being sought, trends, and how to prepare a successful project and application.
The US Government Printing Office disseminates official information from all three branches of the Federal government, but also contains a comprehensive guide to those branches, which can provide you with a list of official Federal resources for goals and purposes of the various Federal agencies.
This gives an easy-to-use, alphabetical list of government benefits, grants and financial aid. It is primarily citizen-oriented, but can be useful for exploring grant opportunities and learning the variety of assistance that might be available for a project.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website grants page has information about grants, funding announcements, explanations of HUD’s grant system, and a link to registration with www.Grants.gov.
The Health Resources and Services Administration agency website contains a grant policy statement, current and archived grant opportunities, and a registration form for e-mail notices of new grants.
While technology is the primary focus of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, there is also information about grants. The links are useful for research, particularly for equipment, testing, evaluation, and technology improvements.
The Library of Congress website is a complete reference tool for data you might need for completion of your grant application. Not strictly restricted to purely Federal information, the website’s resources can be a helpful addition to your research.
This federation of organizations strives to improve public safety and interoperability of communications. Its website is an excellent source of information on such topics as broadband, software defined radio, re-banding, and technical education.
This free resource guide to Federal and other government grants and loans allows researching grants by name, subject, applicant type, or agency, and offers tips for writing successful grant applications.
While temporarily out of service at press time, this website is being updated. It is primarily targeted toward non-profit organizations, which can be helpful to projects that partner with a non-profit group. It can help with locating donated and discounted technology products.
The Public Safety Foundation of America provides grants for public safety functions including planning, equipment procurement, and training.
This University of California at Los Angeles website of the Office of Contract and Grant Administration provides an alphabetical list of links to foundations and organizations, many, if not most, of which provide grants for projects.
This website also lists potential private grantors, and information about grant writing courses and seminars.
Here, you can research available grants and learn more about the process of applying for grants.
Funded by Congress, the National White Collar Crime Center focuses on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of high-tech crimes. Its website lists webinars, events and seminars, some of which are grants related.
The Kresge Foundation offers grants for community projects, especially for those in underserved locations.
The National Tactical Officers Association provides grant information to its membership, plus resources and conferences of benefit to the training and challenges of tactical work.
This organization supports the health and welfare of police horses and offers moderate (up to $3,000) grants to departments to foster care and use of police horses.
The American Working Dog Council offers grants for police dogs, equipment, temperature alarms, remote door poppers, bite training suits, and other related items.
The Working Dog Foundation presently funds K-9 vests only for police agencies in the New England region.
501 (c) (3)
The Internal Revenue Service code section dealing with “exempt” organizations (a public charity, private foundation or other non-profit organization benefited by exemption from Federal taxation). Such organizations establish a cause for which they raise money, incorporate as a non-profit group, and have tax-exempt status. Some give money to projects promoting particular causes. Donors to such a non-profit organization might have a tax deduction for the gift.
Government agencies are not 501 (c) (3) organizations, but they might form an affiliated organization that earns tax-exempt status, which could possibly seek and obtain private foundation grants. Donors will not get a tax write-off if they give to a government agency (with the exception of a few rare units of government whose purpose is exclusively for the public good).
RFP, SGA, NOFA
Respectively, these initials stand for Requests For Proposals, Solicitation for Grant Application, and Notice Of Funding Availability. They describe who can apply for what, and the grantor determines eligibility, how the money can be used, deadlines, etc. The specific mandates in the RFP, SGA, or NOFA must be carefully followed. (Some mandates govern the style and size of print font or ink color.)
A grant application not complying with the necessary mandates will be rejected; meaning the opportunity for the grant is lost. Pay attention to detail. Grantors use such requirements as a means of making all the applications similar so that no one applicant has an advantage by making his/her application look better than the others. But requirements also test whether the applicant is careful about following directions!
An inaccurate application broadcasts the applicant’s inability to follow directions, and grantors will not trust an applicant who cannot follow directions. The grant application is the preliminary indication of cooperation and responsibility, so first impressions count.
The direct and indirect costs of managing the grant project, which usually have a cap at a certain percentage of the grant.
The expenditures permitted by law or other authority.
A modification occurring when a grant application is changed or revised.
The formal request for grant money. Most grant applications are done online, using forms provided by the grantor. An application must follow all the requirements of the grantor and be in the proper online (or paper) format applicable.
The formula funding not allocated to a specific category. Most of these grants go to State or local governments.
A grant that requires the grantee must raise additional funds for the project. Money is not received until the challenge is met. There may be additional parameters or limitations such as geographic area preferences or deadlines. Meeting a challenge grant can be a prelude to future grants because the applicant has demonstrated the ability to raise money.
A foundation that assists a specific geographic area because it receives money primarily from local or regional donors, and puts that money into a fund for long-term, charitable management of the money, under the directions of the donors, for local or regional projects. While community foundation grants might not yield a great deal of money, they can be excellent sources of smaller amounts of money, and will often “renew” in subsequent years if the grantee proves reliable and trustworthy.
Working with grants may motivate you into becoming a grants consultant, but beware of those who want to pay you only if the grant is received. That is unethical, besides being unfair for the amount of work you must put into writing a grant application. Instead, charge a base rate, and a success bonus if the grant is awarded.
CORPORATE FOUNDATIONS AND GIVING PROGRAMS
Some corporations put a percentage of their profits into a charitable fund from which money may be spent within a specific geographic area in which the corporation has a major presence. This gives the corporation a “good citizen” status in the community’s eyes. These grants often have special requirements or “strings attached” such as advertising space or the corporate name on the vehicles of the grantee—a publicity payback for receiving a grant from the company.
Federal grant money can sometimes move from Federal to State, or Federal to local. Most of the Federal to State to local channeling is done through pass-through grants in which a State sub-awards the grant money through competitive RFPs. States usually have notification lists so grantees know what grants are available and when. Formula grants are based on a national assessment of what a State needs in relation to its number of residents. Some funds are awarded at the discretion of a particular Federal or State agency, or there may be private discretionary funds in which grants are distributed at the discretion of an organization’s trustees or a full board of directors.
Grantors set defined annual, short or long cycles for the steps in a grant, including application review, decision-making and notification. RFP deadlines must be met for each of the steps in application, review, award and release of funds.
A contribution of equipment, supplies, staff time, office space or other resources. (When tracking the work of volunteers in the agency, and in need of a dollar value for that in-kind contribution, use www.independentsector.org to learn the value of the volunteer’s work. The website also offers webinars, conferences and events that can be useful to grant writing and managing.)
LETTER OF INTENT, LETTER OF INQUIRY, PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL
When appropriate, a brief letter of intent or inquiry to the grantor can indicate interest in later submitting a full proposal. This approach focuses on where the grantee is presently, and where it wants to be in the future, stating its intent to the grantor in a letter of inquiry or intent to show the grantor how help will move the grantee to the next goal.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
An agreement about the roles and timelines of all the project’s partner-participants.
ONGOING SUPPORT, GENERAL SUPPORT
Funding that covers such things as day-to-day expenses, salaries, utilities, office supplies, rent/mortgage payments, insurance, or accounting costs. Although not a very common type of grant, it does exist. The grantor looks at the overall impact and wants to evaluate how a proposed project will serve the greater good.
A fund reserved by the grantor for a specific purpose.
This is a cost not allowed because it conflicts with the grant’s cost principles or other conditions.
Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.