You’ve done your research on protective gear such as Hard Head Veterans tactical helmets, and decided that they are a worthwhile investment for your local department. Now the problem is figuring out how to pay for them. These days, many communities are having to reduce expenditures on essential services due to spending cuts at the municipal, state, and federal level. We’ve seen over and over again that local public servants can find themselves in danger in their own communities, and no one who needs a ballistic helmet should be at risk of head injury due to budget constraints. Yet, the folks in charge of procuring protective gear often find a gap between their stated needs and the available funding.
Fortunately, there is a very helpful resource available in the form of grants. Broadly speaking, government and private organizations have set aside funding to fill in the spending gaps we were just discussing, and are eager to give funding to your local police, fire, or EMT department to help pay for qualifying purchases. While many grants are designed with law enforcement in mind, they aren’t just for law enforcement. Schools, non-profits or other public service organizations can qualify for grants that pay for protective gear as well, depending on the requirements of the grant in question.
Photo Credit: PoliceOne.com
All you have to do is apply! Sounds simple enough, what’s the catch? The catch is, the application process is different for each grant, and it can be confusing and cumbersome. Today we’re going to provide an overview of the grant application process, so you know what to expect. Next post, we’re going to discuss what kinds of grants are available and where to find them.
Note that these posts are meant to provide a crash course on the process, and are not designed to make you a grant-writing expert overnight. There are many resources available on the grant application process that we encourage you to take advantage of. If you can, you may want to work with an experienced professional who specializes in preparing grant applications. Here are some of the traits of great grant writers.
Video Credit: WatchGuard Video
Grants are competitive. That means that to successfully apply for a grant, your application needs to be bulletproof (well, bullet-resistant), because there are many people competing for the same funds. To that end, you need to have the answers to these questions answered when you begin your application.
What is the problem that this grant will solve?
You need to be as clear as possible as to what you are asking to be funded and why. The person reviewing your application will want to see that the grant is going to solve a specific problem. This means you need to have a clear idea of the problem, and the solution that this grant will impact.
For example, a problem for many fire departments and first responders is that they are asked to respond to scenes where an active shooter is present. If your department does not supply them with adequate ballistic helmets, they are at an increased risk of debilitating head injuries or death if they find themselves in an active shooter situation. Alternately, lack of protective gear may prevent them from providing assistance to the injured before the threat is neutralized, wasting precious minutes.
Photo Credit: Dunn County Herald
What specifically will solve the problem?
You need to decide exactly what gear you require, in what quantity, and at what cost. You will want to write up a budget that includes the costs of the items, as well as any associated costs such as shipping, training, or maintenance. Grants can be very particular about what types of purchases they will cover, so make sure that you don’t include any items they have specifically excluded.
You DON’T want to write, “We would like as much funding as you can spare to buy as much protective gear as we can, please and thank you.” You DO want to write, “We require a new ATE helmet and Protective Helmet Bag for each of the 10 officers in the department. At $425.00 per helmet and $49.99 per bag, $4,749.90 will cover the cost of equipping each officer.”
Finding and applying for grants
We’re going to go into more detail about finding grants in our next post, because there are a lot out there! Overall, potential sources of grants are usually government agencies and private organizations. Since you’re buying tactical gear, you will probably find federal grants with a focus on law enforcement and and terrorism prevention very helpful. The Department of Justice offers state and local grants through the Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program, and the Department of Homeland Security does the same through its Homeland Security Grants program.
Private grant-giving can range from large corporations to private foundations. It can be beneficial to find organizations that specifically serve your state or community, or one in which you have personal connections, as this can make your application more competitive. It pays to think outside the box, as well. You might not expect that a sandwich chain or a big-box store would be a major supplier of grants to law enforcement agencies, but they often are.
Once you have found suitable grants, you need to carefully review the requirements listed in the grant organization’s request for proposal (RFP). The RFP is what you’re going to base your application on, because it tells you everything that the organization wants to learn about in your application. It says what types of purchases are covered, what types of problems they are trying to help solve, how much money is available, how it is disbursed, and what conditions are attached to the grant that your department must abide by. The RFP is their way of telling you how they want to give away their money, so make sure your application is tailored to the organization’s goals. As we previously mentioned, you need to explicitly state your goals in the application, and exclude anything not covered under conditions of the grant. When the application is complete, make sure you double- and triple-check it for completeness, spelling and grammar, and have it proofread by someone you trust. Lastly, and obviously, make sure you submit it before the deadline.
Photo Credit: Lower Colorado River Authority
Your application might be reviewed within weeks or not for many months, depending on the grant in question. Once you have received your grant, make sure that you follow its conditions to the letter. Purchase the exact items you had requested the funding for, do so during the time frame specified, submit proof of purchase as required by the organization, and keep excellent records in case of audit. Good grant management will give you a track record of success when applying for other grants in the future, and you may find that the materials you used in one application can be helpful in another.
Next post, we will dive in deep on where you can find grants suitable to your needs, and give you more in-depth information about them.