The competitive nature of federal government grants may force departments to look to the private sector for funding
In a few weeks it will be October, a month dedicated to fire prevention. A number of departments across the nation have discovered the importance of an aggressive year-round fire prevention and education program, while others strictly focus on October for their programs. Regardless which approach your department employs, funding for fire prevention always seems to be lacking. We could argue the need to fund prevention first, but I will save that for another article. The truth is most departments do not have the funding for prevention and education programs.
The federal government offers the Fire Prevention and Safety grant program annually. However, the FP&S grant program has been extremely competitive in the past and this year looks to follow that trend; the average FP&S grant per state is a mere $700,000. What has clouded this figure in the past is the fact that the program is open to nonprofit groups as well as fire departments. Many of these national nonprofits have received multimillion dollar FP&S grants in the past. In an attempt to level the playing field two years ago, FEMA initiated a micro grant for FP&S. Even with this modification, however, smaller departments still have a difficult time competing for FP&S funds.
One option might be to seeking funding for your fire prevention program from non-government sources. Start by looking in your own back yard. Possible sources of funding could be Ronald McDonald House Charities, State Farm Insurance, local financial institutions and community foundations. All these entities focus their giving programs on projects benefiting children or the community. Both categories could open the door for your fire prevention and education program if presented properly.
The difficult point is that there is no across the board process for applying for such funding. Some local agencies may have a formal application, while others simply require a letter of interest. Some give their local managers levity in determining who gets funded, while others have an established committee for making such decisions.
The first step is to meet with your committee and decide what your project is, how much it is going to cost and how much money do you need to request. You do not want to contact a potential funder and not have any idea what your project is or how much you need. Keep in mind, the maximum grant size is usually in the $2,000 to $5,000 range from these sources. Either your project needs to be in that funding range or you need to show a match that would bring it to that level. This could easily provide funding for a small fire prevention program or provide seed money for your initiative.
Next, contact the agency and tell them that you would like to apply for funding for your department’s fire prevention program. Ask what their application process is and if they have a deadline. As with other funding programs, applicants that clearly demonstrate a need for funding and whose program will have a significant impact on preventing fire loss will stand the best chance of receiving a grant. In your request, it’s also important to provide ample detail and documentation about your financial need and the cost of your project to support your request. Remember to include information on how this award will be announced to the public if you are funded. Local funders want publicity for their donation.
If your request is not approved, go back reach out to your contact at the agency and ask why it wasn’t funded. The agency may have loved your project but didn’t have the funds available to make an award. Ask if you should apply in the future and if the agency has any suggestions to improve your request.
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