Grant Writing Steps
Define a Project & Get Grant Ready
The first step is to identify your community and department’s current needs during your strategic planning sessions. Where would your community benefit from grant funding? The best way to do that is to give priority to those areas that will produce the most measurable impact on your department and your community. Be prepared to explain how the requested funding will solve a problem.
You will also be asked to predict the negative impact on your department and community if your project isn’t funded. Think about both of these requirements when you’re choosing a project.
You should also identify your stakeholders. Your stakeholders include those people in your community and organizations that will be impacted by the grant. These may include your local municipality, mutual aid organizations, public utilities, schools, churches, population groups, etc.
The project’s costs need to be listed out and organized into a budget. Your budget should be comprehensive and include all costs associated with the project: equipment, accessories, additional training if required, etc.
Now that you’ve got your project in mind, it’s time to find out who can help you fund it.
How can you find a grant that will fit your needs? The best way is to use the FireGrantsHelp grant database. You can perform a search by grant category (Federal, state, or corporate), keywords (such as vehicle or turnout gear), or by your department’s state.
The search results may seem long depending on what search terms you entered, but it is important to review each of these grants carefully. Each post includes a summary of the grant’s purpose, funding areas identified by the grant maker, eligibility requirements, as links to the application and full RFP (request for proposal).
If you think the grant may be a fit, it is always in your interest to review the full RFP. Although they may seem tedious, they often include important application requirements, dates for deadline submission or tips on how to have your application score competitively.
You will also notice that many of the grants are listed at ‘est’ or estimated. This means the grant is not yet open, and the current guidelines are not yet available. These grants are usually open once per year for a 4 to 6 week period. For any grant you find listed as ‘est’ or estimated, the information in the post is a summary of the previous year’s guidelines.
While grant makers do not usually change their guidelines drastically from year to year, it is important that you review the most current RFP for any grant you end up applying to. The FireGrantsHelp team works very hard to update any grant deadlines, information, and links as soon as the most current versions become available.
Prepare for the Grant to open
The number one reason why grant applications are denied is failure to follow directions. So, once you have found a grant you want to apply for and are sure you meet the eligibility requirements, read the current RFP very carefully.
Some grants sponsor workshops or provide written guides which can be helpful in keeping your grant application process on-track. When looking at a guidance document, go through and look for items that are "must do's," "should do's," and "could do's."
Collect all the documents and data outlined in the RFP, most often this will include call data, operating budgets, and inventory lists. Notify stakeholders such as local business which fall into your response area, getting a letter of support or pledge for monetary assistance can strengthen an application by proving your project will benefit the whole community.
Application Period: Create, Review and Submit
You have been gathering all the information you need, and now it’s time to put it together. Throughout this process it is important that you remain mindful of the grant application submission deadline. You wouldn’t want your hard work to go to waste because you missed a single deadline.
You’ll have to assemble your application, following all of the rules and requirements that you researched in the last step. Some applications even have strict formatting requirements, such as what font size you can use and how each heading must look.
The narrative is one of the most important parts of your grant application. It’s your opportunity to tell the grant makers your story. Use your data to paint a picture of how you and your community are being impacted by the outdated gear or equipment. Has anyone been injured because they didn’t have the training, equipment or additional support personnel on site? Were there any recent incidents where lives or property could have been saved if your department had the requested equipment?
Before you turn in your application, have someone else review it. In fact, have 2 or 3 people review it. It is surprising how easily we can skip over the simplest grammar and spelling mistakes. Obviously, it would be best to have a professional grant writer review your application.
FireGrantsHelp knows that finding a grant writer to review your project can be difficult, which is one of the reasons why our expert team of grant writers are more than willing to assist for little to no cost for needy departments. If you don’t have enough time for that however, a few detail-oriented people would also be good choices.
Once you’ve had your application reviewed and made any changes, it’s time for the moment of truth: submitting your application.
Award and Turndown
The time from application submission to award notice varies for each grant. Some are up to 12 months while others can be as short as one or two weeks. On average however, a grant maker will have made their funding decisions in about 3–6 months.
If you have been turned down, request feedback from grant maker – guidance on why your application was turned down and what you can do to strengthen application for future submissions. Sometimes a grant maker just wants to know how important this grant will be to your community, which you can show by following up and resubmitting.
Other times, the grant maker may request that you apply again the next year with additional data that they are interested in. Regardless of what they say, it is always a good idea to open up the lines of communication with a possible funder.
Manage your Award
Once you have received your award, it’s time to put it to use. Be sure that you follow all instructions given to you by the grant maker on post award management. These instructions are sent after the grant has been given.
Also be sure to abide by any measures of success that you had outlined in your narratives. If you say that new equipment will decrease response times by 5% each month, be prepared to show that.
During this time, you should also be preparing for an audit. You can best do this by keeping all grant related materials in an accessible folder – copies of receipts, copies of any reports submitted – basically confirming you are in compliance with post award management instructions.
Closeout (and begin again?)
This is the time to tie up all the loose ends related to your award, and get prepared for the next year’s grant application. If you do not complete the closeout process for the grant which you were awarded, you will likely not be able to apply for funding during the following cycle.
Many of the materials you prepared in the beginning of this process can be repurposed for the next year, so keep excellent records. This will make the grant process easier next year and provide a valuable resource.
FireGrantsHelp is happy to help your department find funding, walk you through the process, or even go through the process for you, helping you to secure funding. FireGrantsHelp has been assisting Fire depts. since 2009 with grant research, writing and consultation.
Our grant consultants are all active members of the firefighter and first responder grant community with combined grant writing experience of 100+ years. Their success rate for grant approval is 60% higher than the national average and to date have been funded for hundreds of millions in grants for various fire and EMS related grant awards.