Grants Programs: Linking National Dollars To Local Fire Departments

Kurt Bradley offers important tips to make the grant-writing process more effective, more productive and more successful for your fire department.


Is your department in need of equipment that will help your first responders be more responsive? Do your firefighters need new turnout gear, like coats pants and boots? How would you like to purchase a new communications system for your department? These examples of new equipment purchases and other...


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Is your department in need of equipment that will help your first responders be more responsive? Do your firefighters need new turnout gear, like coats pants and boots? How would you like to purchase a new communications system for your department? These examples of new equipment purchases and other departmental necessities are within reach of volunteer fire departments, now more than ever. In 2004, there will be $1.2 billion in grant monies available to law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency services, and local and state governments. Has your department applied for a piece of those funds?

During the last several years, the U.S. government has changed the manner in which grants are applied for, awarded and evaluated. This system has become known as “performance grants” to eliminate wasteful spending through accountability and to recognize those agencies that are implementing and producing the results that they stated they would achieve, if awarded funding. The result is an arduous, involved process for public safety agencies in applying for these grants. These changes in the national grant-writing system makes it more important than ever for volunteer fire departments to take advantage of free grant programs available to them and to take it upon themselves to learn more about the procedures involved in obtaining critical grant funding.

Properly researching and writing a grant is a time-consuming process and public safety professionals’ primary responsibility is the protection of and service to their citizens. By following these tips and taking advantage of free consultation programs, the grant-writing process can be more effective, more productive, and most importantly, more successful.

Getting Started

  • If you read no other tip on this page, read this one: DON’T GIVE UP! The grant process can be frustrating, but it is doable.

  • “No” does not mean “never.” Most grant writers are rejected more times than they ever get funded. A squeaky wheel eventually gets oiled, and persistence and practice make a successful grant writer.

  • Many grants are rejected simply because the funding source ran out of money. There’s always next year and there’s always another grant. Review, revise, update and resubmit it or send it to a grant-writing consultant to help you. This is a great timesaver.

What is Eligible?

  • Eligible activities change. Activities that may not have been funded in previous years may be allowed this year. Review your past unsuccessful grants to see if those activities may now be eligible.

  • Grant funding can be used for some administrative costs, depending on the grant and its rules of use. You may be able to use the grant to cover costs of administering the grant.

  • Deadlines show no mercy. If your application is not in by the deadline, it’s not being considered, period.

  • Does your department have a DUNS number? If not, stop reading and get a DUNS number now: All federal grantees MUST obtain a DUNS number (a unique nine-character identification number provided by the commercial company Dun & Bradstreet). Additional information about DUNS numbers can be found on the Dun & Bradstreet website at www.dnb.com/us. You can also apply by telephone at 800-333-0505.

  • If you’re trying to set up a training program, set your goals high. Instructor-led, hands-on training programs that lead to a national certification can give your application higher scores in these areas.

  • Drive home a different equipment focus. Vehicles are the most frequently requested grant item. Keep this in mind in deciding your program priorities.

  • Start getting familiar with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Departments receiving or applying for federal grant programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security monies, etc., have been mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5) to “adopt” or “be in compliance” with NIMS by fiscal year 2005. Further information on NIMS can be obtained through the NIMS Integration Center at http://www.fema.gov/nims/.
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