1. #1
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    SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Jul 2003

    Default Grant writers???

    I have been talking to some FDs in my region. A few of them had their FEMA gants prepared by a grant writer. In this case it was free of charge, the grant writer works for a local telephone cooperative as a economic development/grant writer. She has a excellent record, and has gotten nearly 1.5 milion in grants of all kinds over the last 2 years. IIRC she has about 15 total FEMA AFG grants under her belt with a 2/3 succes rate. Like I said, she does this free of charge since the coop is doing this as a service to the area.

    So, has anybody ever tried using a grant writer for the FEMA AFG?

    What rate did the grant writer charge? I have heard the figure of 3%. Is that for the awarded money, or for the project total?

    Did they want the money up front just to send the grant, or did they only get paid upon reward of the grant?

    Did they help to manage the grant after the fact, or did they just leave after the grant was submited?

    In my experience, the real work comes after the award. Researching equipment, getting demos set up, keeping papaer work in order, etc... that took a LOT of time on the grants I have done.

    Grant writers dont help with that at all, do they?

    I am considering haveing a grant writer help me out next year. I am getting to the point that I have to many grants to get done all at once. The gal form the coop is to buisy to help me out, I expected that. The only problem here is that there is no help for after the award issues.

    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  2. #2
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    New Rockford, ND


    Prior to entering into any agreement with a grant writer that will take a percentage of the award for services rendered I would strongly recommend getting a legal opinion about it from a lawyer. Some my interprit it as fraud.

    As for the whole grant writer thing, I still belive (at least for AFG) that the best AFGs come from within the dept. I have worked with grant writers on other grants that were SIGNIFICANTLY more involved than the AFGs. I truley question if it saved me any time. Yes, they have contacts and know a few ins and outs but for the most part you are standing beside them trough the whole process and you will want/need to monitor their progress.

    Watch out, there are some fast talking grant writers out there (not specifically involved with AFGs) that you really need to be cautious of. If you decide to take that path get refferences.

  3. #3
    FH Mag/.com Contributor

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Cypress, TX


    Having been a grant writer (paid for the first time in 2004, free before that) for all 4 years so far, I tried to fashion what I did after what I would expect out of a grant writer.

    1) No one knows the needs of the fire department better than the department itself. Odds are, no one knows grant writing better than the grant writer. So the first part is to make sure each party doesn't go overboard trying to tell the other what to do. Having said that, there will be some overlap. Prior to the first meeting (in person or long phone call) with any of my clients, I told them to have several ideas of what they need. Just like extrications, it's best to have Plans A-D right up front. My purpose in doing this was so that I could analyze their statistics (dept size, area covered, population covered, etc, etc) and let them know what I thought their application would be. For example (off the cuff, not a client's situation), having only 50 runs a year, protecting 2000 residents, you're not going to end up with a quint no matter what your other numbers are. But PPE, Wildland PPE, maybe a tanker or brush truck, are all possibilities in that situation. I counseled the departments on what their best chances of being funded were based on their needs and their situation. If they wanted to follow my recommendation, that's what we went for. If they didn't, that was their perogative, and I wrote an application for what they wanted. Which leads to #2...

    2) The department should always be in control on the full application. No matter whether you're paying a percentage based fee or hourly, there's a lot that you can do to save time and money. You should be the one gathering the statistics for the application, arranging product demos, getting quotes for equipment and all of that other good stuff. Many writers have a checklist that they can hand you, sometimes in the form of a copy of an application so you can see exactly what it entails. The department should be in charge of submitting the application. In my case, I did not have access to my client's applications on the USFA web site. It was my responsibility to provide them with the necessary work product in a timely manner so that they could incorporate it into the online app and submit it.

    3) With AFG, it is illegal to hire someone on a contingency (free up front or if denied, pay thru the nose if awarded) basis. FEMA also reviews ALL percentage based fees prior to reimbursing for the costs of hiring a grant writer. The reason is that many writers try to beef up the cost of the products to increase their fee. Many departments were "highly encouraged" to apply for vehicles when they had little or no chance at them, because they cost a lot and you can almost throw a boilerplate narrative at it. Reasonable hourly fees are not scrutinized as heavily because they figure that the department wasn't going to pay someone for hours that they didn't work. All fees must be paid within 30 days of the close of the application period to be eligible for reimbursement also.

    4) In my experience, FEMA helps so much after the award that a writer should not be necesaary after the award. If you want their involvement, then include that in the contract you sign with them as a point of performance. Oh yeah: SIGN A CONTRACT WITH THEM. It's a business deal like any other, so not having a contract leaves the department open to liability if something isn't kosher. Which we've all heard about the shennanigans going on in some places. With me, my clients have no agreement for me to do anything after they get awarded. But if they call with questions, I'll answer everything I can, just like I do on the forums here when I have time. After the award, there's no secrets to success like there is with preparing the grant, so it's not like I'd be handing over my formulas and everything anyway.


    - the average percentage based fee was close to 4%. They were as high as 10% which is why FEMA changed the rules several times.
    - the average hourly rate was around $400/hour.

    Sales pitch: I charged $50/hour. My invoices ranged from 2 hours to 7 hours. I don't charge for common knowledge work product, meaning that everything I know already, I don't charge people extra hours to make up for my prior research. I only started charging because I received over 500 requests for help in 2003. Many didn't need the help, they just wanted a 2nd opinion, and since I worked in order of receipt, I couldn't get to all of the requests, and many that really needed help went without. So charging thinned out the ranks of people just doing it because it was free. I offered to do it, so I'm not trying to knock these people. I probably would have done it myself if someone else offered.

    My web site remains free to use: www.firegraphics.org/grants.htm
    If anyone wants to add their narrative to it, email it to me and I'll post it. The total from my direct help and what people gathered from what's on the web site for 2003 is just short of $3.3 million. I don't have the exact total for the previous years, but it's somewhere around $1.2 million.

    So I've done a little homework. So have many others. Whatever you decide to do make sure you do your homework in chosing someone. As toddman said, there's a lot of fast talkers that will try and pigeon-hole you into something you may not need. You owe it to yourself to read everything FEMA has yourself. Many just trusted the person that was getting paid a large percentage fee regardless of success or failure, and didn't realize that laundry list apps were bad. Which it says right in the program guidance. And it also has that part about the department being ultimately responsible for the application. Which is causing some headaches for people who's writer is/was under investigation. Regardless of how much input they had into the app, they could be the ones going down for fraud. Not a good writer-client relationship in my book.

    Good luck y'all & stay safe - Brian
    Brian P. Vickers
    Emergency Services Consulting
    Westlake VFD - Houston, TX
    Proud Member IACOJ - Redneck Division

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