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Date last updated: Thursday, June 30, 12:11 PST

Sarah Wilson Grants 101
with Sarah Wilson

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'Tis the Season... Lessons Learned from 2010

The team at PoliceGrantsHelp is pretty lucky.

What I mean to say is we have the privilege of talking to officers every day about their department needs, what’s going on in their communities, and ultimately their grant projects. Taking into account all the conversations we have had over the past year, there are a number of trends we see for departments who are successful when it comes to following through with a grant project.

As we embark on a new grant year – here are some lessons learned from the team at PGH for your department to plan for as you start navigating grants for 2011.

Lesson Learned #1: A Top Priority for the Department?
Have you asked permission? What I mean to say is before you start looking into grants to fund a project, do the “powers that be” (Chief, Mayor, etc) know you are looking into this project? Grants are a legal, binding contract between the grant maker and your department. Grants require a partnership on behalf of the department that includes some kind of match (cash or in kind services) and reporting requirements.

Let’s say you believe that drugs are the biggest problem impacting your community and you think your department needs thermal imaging equipment to counter this issue. Coincidentally, your department also identified a drug problem through the most recent strategic planning session. Knowing this, they have elected/delegated/volunteered you to research and put together a grant proposal to apply for thermal-imaging cameras. This is of course an ideal scenario and I recognize it doesn’t always happen this way. At least you know that all of your efforts to look into and secure funding won’t be wasted when you find out that there are about 5 other projects ahead of yours that the department has elected to focus on.

Some things to think about: When was the last time your department did any planning or strategic thinking? Is the identified problem and solution included as part of this plan? Do you have permission to apply for grants on behalf of the department?

Lesson Learned #2: Identify the Problem
You know that your department has a need for equipment, training, programs etc – but what grant makers (or any funding sources) want to know is what problem this grant request will solve in your community. The first question we ask every department is: What will happen in your community if you do not get this equipment, training, etc? What will be the impact if you receive this funding? What will happen if you do not? Cause and effect.

For example - say your department needs a thermal imaging camera. You have this need because there is a problem with drugs in your community. You have done your homework and gathered data that proves there is an increase or “hotspots” for drugs in your community. Therefore, the problem is drugs and its impact on the community. One solution is to patrol the rural areas with thermal imaging cameras where drugs are being distributed. Thermal imaging cameras will enable your officers to identify and apprehend drug suspects, thus decreasing the distribution of drugs in your community.

The equipment you wish to purchase or the programs you seek to fund are considered the “solution” to a problem. To determine the appropriate funding source, your department must first define the problem to justify the need.

Lessons Learned #3: Data Support
You know you have a problem; you see it every day in your community. The thing is, the funding source for the grant most likely doesn’t live or work or patrol in your community. You need to demonstrate that there is in fact a problem not just by identifying it (reference Lessons Learned 1 and 2) but by supporting the claims.

Using our example from Lessons Learned 1 and 2, let’s say that drug arrests were the largest percentage of Part I Crimes, patrol/criminal arrests made in the past 3 years for your department. You would reference this data to support the claim that drugs are in fact a problem in your community. Another data source is to contact community partners such as the local hospital to see how many drug related emergencies have occurred over the same timeline. Is there a trend of increasing drug overdoses corresponding with drug arrests? If yes, then you have 2 data resources justifying your claim.

When you identify a problem to justify a need think to yourself: “Where can I find data to support this claim?” Make sure your data reinforces your identified problem. We have created a data reference guide to direct you with some ideas: http://www.policegrantshelp.com/grant-data-collection/

Lesson Learned #4: Find the Right Grant
Ok – so you’ve identified the problem, you’ve found the solution, you have data to support this claim, you have sign off from top brass, phew - now what? NOW you can look for funding. The reason we suggest going this route is to make sure you have everything you will need to match your department with the right grant.

Quite honestly reading the RFP (request for proposal) also known as the Solicitation is the best way to determine what grant will work for your department. You will want to focus on whether or not your department is eligible to apply, when the grant is due, how much you can apply for, as well as the application requirements. If the grant is currently not open for applications, request a copy of the previous year RFP. Contact a person listed on the past RFP to inquire if that grant program will be re-issued. This will help you plan ahead as you start gathering information for when the grant does open.

Building upon what we learned from Lessons 1-3 above, let’s say we are in a community with an identified and data supported drug problem. Our solution to this problem is to supply thermal-imaging cameras to apprehend suspects and counteract drug sales and distribution. A good grant for this is going to be something like the Edward Byrne Memorial JAG program or a local Community Development Grant that supports Crime Reduction.

So where can you find these targeted grant opportunities? Some of the places you can find them are PoliceGrantsHelp, Grants.Gov, and Foundation Directory (access at your local library for free).

Next Steps
Let’s be honest – grants are tedious and time consuming. The flip side is they are incredibly rewarding. The team here is ready to support you through your project and provide as many resources as possible in the coming year.

We try to post as many grant opportunities as possible on PoliceGrantsHelp. You can also ask questions on our PGH Blog, our Facebook page or receive new grant alerts announcements by signing up to be a member of PGH. If you are interested in talking to us in person or getting training – here is a list of where we will be in 2011.

Happy Holidays and Stay Safe Everyone!

Sarah is responsible for the day to day management of the Grants program on PoliceGrantsHelp, FireGrantsHelp and EMSGrantsHelp. She has been working with non-profits professionally and personally for over 8 years and has assisted over 16,000 public safety agencies with grant research and grant assistance.

Under her direction the Grants program has raised over $13 million for public safety agencies in just under 3 years. Prior to managing the Grants program, Miss Wilson was the Director of Operations for the Praetorian Group and held various marketing and organizational management positions within financial services. Sarah earned her bachelor's degree from the University of California at Davis. A west coaster her entire life, Sarah was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, raised in Southern California and currently calls San Francisco home.

Contact Sarah Wilson

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