Police grant writers: How to choose the right one for your department

Internal and outside grant writers each have a distinct set of advantages which can help your department in different ways

The decision to seek out grant funds to purchase new equipment or begin a new program is typically a fairly big one for most departments. While grant funds have become a necessity in today’s economic climate, moving forward means a time consuming commitment just to research and complete the application. If the grant ends up getting funded, more time and effort is going to be required to gather statistics, complete required reports and participate in audits.

Another giant decision in seeking grant funds is identifying who inside the department gets to be the lucky one to do all that work. Many chief administrators simply take it upon themselves to write and manage grants for their department for a variety of reasons. They may be the only administrative personnel inside of the department. Maybe they see it as part of their job duties since they are the ones putting the budget together and making all the big decisions. Who really knows? Sometimes the chief decides that grants are great projects to delegate to the Sergeant or Officer that is a part of the unit wanting the equipment or program. That’s how I got my start in grant writing; “You want it, you do it.” And, while it turned into a great opportunity for me, not everyone is so confident. The unfortunate thing, however, is when departments choose to pass on these great opportunities and simply rely on what they’re given in their annual budget.

I’ll be the first to admit that grants are a complex world that can be confusing and frustrating. I also completely understand that it is important to maintain your department’s public image and not come across with extreme desperation.

Helping you to navigate the grant world while keeping you from sending officers to a street corner with an old SWAT boot are some of the many functions of a professional grant writer. Like most other divisions within law enforcement agencies, your grants deserve the full attention of a specialist in the field. Many departments will utilize a grant writer that they employ on a full-time basis that can be either a sworn officer that is assigned as the grant coordinator or a civilian hired specifically for that purpose. This can be a great advantage for these departments because an internal grant writer is generally very knowledgeable of the department’s needs, abilities, and the progress of current projects. An internal grant writer should also be knowledgeable of the department’s long term plans for addressing future needs so they are able to easily identify grant opportunities that are a good fit.

But, just because your department doesn’t have an internal grant writer doesn’t mean that you will miss out on great funding opportunities. Working with an outside grant writer has just as many advantages as does an internal one. To begin with, outside grant writers often have a more broad scope of experience working with different types of grants. This can benefit your department when applying for non-traditional funding sources. Secondly, since outside grant writers work with multiple agencies, they are able to pull ideas and resources from those experiences to benefit your applications. Think about it, how many times have you and a group of chiefs sat around and exchanged your smooth grant writing ideas? Guess what? Grant writers do that.

So, there are a couple of things you will want to know when working with an outside grant writer. First, it is important to provide as much information about your project as possible. You know the need that initially prompted the project, so be sure to communicate that in detail. You also are the one who has access to internal records so you will have to provide the related statistics to them. Secondly, since an outside grant writer typically will have multiple clients, projects can take a little longer to complete because they have deadlines for other clients to meet as well. As long as you keep in touch with each other and all of your deadlines are met, there shouldn’t be any need for worry. Remember, grants are considered long-term projects, many times lasting up to a year. Finally, don’t forget that, ultimately, this is your project for your department. Work with your grant writer and read through their work to determine if your department and project is represented appropriately and if you can live up to the performance measures laid out in the application. If you can’t, work with your grant writer to come up with something you can measure up to.

Working with an outside grant writer can have many benefits, even more than we covered here. The key is to determine what is best for your department and what strategy gives you the best potential for success. Good luck and happy grant hunting.

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