Developing a successful grant strategy for a law enforcement agency - Part II
The Grant Application
After your agency has developed its grant program protocols (last month’s column) and you have found an appropriate opportunity to fund a project you really need, it’s time to get busy and create an application that will get you funded.
The first thing to do is create a team, because putting a grant application together takes a lot of input and work that one person probably can’t do alone. At a minimum, this team needs to include an application manager, at least one subject matter expert, and a budget manager.
The application manager will be responsible for making sure the application is on track to meet the submission deadline, as well as making assignments for the various sections of the application to appropriate team members. This person will probably be responsible for the actual submission of the application. The first thing the application manager needs to do is read the solicitation thoroughly to see what information is needed. This will include the details on the project (need statement, project narrative, outcomes, etc.), but even more important are the special requests you may not be expecting to provide. For instance, you may need a copy of your agency’s budget, URC data for the past three years, a letter of collaboration from other agencies (including the Mayor or other local leaders) or some other item that isn’t right at your fingertips. It’s the job of the application manager to make sure these things get done, so it’s important to set this up at the very beginning. I suggest at this point that the application manager create a list of everything needed with the name of the person assigned to get it done, then set deadlines for submitting that information back to the him. If someone isn’t getting things done in a timely manner, the application manager needs to address it immediately. Once a deadline passes, you lose.
Your subject matter experts (SMEs) should understand the project fully and translate that into the sections of the application. Whether you are asking for technology, basic policing equipment or something else, these are the people who need to answer the questions posed in the solicitation, such as what problem are you trying to solve (the need statement); how will you solve the problem (the project narrative); and how will you know you are successful (the outcomes and evaluation)? This is a simplification of what should be in your application, but it covers the basics. The solicitation will be very specific, so follow it to the letter! Your SMEs should probably come from the unit that will be benefitting from the project, plus anyone else who will be involved, such as the technology folks.
A budget manager needs to be involved from the very beginning for a few reasons. First, it’s important to make sure that what you will be asking for in the grant is something not already included in your current or upcoming budget. For federal grants especially, you take something out of your budget because you got a grant to pay for. That’s called supplanting, and it’s not allowed. Also, the budget manager should be able to create the grant budget based on quotes from vendors, which will be your guide in developing the budget. This is a very important part of the application, and budget folks understand how to put these together. Another issue to consider is the cost of maintenance for what is being purchased, which needs to be included in the initial discussion phase. It won’t do to spend grant funds for something that you can’t afford to maintain over the years.
So, here’s the big question: Who will write the grant? The application manager will be receiving information for the various sections of the application from different people, and it’s very likely that some rewrite will be necessary to make the application concise and clear. The truth is, you don’t need to be a great writer to put a successful application together, but you need to make sure it is easy to read, includes all of the information requested, and gives the reviewer a clear picture of what you will be doing if you get funded. Have someone outside this process read through the application. In fact, ask a few people to review it.
Even for a police agency without a dedicated grant person, it’s still possible to put together a winning application. It takes teamwork and support, but it can be done.
Part 3: Managing an awarded grant.