15 FAQs for Law Enforcement
1. Where does grant funding come from?
Public safety funding comes from two primary sources, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Although additional funding for various elements of public safety may come from other agencies, these two provide the bulk of funding to police departments across the country.
The funding actually comes through grant programs administered by each of these agencies. Most grant programs are focused on a particular issue, topic, or agency type, such as the Methamphetamine Enforcement Grants or COPS Technology Grants, but other grants may be more general, as the Homeland Security Grants Program and Justice Assistance Grants demonstrate.
2. Who can receive funding?
While all types of organizations are eligible to receive funding, eligibility to apply for and receive funding through a grant program is usually established by the authorizing statute that defines that program. The Small Business Innovation Research grants are set aside for small businesses, for example, while the Public Safety Interoperable Communications grants could go to nearly any agency engaged in a public safety function.
3. How can I apply for a grant?
Any agency engaged in public safety can apply for a grant. The important first step is to identify the best program to apply under. Several elements will determine whether a particular program is a good fit for your project, including:
- Total funding available – gives you an idea how broad the program will be and how competitive
- Application burden – some programs require 100 page narrative, while others may look for 10 pages or less.
- Matching requirements – some programs require a dollar for dollar match, while others may require a 5% match or no cost sharing at all.
- Scale – your customer probably won’t want to write 100 $5,000 requests to get a $500,000 project funded.
- Collaboration/partnering requirements – some grants applications require an organization to work in collaboration with others, which complicates the application process.
- Lead time – more lead time generally means more time to develop the project – six weeks is good, and three weeks is almost essential.
- Track record with the funder – generally more important for local funders than federal sources, but a consideration nonetheless.
Once you’ve decided upon a program that fits with your project objectives, you’ll need to prepare an application to the program. Be sure to follow all the application requirements provided by the agency, since a failure to do so may result in your proposal being returned without review.
4. What happened to the Public Safety Interoperability Communications (PSIC) Program?
The PSIC program was only ever intended to be a one-time opportunity to share in $1 billion in funding. However, the Interoperable Emergency Communications program (authorized in the Recommendations of the 911 Commission Act of 2007) mirrors the PSIC program and could provide up to $400 million each year through 2012.
5. How can I find out what was funded?
The federal government provides information on funding at www.usaspending.gov .
6. How long does it take from the time I submit a grant until I get get funded?
Although there is no statutory decision timeframe for most grants (an exception would be the Homeland Security Grants Program), agencies generally announce awards 4-6 months after the application deadline.
7. How soon can I begin spending the money after I receive the award notification?
After you receive an award notification, but before you can begin spending money, you will need to enter into a contract with the funder that defines the payment and deliverables schedule for the grant period (based largely on your application). Once the contract has been executed by both parties, you can begin to spend money, subject to the terms of the contract.
8. Are there similar public safety grants in Canada?
The Canadian government does make grants for public safety through several initiatives. More information on Canadian public safety grants is available from the Department of Justice at http://www.canada.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/index.html .
9. How can I get reviewers' comments for an unfunded proposal?
Reviewers’ comments provide a valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal, as determined by individuals using the actual scoring criteria for the program. If you have any inkling of applying again in the future, it’s worth requesting the reviewers’ comments on your proposal.
Generally you can obtain these comments by simply calling the program officer listed on the application guidance. If they are unresponsive, you can send a letter to the program officer requesting the reviewers’ comments. Be sure to include the CFDA number and title for the program, your agency’s DUNS number, and the title of the project you proposed. If you copy your Congressional representative on the letter as well, the Congressional staff can help you follow up.
10. How can I tell how competitive a grant program is going to be?
Although you can divide the previous year’s number of awards by the number of applications (if those numbers are publicly available) to get a funding percentage, you can generally determine how competitive a grant will be just by looking at how much total funding is available. Programs with less than $10 million available nationwide will be more competitive than one with $500 million to give away.
11. How do I figure out a whole matching requirement?
Matching requirements can be tricky, because they are usually calculated as a function of the total program budget (the matching funds you provide PLUS the grant award), using the following formula:
Grant award + Matching funds = Total project
Since your matching requirement is based on the total project cost (NOT on the amount you’re requesting from the funder), the formula for your matching requirement based on your award will be as follows:
Award amount ÷ (1-required matching % as a decimal) x required matching % as a decimal.
12. Where do I find information on grant sources and programs?
In addition to the information on policegrantshelp.com, the federal government provides grants information through the Federal Electronic Grants Clearinghouse at www.grants.gov. Grants Office LLC also provides federal, state, and foundation information along with a variety of tools to manage and enhance your grantseeking activities on its UPstreamtm Online Knowledge Base at www.grantsoffice.com.
13. Who can I contact about a particular program?
Each program is assigned a program manager, identified in the application guidance, who can answer most questions about the mechanics of a particular program. For strategy questions, contact the Cisco Grants Support Program through your Cisco account manager (if the project is technology-oriented) or the Grants Office helpdesk at 585-473-1430.
14. Do I need to hire a professional grant writer?
There is no requirement in any grant program that you have to hire a professional grantwriter in order to obtain funding. When considering whether to hire a professional grantwriter to provide assistance in applying for a grant, consider:
- Your available time to dedicate to reviewing the application requirements and preparing all the required documentation
- Your ability to articulate the project vs. explaining it to someone else who will then articulate it
- Your agency’s access to a grantwriter and ability to pay a fee for the writing.
Reputable grantwriters will require an up front fee for writing a grant proposal. Be wary of any writers who try to take a percentage of your award as payment.
15. What is required to administer a grant once I get funded?
Administration requirements vary by program, but most include the following activities:
- Contract negotiation
- Project workplan development
- Training for those participating in grant-funded activities
- Financial, activity, and outcome reporting to the funder at regular intervals.