It just recently dawned on me how grant writing and law enforcement are alike in many ways. Each grant application is like presenting a case to the judge. The grant writer/investigator has to gather all of the facts, data, history, information, and a clear description of the problem and its outcome. Each grant proposal is a presentation of a case statement.
It differs due to the fact that each case statement for the grant application also requires proof of your departmental capacity to make the case, offer proof that the problem is real and gather data to demonstrate the scope of the problem. Grant writing also requires the oversight of the chief. To be successful in obtaining essential funding for technology and equipment, someone needs to be the range master and assist the entire department in keeping the eye on the front sight.
Grant funders require a strong, demonstrated capacity within each police department to acquire, manage and implement the grant. They are looking for police departments which have learned to strategically develop their case statements for funding and included with the case statement is data which demonstrates that the problem is real.
When preparing for the money, the chief and other management need to achieve the following:
Create a departmental targeted approach for the funding.
1. Develop a strategic plan with goals and objectives for your department. Gather the crime data and analyze trends within your community. Your grants should focus on the tools, projects and technology to meet those trends. Identify and prioritize your key operational needs. Create a task assignment sheet for each objective and assign someone to complete the task. Monitor and measure annual progress and outcomes of your plan. Create an annual progress report for the funders, politicians and your community
2. Develop a written plan for strategic acquisition and disposition of technology and equipment. Use life cycle planning for equipment and technology and attach a fund development plan and cost benefit analysis to the life cycle. All equipment and technology grows old and needs to be replaced at certain, planned intervals. Create in Microsoft Excel a digital inventory management process for all equipment and technology to help you keep your eye on the target.
3. Develop a written plan for personnel training and staff expansion based on the crime data and other needs based information. Plan for personnel sustainability, training and professional development. Keep yourself and your department up-to-date with current trends and best practices in the law enforcement industry. Use your crime data to demonstrate the need for expanded hiring in high crime areas.
Eliminate the “Wants Syndrome”
Create a departmental grant writing culture of a “department of demonstrated need”. So many officers come into my grant writing class with a list of things they WANT to buy with grant funding. Today, there are more and more police tools, technologies and fun “gadgets” which make many people see grant funding more like making a selection in the toy shop than a business contract. Officers in charge of writing grants need to be trained to develop a case statement for new ideas and for demonstrating the actual need and cost benefit of acquiring the tool or technology through a grant. Grant money is not free, nor is it without strings. A significant financial commitment by the police department is required with every grant. In-kind contributions (personnel time, office space, vehicles, etc.), may seem innocuous, but come at a huge cost to the annual budget. Close monitoring is required to manage that commitment, to assure that the department is not stretching itself too thin by accepting the “free’ money from the funder. A cost benefit analysis helps in understanding the depth of the commitment
Gather data and more data
Develop a baseline database of crime statistics and community issues indicators. Partner with the community organizations who have a connection to the same target population your department serves. Use the baseline data and indicators to compare your community with sister communities. You can also use the baseline data in your grants to serve as a comparison to your outcomes data at the end of a grant project. Develop a resource and asset list within your community. Target those community organizations who can serve as partners with you in acquiring grant funding such as schools, county service programs, other law enforcement agencies, etc.
Eliminate any barriers to funding
1. Prepare your organization for funding by indentifying any barriers to easily completing grant applications in a short period of time. For example, take a hard look at your internal policies for acquisition of equipment and technology. If it takes a long time to get approval for a purchase the grant application deadline will be long closed before a decision is made. Grant funders usually offer only a few short weeks from the publication of the request for proposal to the closing date for application. Find ways to address the Municipal Purchasing Ordinances and other municipal policies which inhibit your ability to apply for grants. By planning and presenting a strong case statement you can justify your needs more clearly to the people who hold your purse strings
2. Keep a close eye on civil liberties, legal issues, standards and differing policy barriers to acquiring equipment and technology. Personal privacy, civil rights and “right-to-know” may get in the way of effective tools for crime mapping technology
3. Develop strategies to overcome community barriers. After writing grants for over 30 years, and teaching grant writing for over 11 of those years to law enforcement, the biggest community barrier I see is the hesitation of both community organizations and police departments to approach each other. Through their class evaluations, my class participants which include both law enforcement and community organizations, they unanimously agree that they did not even know they had so much in common and could work together in a way that provides the funding they both need. Many funders now require those types of partnerships as they have realized the same thing. Develop horizontal and vertical partnerships to maximize your eligibility for grants. Horizontal partnerships with fellow law enforcement agencies can enhance your ability to access funding for regionally shared technology and equipment. Vertical community partnerships will enhance your chances of partnering for grant funding which only a non-profit can access, expanding your grant options.
4. To lessen the burden of preparing for grant writing, you might want to consider hiring a retired officer to help with grant writing. Recruit interns from colleges and universities to do the research and data gathering. Locate a retired senior professional who wants to give back the community to help with strategic planning.
5. Consider developing internal skills within your staff to address the many facets of creating a “grant ready” department. Hire a “high tech savvy” staff person who also understands law enforcement. Take time to educate your community, elected officials, corporations and non-profit organizations about law enforcement needs. Sometimes we only have to ask for help and save the time of writing a grant!
6. Lastly, send a staff member who is good at expressive writing, analytical thinking, and up-to-date on the state-of-the-art police strategies, tools and technologies. It takes special skills to be a grant writer and not everyone fits that profile.
Keeping your eye on your organizational front sight will enable you to develop competitive grant applications and take accurate aim at those critical tools and technologies you are seeking. Careful planning and execution of new approaches to funding will reward both your department and your community.