Grant Application First Aid Kit
with Linda Gilbertson
Create a positive grant environment
As the grant person for your agency, what kind of environment do you work under? Is there thoughtful, deliberate strategizing that makes the best use of available funding by determining real need and developing projects to fit? Or is yours more the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” mentality that expects you to submit as many applications as possible to get whatever you can?
Obviously you want to work under the first description and run from the second. Realistically, you probably deal with a little of both.
Whether your entire job is grant-related or working with grants only makes up a portion of your responsibilities, it’s important to do it well in order to maximize the opportunities that are available. And that starts with setting your own goals for what you want to accomplish.
As a general rule, don’t go by numbers. To be successful, it truly isn’t how many grants you apply for but how well your project matches what the funder wants. Put your limited energies toward the most appropriate opportunities. Putting together grant applications is hard work, so make sure you are maximizing your efforts.
As bad as it is to send out an application that doesn’t fit, even worse is missing out on an opportunity that would have fit because you either didn’t know about it or didn’t know it was a need.
To guard against that, make it a daily or weekly ritual to look for new opportunities. Check the main sites such as grants.gov for federal grants and the Foundation Center for foundations and organizations that provide funding. One key that will lead to better outcomes is to broaden your search. For instance, in addition to the Department of Justice, which is obviously a major source of funding for law enforcement, you should look at agencies such as the departments of Education or Health and Human Services. There may be opportunities to partner with other local agencies to address a joint problem such as truancy and delinquency, mental health and substance abuse, or some other area that affects more than just the police.
In addition to finding grant opportunities, know what your agency’s needs are so that you can recognize the opportunities that do fit. Creating a running list of projects from each area of your agency would be a good place to start. You may even find that some of the needs overlap among departments, which could make it easier for you to find appropriate opportunities and develop a more fundable project.
If you set your processes up for success, you will be more likely to find great opportunities to fill your needs and have better outcomes for the applications you do submit.