During my recent presentation at EMS World EXPO regarding successful grant applications, I heard a consistent echo of frustration from all volunteer, non-for-profit ambulance organization representatives who believe that the paid not-for-profit services get all the grants.
If that is true, it raises the question: why would a donor pass up funding a needy service staffed by volunteers in favor of a paid not-for-profit organization? Why do grantors push aside any application?
If all applications are judged by the same criteria, then why are some EMS agencies not getting their fair share?
If you find your organization in this predicament (volunteer or paid), you might want to ask yourselves the following list of questions:
If perception is reality, is there a negative connotation associated with our service’s reputation or appearance compared to other applicants? Do we look the part of a professional EMS organization or are we thought of as being the best the community could do under the circumstances? Are we thought of as more of a social club than a professional EMS operation?
Does it look like we are asking for “toys” or have we conveyed our desperate need for equipment, training and/or funding that will make a significant lifesaving difference for those we serve or perhaps all those we could potentially serve? Can we tell a most convincing story backed by statistics and anecdotes?
Are we accountable and reliable? Have we put in place some metrics that will help us prove we keep our promises? Are we on-time? Can a 3rd party verify our performance?
Does it look like we have done our homework? Do our financial numbers add up? Are our EMS personnel well trained and consistently documented for up-to-date credentials?
Do we have any friends? Can we list those who support us in our community? Can we get letters of support for our grant ask?
Using the mantra of “bring on the bad news” as an attitude for accepting failure will serve your organization and its grant writers well.
And, when you find those in your organization doing any of the following listed activities, it is a sure sign that the fear of failing is what is standing in the way of your organization’s success.
Not giving 100 percent: If you lose will it be more important for you to say, “We didn’t give it our all or we would have been successful” than if you really went all out and then lost anyway?
Procrastinating: Most grant applications have a submission deadline. Supplying too little, too late is an all too common lack of activity perpetrated by fearful grant applicants.
Avoidance: If you ignore big road blocks in the way of your success; they will remain the 500 pound elephant in the room for you and for the grant application reviewers who compare your “ask” with all those other EMS operations who want the very same funding you want. Address any big issue head on. Let grantors know up front how you’re dealing with big issues like criminal allegations, embarrassing behaviors, financial missteps, etc.
When your EMS organization makes compelling requests backed by tangible evidence that shows you “walk your talk,” it won’t matter the size or configuration of your service. And, if you still hear a “no” remember, it’s not over. That big fat “no” offers a great opportunity to check back with the grantor to find out what didn’t work and why. And, you can also ask if your organization is eligible to apply again. Often it’s your tenacity as well as the improvement you make to your application that will make it hard for a donor to say “no” a second time.
About the author
Janet Smith's track record for business development in the medical marketplace spans over 20 years. Since 1990 as the owner and president of Janet Smith & Associates- On Assignment, an EMS consultancy, Janet Smith has consulted for scores of public, private and primary EMS services, winning business for clients through strategic business planning, public affairs campaigns, grant applications and proposal writing. Most recently, Janet authored and submitted a federal grant for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center's health care innovation challenge. She is also the author of numerous winning RFP responses for 9-1-1 ambulance contracts. Most recently, authoring the winning ambulance procurement proposal for North Star EMS in the City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Janet Smith is also a distinguished speaker regarding EMS and health care related issues. She recently presented at EMS Today conference in Baltimore (2012) and at the 2011 Pinnacle conference in San Diego.Janet Smith is a recipient of the President's Award from the American Ambulance Association.
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