Organizational success means you will need operational skills, fiscal integrity and a solid foundation of goodwill. As you plan meetings with your elected officials and regulators in your service area, be sure to pay attention to those who are responsible for providing residents with emergency medical services.
As a strategic grant seeker, look at who’s important in terms of funding your EMS organization. While it seems automatic to consider state and federal funding sources, don’t forget to touch base with the local, county or state foundations that might fund all or part of your organization’s operations, equipment, education and personnel.
“Building a core base of foundation support should play a role in every organization’s funding stream,” distinguished grant writer Pamela Grow says. “Where most organizations fall flat is in not realizing that relationship building plays a big role in foundation funding as it does in individual fundraising.”
In terms of strategic planning for your EMS organization, consider incorporating some relationship development milestones into your plan. Planning to apply and re-apply for grant funding should be part of the plan. However, do note that winning the nod of a grant selection committee is a process. So, plan for it.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, plan for a few rejections as part of the process. Local and regional foundation board members may want to see what you’re made of. They may want to experience your organization’s spirit of commitment and dedication to a cause and your persistence for fulfilling a need.
Some foundations’ grant committees look forward to you asking, “What could we have done better in our application?” Or, “Are we eligible for funding in the next grant cycle?” While planning for rejection seems to be a waste of time, planning to foster a relationship by re-applying and asking for mentors’ feedback is a good idea. Your willingness to listen, to be educated, and to refine your "ask” may motivate those foundations to fund your organization year after year.
Maximize your resources
The key to making the rejection part of the process is to minimize the application effort wherever possible. Minimizing the time to cement collaborative relationships means using inexpensive tools and maximizing the resources available.
The following suggestions will help minimize your grant writer’s time in your relationship building process:
1. If you plan to submit your application more than once, then find funding sources that don’t require as much extensive research or documentation as the state or federal grant makers require. Small- to medium-sized foundations may be the best sources for less intimidating applications. Search grant makers associations for your state or region. You may find such an association has worked with all the member foundations in the association to standardize an application members will accept.
2. Work with groups like EMS Grants Help. They have already paid the subscription fees for foundations’ active grants. You can also check a local library to see if it has a subscription to a funding clearing house list. Accessing a library’s resources is usually accomplished by appointment. You can also check out Nozasearch.com for a list of foundations — free of charge.
3. Be visible — and not just when you’re looking for funding. Givers get. Your EMS organization will likely give back in ways they are uniquely qualified as part of the routine public relations effort. Double the results by finding out what causes are typically funded by a foundation that might potentially fund you. Volunteer to help a foundation-funded project that is aligned with EMS. This publicity and visibility will identify you as a collaborator. Your track record of generosity may give you an advantage when you’re doing the asking.
When you include re-submitting grant writing or applications as part of your EMS organization’s strategic plan, rejections will be seen as just another anticipated element in the process of great relationship building.
Ask questions if a declining foundation is or might become your mentor. Encourage collaboration and volunteer to support EMS-supported causes. Then, get credit for your good work. Most importantly, keep your organization’s story and author the most compelling “ask” possible. Good Luck!
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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