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3 grant writing rules for public safety agencies

Follow these rules to help your EMS agency or fire department take the next step in success with grant applications


FEMA reports more than 25,000 EMS and fire departments apply for a Department of Homeland Security grant each year.

There are many reasons why a grant proposal may or may not be funded and some of those reasons are beyond an applicant’s control. For example, there may be 15 well thought out and cost-effective proposals for a community paramedic program, but only 10 grants can be awarded.

There are a number of factors that an agency grant writer can control that directly improve the chances of getting your project funded. The content of your application is arguably the most important factor you can control. Here are three rules to follow while writing your proposal.

Rule 1: Obey the Three Cs — Concise, Clear and Complete
Your goal should be to provide a complete account of what is to be done as briefly and clearly as possible. Specify the project scope and make sure it is realistic with respect to the funds requested. For example, if you are applying for funds to purchase a new ambulance do not ask for less than the required amount unless you can explain how you intend to raise the additional funds necessary.

A common temptation for inexperienced grant writers is to propose to do too much. These applications are usually graded as overly ambitious and consequently poorly rated by reviewers.   

Rule 2: Include the appropriate background and preliminary data
Convince the reviewers that the work you propose needs to be done and that your agency is the best organization to do it. Show the reviewers that you have done the due diligence necessary to be successful with the proposed funds.

For example, provide some tantalizing results from agencies that have completed similar projects. Give projected results from this research and internal data which conveys a realistic outcome for the grant maker. For example, if you are proposing a mental health patient diversion program gather how many of your patients would have met the proposed criteria over the last five years to show a trend projection if your project is funded.

Rule 3: Remember reviewers are people too
Typically, reviewers have large number of grants to review in a short period. They will easily lose concentration and miss key points of your proposal if they are buried in an overly lengthy or difficult-to-read document.

Additionally, if you are submitting to a private foundation or corporation more than likely the reviewer will not be an EMS expert. Practice and develop the skill of explaining EMS functions and operations to lay people. For example, when trying to describe why your agency needs simulation equipment utilize phrases and words that all organizations understand such as feedback, team training and quality improvement measures.

This is a concise picture of grant writing tips intended to help your agency take the next step in success with grant applications. Being mindful of these rules will enhance the quality of the content and ultimately how the reviewer reads your application.

Good luck getting those grants! 

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