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Guide to AFG: Outlining the Benefits

Editor's note: In this third installment of our 'Guide to AFG,' Jerry Brant explains how grant writers should approach the financial need section of the application. The application period for FY2009 AFG runs from Wednesday, April 15, through Wednesday, May 20, at 5 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to check out the first and second parts of this series.

By Jerry Brant 

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The cost/benefit element of the AFG narrative gives you the opportunity to explain what benefits you will realize in return for the grant funds you receive. In this section your narrative should discuss how often the equipment that you are requesting will be used.

Reviewers have a tendency to give low scores to items that will be used infrequently. The exception to this rule is if you can justify the substantial benefit that will be received by the department or the community. This is an extremely difficult task but one that can be accomplished with the proper amount of information and explanation

You'll need to explain in this section how the purchase of this equipment will increase the efficiency of your department's operations. Basically describe what will change if your request is approved.

Example: The Union Township Fire Department (UTFD) is requesting funds to purchase 10 complete sets of PPE for its members. The purchase of this gear will have a 100 percent benefit to the department, the community and our firefighters. The new PPE will be used at all calls since its use is mandated by our department's SOGs.This will allow our department to respond to all alarms with a greater number of trained and properly equipped firefighters.

The next point you should attempt to make is how this equipment will increase interoperability. One point to remember: do not confuse interoperability with standardization. In other words, it is not interoperability to state that we want to purchase new PPE to be the same as all other departments in our area. Also discuss how the impact of the grant will be increased or leveraged in your area.

Example: By funding the UTFD request for PPE, we will be able to respond additional firefighters upon request by other departments under mutual aid. This is especially important during the daylight hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when our neighboring companies do not have sufficient manpower due to their employment schedules.
What you have done is told the reviewers that the money spent in purchasing this equipment will be used 100 percent of the time by your department. You have made an additional case for your request by showing that not only will your department benefit, but you are benefiting the entire area by increasing the number of equipped firefighters that can respond upon request. Your application has now made an impact not only on your community but on the entire region.

Next briefly explain how the cost of the grant will be controlled. Then discuss why this is the most economical or innovative solution to your identified risk. In this section describe the process you will use to procure the equipment if you are funded and how this will ensure the best possible price. Finally you should outline the consequences of not receiving financial support through AFG. The best possible technique to use is to simply give real examples of incidents that have been negatively impacted in recent months because you didn't have the proper equipment.

Example: At 8:15 a.m. on December 8 2008, our department was dispatched to smoke in a structure at 215 River Street. When our first engine arrived on scene, they laid a supply line from the hydrant at the corner of 3rd and River Street and established operations at the A side of the building. A crew advanced a hand line into the structure and radioed to the IC that they had encountered heavy fire in the interior of the structure. The IC radioed communications to upgrade the call to a working fire and to dispatch a second alarm. Our department was unable to fulfill our second alarm assignment because the personnel that responded to our station that day lacked proper PPE for interior structural firefighting. Because of the time of day, it was 12 minutes before a second engine from our mutual aid company arrived. By this time the IC had made the decision to pull the interior crew because of safety reasons. As a result, we moved to a defensive operation and the building suffered $250,000 in damages.

If our request for assistance to purchase PPE for our additional members is not approved, it will continue to have a negative impact on our ability to provide our community with the best possible protection and it will continue to jeopardize the safety of our firefighters.

This should give you a reasonably good idea of the essential information that makes a grant narrative more viable. As you can see from my examples in this section, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of literature. AFG wants you to tell them what you will do with their funds, how this will benefit your department and the community, how often it will be used and what will happen if you are not funded.

Next time I will focus on the final AFG narrative element, "Effect on Daily Operations."

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