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Grant success case study: Maximize ROI for the grant-maker

Funding a grant application is an investment that grant-makers seek to maximize the benefit to the agency and the community


Like most paramedics, I grasp and learn new concepts best when I am given real-life examples. This is no different when learning the craft of successful grant writing. How did an agency write a successful grant application?

Here are examples of EMS agencies and lessons to learn from their successes and failures.

All projects are not created equal
One of the largest challenges facing EMS agencies in the U.S. is shrinking tax-based operating budgets and decreasing revenues from payers while providing the highest level of prehospital care. This often forces the question what does the agency need funded vs. what can the agency fund from its budget allocations and revenue? However, for application reviewers all projects are not created equal.

Agency B (name withheld):

  • 100 percent volunteer personnel, $0 spent on salaries
  • Operates solely on stipend from county and donations from private citizens. The yearly budget is approximately $30,000
  • 1,000 square mile service area
  • 350 calls per year
  • Current ambulance is 20 years old and mechanically unreliable
  • Requesting $210,000 in grants to purchase a new ambulance

Agency perspective: Our current ambulance is unreliable which leads to large gaps in service for the community. With the constraints on the annual yearly budget the department will never be able to pay for an ambulance. This is a hazard to the community and we need help!

Grant-maker perspective: This application represents a poor return on investment. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars spent to only reach a small target population. In addition the product itself has high continuing operation and maintenance costs that the agency may not be able to afford due to low revenue and tax based operating budget.

Unfortunately this project was denied.

Agency B (name withheld):

  • 100 percent career personnel, 80 percent of operating budget spent on salaries
  • Operating budget consists of government contributions and revenue approximately $9 million
  • 450 square mile service area
  • 20,000 calls per year
  • Requesting $20,000 for new training manikins to educate and train agency personnel, local volunteer fire departments, and community members on bystander CPR. A focal point of the program is to provide more free CPR classes to citizens.
  • Manikins are part of an effort to teach CPR to 3,000 laypeople and train over 1,000 EMS providers.

Agency perspective: The $20,000 request is a small part of the annual operating budget for a high-volume agency with many expenses including salaries. The department focuses its budget on capital expenses and seeks outside funding for community projects from local donors who invest in the underserved population in the communities it serves.

Grant-maker perspective: This is a relatively low-cost project servicing a large underserved population with a regional effort among providers. Products being funded have insignificant maintenance costs, low depreciation, and high durability. This project fits within the department's core mission and enhances the community.

Project fully funded by a local community foundation.

Grant-makers are investing in awardees
Grant awards are becoming increasingly competitive and are viewed as an investment by grant-makers. During the application process ask and answer these two questions:

1. How does the investment in our department match the grant-makers’ expectations for return on investment?

2. Is the application for equipment or a program giving the grant-maker an opportunity to get the most bang for their buck?

In the case of Agency B, other options include looking to gain funds through multiple funders or lowering the expense through repurposing a used vehicle.

While Agency B most likely has the funds within their own budget to pay for the manikins, they saw the strength in their project from the perspective of the grant-maker and utilized local grant makers saving their agency $20,000 for other necessities. 

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