How to win the fire-grant data battle

Getting a head start on standard data collection will improve award odds and cut application stress

By Diane H. Leonard

Grant writing professionals such as myself are quick to climb on the soapbox and preach the importance of planning for grant applications.

Planning makes the application more competitive and it makes the lives of those involved in the application less stressful. It ultimately aides the organization seeking the grant in securing the funds necessary to achieve its mission.

However, the question there are two questions I frequently field when it comes to planning.

  • How much preplanning do I need to do?
  • What does preplanning really involve?

Program design and specific project budgets are often difficult to solidify prior to a notice of funding availability (NOFA) or request for proposal (RFP) release by a grant maker.

The specific NOFA or RFP will often contain new language about priorities or specific information about eligible or ineligible expenses. This will modify the design of a project or approach to other funding sources.

Regardless of the specifics in a NOFA or RFP, collecting data is the one thing that a grant-seeking organization must do consistently in the planning phase in order to make itself more competitive in the process.

I can sense your next question, "What data is that?"

Ahead of the curve
Each grant seeking organization has a unique set of data that their grant makers typically ask of them. For example, fire departments need to provide not only census data for the communities where they operate, but also call volume and vehicle/equipment inventory data.

Likewise, EMS squads must provide census data, call volume, vehicle equipment. However, they also will likely need data about the health of the community and particular health concerns for the specific service area.

All of this data can be gathered before beginning a grant application. Therefore, ensure that this pool of standard data for your organization is current and has been appropriately validated and analyzed the grant team to use in the grant design process once the NOFA or RFP is indeed finally released.

This will save you the time and stress of having to gather the data and then make design decisions at a later date while waiting for information.

This will also reduce unnecessary stress in the process and ultimately give you more time to spend polishing the application and the story that you are telling with your data.

So, for a homework assignment think about the next application you anticipate coming up — maybe it is the AFG application that is due Nov. 18. Gather that core data now.

Even if having more than 60 days until a deadline feels like a lifetime, you'll be thanking me later, especially when grant awards are announced, if you have the data done early.

About the author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC is an experienced grant professional who has provided grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope for more than a decade. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC based in Clayton, N.Y. in 2006. Diane began her career in philanthropy as a program officer for the Michigan Women's Foundation, a statewide public foundation. She is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association and has earned her Grant Professional Certification, a credentialed certification conferred by the Grant Professional Credential Institute.

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