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Social networking for grant leads

Creating positive professional relationships can help you find new sources for grants and funding

Editor’s note: In the article “Overlooked grants could bolster your budget” we discussed how to identify and focus on alternative funding sources in the form of local, regional and state grants. In this article we will discuss the potential benefits of social networking and relationship building as they pertain to identifying funding.

By Bryan Jack

I was recently discussing a leadership conference that one of my fire department captains attended. This conference was not targeted specifically towards fire service leadership — it was targeted towards municipalities and the general business world — but it addressed leadership nonetheless. The captain explained that he had been introduced to the county’s grant specialist and that she had agreed to send him any grants that our organization would qualify for in the future. Lo and behold, the next day we received our first e-mail and grant lead from our new acquaintance. The lesson here is that we didn’t have to spend hours researching grants or funding sources online, or make a dozen phone calls. The captain simply introduced himself to the right person, had a conversation, and established an instant professional relationship and asked for assistance. Encounters such as these have the potential to create positive professional relationships and benefit your organization in the future.

Have you spoken with your county’s grant management specialist lately? Have you called, e-mailed, or met for a cup of coffee with the fire chief in the next district over? Have you contacted any of your state officials to see what is new on the funding scene? Do you regularly check to see what agencies in your state have received grant funding? (Who funded them, what was the project, how much was funded?) If your answer to these questions is no, then you are probably missing out on a ton of funding opportunities or programs. Create or re-establish lines of communications with those that surround you and you just might be surprised at what opportunities present themselves.

Sometimes you have to be willing to ask for assistance. You have to be willing to find out how everyone else is funding their fire department projects or purchasing equipment, or simply making things work in this tough economy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m quite certain that most agencies that have written successful grants or funding requests would be willing to help you in some way, shape or form. But only after you ask for assistance!

There are other ways in which new networks and relationships may also benefit your organization. Remember, the benefit doesn’t simply have to be in the form of a grant or direct funding. Many emergency service agencies and other governmental departments may be able to assist you with project completion or alternative funding solutions. Solutions could be “in kind” assistance, equipment usage or donation, technical assistance, cost sharing programs, etc.

For example, does the local streets or roads department have excess equipment that you could use to meet one of your objectives (traffic cones, safety vests, older fleet apparatus that could be converted to a fire service application, etc.)? Does the city’s radio shop have used communication equipment that they would be willing to donate or sell to you at a fraction of the cost? Can you cost-share an employee or employees with the surrounding fire districts (administrative or operational)? In times like these you need to get creative, try something new, and take a few chances.

Remember, open the lines of communications, ask questions, build strong professional relationships, ask for help when needed, and be prepared to return the favor in the future.

Bryan Jack is a grant consultant with and its sister site, A 15-year veteran of the fire service, Bryan is currently serving as Battalion Chief at Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District in Monument, Colorado. A certified Fire Officer and Paramedic, Bryan has been successfully writing, reviewing and consulting on grants for more than five years. For any questions related to grants, you can contact Bryan at He will be featuring some of the questions – and his answers – in upcoming columns.