What is a grant?
Be sure to explore all of possibilities and make sure that the opportunities fit with your agency's budget and needs
To explore all funding opportunities that might be available for your organization, there needs to be an understanding of the terminology involved. A grant should not be confused with an "entitlement," a "benefit," or a "loan," which have very different definitions. These different possibilities offer a wide variety of options if your agency has financial needs. All of the sources of assistance should be investigated and your decision will depend on budget, the type of project, and availability of the money.
Grants seem to be the most common and work well because the money that is available is to be "given" to the agency. A grant is defined at grants.gov as: "An award of financial assistance, the principal purpose of which is to transfer a thing of value from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States (see 31 U.S.C. 6101(3)). A grant is distinguished from a contract, which is used to acquire property or services for the federal government's direct benefit or use." This means a few things for all of us. While there are guidelines for eligibility and awards, the organizations that may apply for a grant are higher in number than many other programs.
An organization may be eligible for an entitlement, but this would be very specific. Entitlement is defined as: "A government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group." Because of the very specific parameters, these opportunities might be rarer than others. An example could be a Native American Reservation that may receive an entitlement that might be able to fund an EMS program.
A benefit is: "A payment made or an entitlement available in accordance with a wage agreement, an insurance policy, or a public assistance program." This really does not need an example. And finally a "loan," as most know, is an amount of money that will need to be paid back with scheduled payments including interest. Most people know how these work on a personal level and don't need any further explanation.
There may be funding available from any of the above areas, so be sure to explore all of possibilities and make sure that the opportunities fit with your agency's budget and needs. With a grant, while there is generally a requirement for some cost matching, they usually are preferred due to the money being an "award" that will not require repayment. Cost matching can vary depending on the granting organization and on the demographics of the agency applying. Many times it will be a percentage of the award. Grants are also more frequently available and are easily found with consistent searches on EMSgrantshelp.com, firegrantshelp.com, and also grants.gov.
Whichever opportunity your organization is able to pursue, there may be a different approaches that you will be able to take. Grants can be applied for and then, if it is an annual cycle, reapplied for. Remember to not get discouraged if your agency is denied funding. Grant awards are not prejudiced! Just reassess your needs, modify your request, and reapply. You can also have a "back-up plan" to utilize a different form of funding if grant money is not awarded. These are all reasons to understand all of the available sources of funding and utilize them as they fit your organization's needs and budget.