To many people, grants are a mystery. They can seem like magic money that comes from secret places. Nowhere in the EMS curriculum do you learn how to look or apply for them. So how do you decide to apply for a grant and go about getting it done?
Grants are simply money that is earmarked for very specific purposes. Grant makers have money they want distributed to further their unique missions, and if you can be part of their mission, they are willing to give you money. That is truly the key to successful grant writing: making your priorities fit with granters'. In this article we will walk through getting ready to apply for grants in a systematic way that anyone can follow. Grant writing takes time and experience, but you can start making progress and set goals along the way to make your appeals successful.
The good news is, yes, you should apply. Every year the federal government, states and private foundations give away literally billions of dollars. All of these funds fall into specific categories with specific requirements, but when you are eligible for a grant, you should go for it. The fact of grant writing is that most applications are turned down--many for not meeting guidelines, not following instructions or because there were too many applications to fund them all. You can increase your odds if you follow a few simple steps. As one grant consultant says, "The money is there, and it is going to be given to somebody. It might was well be you!"
Most people and agencies determine they need a grant when they decide they want to purchase something they can't afford in their normal budgeting process. It rarely works that way. Most grant processes are very focused in nature and cannot be adapted to your needs.
So how do you get a grant? First you must understand your agency and have a comprehensive plan for it. Most call this a strategic plan, but at a minimum you must understand how your operation currently works and what you think it will become in the next 5–10 years. Look at all aspects. Think not just about equipment, but about how things get done. Evaluate your processes to determine where improvements can be made. Having a plan prepared for all areas allows you to be prepared to apply for funding regardless of what your priority might be. In other words, you may really want to get cardiac monitors, but the first grant that comes up may be for data collection. You have to be prepared to fit the grant processes you find to a variety of needs within your organization.
The other thing a strategic plan does is help you identify areas of need, so you can begin collecting data to justify grant requests. Every granter wants you to prove you have a need their money can help meet. You need solid data to make that case. Data is the foundation on which you will build your argument, and your argument must be more convincing than the next guy's to collect the cash. There is absolutely no replacement for solid data in a grant narrative.
When you begin planning, think about the end results first. Ask yourself if what you are planning actually makes sense. Is what you want to do achievable? Is it cost-reasonable? Will it provide real improvement to the problem you have? Remember that the people who review your grants are people just like you. They are business people who will know very well if what you are asking is feasible. Think about where you want to be, then build the steps to get there.
SECRETS OF SUCCESS
Being successful at grant writing begins with finding a grant that matches your needs. Many times agencies will try to fit what they want into a grant process they hear about. Usually this will not work. Your needs must fit exactly within guidelines set forth by the entity with the money.
Next you will need to do research. After finding a grant process, you will need to read every single word in its application and guidelines. Read it all before you start. You may find something that will exclude your agency from applying.