Firefighting grants: How to land non-AFG funding

There are several smaller local and federal grants available to fire departments that know where to look and what to ask for

As many of us start to suffer from post AFG grant writing withdrawal, I always seem to get one question from a department: "Where else can I find funding for some of my smaller projects?"

There could be a thousand different answers to that question. Some states offer financial assistance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture might be a source for you. There are foundations and corporations with grant programs.

These depend on your project, where you are located and the amount of founding you seek. Some might answer your need and others may not. Then there is the issue of how to find the details on some of these programs.

One possibility that every department might find in their backyard is their local financial institutions. Banks are encouraged to make investments in the communities they serve by the Community Reinvestment Act.

This was an act passed by Congress in 1977 to encourage financial institutions to meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Compliance is monitored via regular audits, and a poor record of CRA compliance is taken into consideration when the financial institution applies for deposit facilities, including mergers and acquisitions.

One may find a financial institution's rating for CRA compliance by visiting the websites of the various regulatory agencies that track compliance. A financial institution may appear on one list but not others, depending on which agency has responsibility for that bank and its CRA compliance.

Here are four possibilities:

What to ask for
To stay in compliance with this law, financial institutions offer grant funding either directly through their bank or through foundations that they have established for such a purpose.

The best time to apply for this funding is usually in December or January. This is when most banks are planning or implementing their annual budgets.

The difficult point is that there is no across-the-board process for applying for such funding. Some banks have a formal application and others simply require a letter of interest. Some give their local managers some freedom to determine who gets funded, and others have an established committee for making such decisions.

There are some consistencies. The maximum grant size is in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. Either your project needs to be in that funding range or you need to show a match that would bring it to that level.

Banks seem to like projects that benefit the larger community. Putting technology on the fireground, fire prevention materials, AEDs and similar items move to the front of the funding line.

Applying to remodel the fire station kitchen or to buy new tables is going to get you a nice rejection letter.

Remember to include information on how this award will be announced to the public if you are funded. Financial Institutions want publicity for their donation. 

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