As grant season winds down, get ready for the next cycle

Whether you are a veteran grant manager or relatively new to the process, it's likely you have noticed the rush of grant activity that takes place from late winter to mid summer. That's a typical grant season, particularly for federal funders — or, as many refer to it, the crazy season. New opportunities hit early in the cycle (or hints are given that something will be available soon) and due dates loom, often near the time you set aside for that well-deserved family vacation. It was tight, but somehow you made it through and were able to submit a great application for your agency.

But before you think you can just take it easy for the next few months, let me clue you in on what you should be doing right now.  Here's a hint: plenty!

Let's divide this into two separate parts: (1) what you need; and (2) where you can get it.

The “what you need” part is something you should have already set in motion. It's all about being in tune with each division within your department — patrol, investigations, personnel and technology, for instance. What has been planned that could benefit from grant funds? And how do you find out about it? Do you meet regularly with department heads? Are you included in planning strategies?

If nothing is currently set up to accomplish this, now is the time to figure out the best way to include you early in the process. For example, lets say your jurisdiction is experiencing gang-related problems. Certainly plans are being made to address this issue, which could mean the agency will need to purchase equipment, train officers in response to gang events, or schedule overtime for specific deployments. All of these things take money. As the grant manager, it's your job to understand this so you can match the need to available opportunities. If you don't know what they need, you may overlook opportunities that can help. Quite a waste of time and money, isn't it?

Which brings us to the second point — where you can get it. Picture this (you probably don't have to stretch your imagination since this is the typical scenario): your chief comes to you and asks you to find funding for one or two or all of the items listed above to help them in their well-planned efforts to fight gang violence. Which is starting very soon.

So you hop onto your computer and begin to search. Hmmmm — nothing in right now that would fit. Foundations? Well, you have been meaning to scour the internet to find a foundation or corporation that provides funding to law enforcement agencies for public safety concerns that are near and dear to their hearts. It's definitely on your to-do list. If only you had the time to know who and what and when.

You do now! Sure, there's a lot still going on that's keeping you busy. After all, grants are only one part of your job. And then there's managing all of those grants you were successful in securing.

But planning is vital, particularly when it comes to grants. The first step is to figure out how you can be included in the information loop. It may involve  something as simple as poking your head in an office door, or formally requesting to be added to the list of attendees for specific meetings.

Step two will take a bit of effort, but will be pay off down the road. Take the time right now to review every federal solicitation that was released in the past two years. Each division of the federal government should have on their website a list of solicitations by year released (broaden your search to include more than just the Department of Justice). Some federal opportunities come up every year, and some every two years or so. Look at not only what was open, but who was awarded the grants. That will show you the type of projects most likely to be supported. If possible, contact the agency that received the award and ask if you can look at their narrative, or talk to the person heading up the project. This kind of knowledge is very valuable.

Find all of the foundations and businesses (paying close attention to those located in your city or town) that fund police departments or have a public safety focus included in their priority areas. If possible, contact the grant director to see if they are open to the kind of project you need.  Create a chart of potential funders and their priority areas. This will give you a base to work from when you go searching for opportunities to fund a current need.

Don't just sit on this information, however. Once you have a grasp on what's going to be available soon, mention these opportunities in the meetings you are now attending. You may find that someone had a great idea for a project but didn't voice it because of budgetary constraints.

Matching need with opportunity is the main goal of any grant office. To be successful, you have to plan ahead. Do it now, and you will be more than ready when the next grant season opens!

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