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Should Our Department Hire a Grant Writer?

Recently there has been an increase in the number of solicitations from private grant writers and grant writing companies looking to establish grant writing services for fire departments.  These solicitations are often in the form of an email, cold call, or attendance at a conference or other event.  While there is nothing preventing a grant company from contacting you or members of your department (and perhaps there may be something to gain), there are many considerations when hiring any outside vendor that will provide services for your department. 

The first question should be whether your department needs to hire a grant writer.  Researching and writing grants is time consuming and requires some level of research and writing skills.  Experience with grants and grant writing can make the odds better for landing a grant, but that shouldn’t scare you off, as much of the research needed is already familiar to department members, and comes in the form of department annual reports, strategic plans, NFIRS data, CAD data, etc.  

For many of the DHS/FEMA FIRE ACT grants (SAFER, AFG Equipment and Training Grants, and Fire Prevention and Safety Grants) FEMA provides easy to use tutorials, handouts, and self-rating sheets that enable someone who has never written a grant to gain an understanding of the process and successfully apply for and receive grant funding.  Often, the necessary skills exist elsewhere in your jurisdiction, and can be borrowed to help guide you through the first application.  Perhaps there are individuals or departments with grant experience willing to lend a helping hand and guide your department through the process.

Additionally, the IAFF Grants Administration Department staff is available to assist with reviewing your applications.  We ask that applications be submitted as soon as possible, and for departments to allow for a 72 hour turnaround for a full review.  The further into the grant application window, the busier the department is, so please be sure to start early.  We suggest that if the department is considering applying for a grant that you begin the process immediately by speaking with IAFF staff (202-824-1575) or emailing us at grants@iaff.org.

During the review process, IAFF staff who served as peer reviewers will grade your entire application (both automated entry/data and narrative sections), suggest areas for improvement, and provide other feedback using the self-assessment guide.  With this comprehensive review process, we have assisted many departments with markedly improving their application and submitting successful applications which were funded.  Each year approximately $140 million or 70% of successful SAFER awards are reviewed by our office.  

If your department lacks the personnel or other resources to develop a solid grant application, or wishes to invest resources identifying and applying for other less visible grant opportunities that are available, you may wish to hire a grant writer.  There are many qualified grant writers with significant experience that can provide references and previous examples of successfully funded departments that have used the grant writer’s assistance. While the IAFF maintains a grants department to assist with grant review, we do not write the grant application.  The main difference is that we will assist with developing your application, whereas many of the private grant writers will write your application from scratch.  

If you are starting from scratch, you can search these sources for listings of consultants, including grant writers (keep in mind the IAFF does not endorse any of these – they are merely here for reference only): 

•The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) offers a Consultants Directory at its website that can be searched by specialty, name, or by geographic area. 

•The American Association of Grant Professionals has a national list of member consultant services.



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