What's Inside A Winning FEMA Application?

Author: Rodney Slaughter


The FEMA Grant Workshop held January 15, 2002 at the Ben Clark Training Center in Riverside, California revealed interesting insights for successful FEMA grant applications. You have heard, no doubt, that funding for this years FEMA grant is $360 million! According to Brian Cowan, Chief of USFA National Fire Programs, "FEMA expects to make approximately 4,000 grants this year." Grants will be made in four major program areas including:

  • Fire Operations/Firefighter Safety
  • Fire Prevention
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Vehicles

This year you will only be able to request funding from one of the four program areas with a single application. Each of the four program areas listed above will allow you to apply for everything relevant to your needs for that program. For example, you could apply for a fire prevention program that would include presentation equipment (lap-top computer, data projector, speakers, and digital camera) along with paying for an instructor to teach you how to use the equipment. Your request could also include handout materials, say from NFPA and one of those nifty robotic fire hydrants or fire engines for classroom presentations.

If you include information that would allow neighboring jurisdictions access to these materials or if you show a that private funding source is going to cover your matching costs, then you've just improved your chances for funding by demonstrating a positive cost/benefit of FEMA money!

The rules for this years program will be published in the Federal Register this month. But that doesn't mean you have to wait around before you begin to build your application. The FEMA Grant Workshops reveal what they consider award winning applications:

1. Be sure you read the application directions and fill-out the application completely! The on-line application will be designed so that you can work on it-- then save your work to complete later. The on-line application will not accept incomplete applications. Last year the USFA bent over backwards to help departments complete their applications. Do not expect the same curtsy this year! This year, the slightest omission from a hard copy application could be technical grounds for dismissing your grant request before any one has had a chance to read it.

2. Be sure that your crequest is compatible to grant program! Priorities for vehicle funding is the same this year as it was last year; pumpers, wildland engines, and water tankers. Sure you need a new rescue vehicle but that is low on the list of priorities for this years program and probably won't get funded. Be sure that your request is a good match to the program!

3. Include a community risk assessment! Show the grant reviewers that you've done a little homework. Use available data and statistics to show a five year trend in population growth, development, loss of revenue, who in your community is at risk for injury or death, any special hazards, the types of incidents your department typically responds to and how many times it does! You can also include interviews and polls of local community members.

4. What is your departments capabilities? Do you have the tools and training to do your job well and safely? What are the deficiencies in your department? What is the most cost effective method to deal with these deficiencies? Why did you pick this method over any other method? Be sure to identify your department's goals by demonstrating how you will overcome the deficiency!

5. Describe the cost/benefit for funding your program! Your application should demonstrate your willingness to share your resources with other communities, agencies and departments. Use funding from other agencies, corporations, or individuals to demonstrate public/ private partnerships. These outside funds can be used to meet your matching requirements for the grant. Or, you could describe grassroots support for your application by teaming-up with others in your community- demonstrating that your request will be well leveraged. An example would be teaming-up with Hispanic organizations to assist in the development and/or delivery of a Hispanic fire prevention program.

These suggestions are just the tip of the FEMA funding iceberg. But the USFA considers each of these items important to the success of last years grant awards. Review the successful FEMA narratives on the Dragonfly web-site and identify where these five items appear in each request for funding. The successful applications will reveal one or more of the items from the list above. When you review these successful narratives imagine how you could have made the application even better by using some of these insights. You should have no doubt that this years round of FEMA funding is going to be fiercely competitive. So don't wait to get started on building the most persuasive case for your grant request.

Keep your eye on up-coming Dragonfly newsletters. I will reveal more successful insights as the grant deadline gets closer!

About the Author: Rodney Slaughter is President of Dragonfly Communications Network. Rodney has provided grant training to emergency service organizations for 10 years and offers free grant resources on his web-site Rodney’s grant writing success rate is holding steady at 85%. He has secured over $2 million in grants and interagency agreements for the California State Fire Marshal’s Office. Rodney is currently working on successfully funded grant programs of his own. Dragonfly Communications Network is a training consulting firm and does not offer grant writing services outside of his own popular grant training program, but does provide free advice and guidance.