The Money Crunch: How to Apply for Grants

While the amount of federal and state grant money available to law enforcement is not as plentiful as it was in the past, funding still exists. It’s a matter of finding the right grants for your agency and being a bit lucky.

Melanie Basich 2012 Headshot

While the amount of federal and state grant money available to law enforcement is not as plentiful as it was in the past, funding still exists. It's a matter of finding the right grants for your agency and being a bit lucky.

"With the assistance of federal grants, especially those from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, we have not had to choose between either having bulletproof vests or having fewer troopers," says Superintendent Ron Ruecker, head of the Oregon State Police. "And without Homeland Security grants we would have had to cut people to pay for training and equipment."

Ruecker says there are more requests for federally appropriated state funds than there is money to go around in Oregon, so police executives have to play the numbers game to a certain extent.

But he reasons that if you never apply, you have no shot at the funds in the first place.

Disappearing Grants

The era of free-flowing grant money for law enforcement is gone, possibly never to return. The federal funds set aside in the 1990s to hire more officers to put on the streets and to expand community policing programs hardly exists anymore. But this doesn't mean there isn't money available. It's just not as broad-based or as easy to obtain.

"There are a lot of grants out there for certain things, but they're specifically limited to certain locations, certain people, or certain issues," says Chief William Harvey of the Lebanon (Pa.) Police Department.

Because federal funding such as Local Law Enforcement Block Grants (LLEBGs) and grants from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is not as plentiful as it once was, it's more important than ever to search for more specific or obscure funding that could benefit your department.

To keep up to date on available grants, Sheriff Brent Oleson of the Juneau County (Wis.) Sheriff's Department rec-ommends subscribing to an Internet e-newsletter service that caters to your agency's specifications. This form of notification has replaced Juneau County's subscription to a similar print publication. Also, check government Websites for new availability of grants. You might even be able to reapply mid-year. For example, if agencies decide not to use the money awarded them through COPS grants, those funds are then made available to other departments.


Make good use of whoever writes your grants. Some agencies use their own grantwriter, while other, usually smaller, agencies look to someone in City Hall to orchestrate their grants. Other regional grant organizers can work well, too.

One person is dedicated to researching and writing grants for the Bessemer (Ala.) Police Department, an arrangement that has worked well for the agency of 107 sworn that serves a population of 34,000.

Thanks to grants Sgt. Mark Bailey researched and applied for, the department now has the resources to restore its Special Response Team, which was disbanded several years ago because of a lack of funding for the necessary equip-ment and training.

"We're in the process of re-manning our Special Response Team and we're getting some equipment through grants right now. That's one of the main reasons we were able to bring the SRT back," says Bessemer PD's Lt. Thomas, who keeps track of finances for the department.

Taking a different tack, Juneau County chooses a grantwriter depending on the subject of the grant. "Whoever is the most knowledgeable in the are of the grant being offered usually writes it for our county," says Sheriff Oleson. The Garden Grove (Calif.) Police Department doesn't use a grantwriter per se either. But two staff members serve the same function. "I have a budget analyst and a lieutenant in charge of research and development who are schooled in writing grants," says Chief Joseph Polisar. "I've got the equivalent; they're just not called grantwriters."

Just make sure that you give input to the person seeking funding and drawing up the paperwork. You can't obtain funds for items you need unless the grantwriter makes the government aware of those needs.

Working Together

Bellevue (Wash.) PD made a success-ful bid for a regional intelligence search engine by joining with all 40 agencies in King County, which includes Seattle, to draw up a proposal that would benefit the entire region by sharing vital information in the major metropolitan center, which could be the target of a terrorist attack.

RAINS, an apt acronym that stands for Regional Automated Information Network, could not have been funded without help from grants. Now, a system that had allowed only three agencies to share vital information has been expanded to 40.

Bellevue PD Chief James Montgomery calls this strategy "regional collaboration," and says such sources of funding give his agency "the most bang for our buck." He has found that collaborating with other departments in the area helps accomplish what one department alone could not.

"The tendency, historically, has been for each department to kind of do its own thing," says Montgomery. "Nowadays there's far more interest in doing things collaboratively and I think we're all better for it."

This bears out Montgomery's philosophy that hard times force agencies to develop better policies and more efficient strategies.

Writing Grants

The act of actually writing grants starts in the planning stages. Any Website giving advice on the topic says more than half of the process occurs in the planning stages. This is because the whole process takes a while and you need to allow yourself enough time to meet applicable deadlines, which vary depending on the grant.

Contact local agencies when developing a grant proposal. You might have similar ideas that could be buildt upon or even combined to apply for a grant to-gether. In fact, some agencies that dis-seminate grants require that law enforce-ment departments agree to work with each other.

You can apply online for most grants nowadays. You can even call hotlines to help you through the process, including any technical problems you might encounter trying to fill out forms via the Internet.

Workshops detailing how to write successful grant proposals can be very helpful, especially to people who have not been specifically trained in grantwriting but need to perform the task for their agency.

According to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, there are eight basic components to creating a solid proposal package: (1) the proposal summary; (2) introduction of organization; (3) the problem statement (or needs assessment); (4) project objectives; (5) project methods or design; (6) project evaluation; (7) future funding; and (8) the project budget. The agency's Website ( details how to complete these necessary steps for writing a grant proposal.

Online Grant Resources Source: NLECTC JustNet.

COPS Current Funding Opportunities: This site from the U.S. Department of Justice contains information on grants given by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).

Developing and Writing Grant Proposals: Tips for developing and writing grant proposals from the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.

Foundation Center Online: The mission of the Foundation Center is to foster public understanding of the foundation field by collecting, organizing, analyzing, and disseminating information on foundations, corporate giving, and related subjects.

Fundsnet Online Services: Home Site Fundsnet is a privately owned Web site created in 1996 to assist nonprofit organi-zations find funding resources on the Internet.

Government Information Services/Education Funding Research Council Grant and Funding Sources: Federal, corporate, foundation, and private funding information. This site allows organizations to elec-tronically find and apply for competitive grant opportunities from all Federal grant-making agencies.

Department of Homeland Security Grants: This site lists federal funds currently available from federal departments, states, and associations. All grantors are listed alphabetically, from the American Cancer Society to the state of Texas, to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Justice Grants: This page from the Justice Information Center contains funding guidelines and application forms for U.S. Department of Justice grants.

LOCATER, Lost Child Alert Technology Resource: LOCATER, a program from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to distribute advanced computer systems to create and disseminate posters of missing children locally, statewide, or nationwide.

Management Concepts: Management Concepts offers courses on applying for and managing federal grants and a Grants Management Certifi-cate Program.

Notices of Funding Availability Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) are announcements that appear in the Federal Register, printed each busi-ness day by the United States govern-ment, inviting applications for Federal grant programs. This page allows you to generate a customized listing of NOFAs.

OJP Information Technology Initiatives: The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Information Technology Initiatives web site is an Internet-based resource that enables justice professionals at all levels of government to access timely and useful information on the information sharing process, initiatives, and technological developments.

OJP Office for Domestic Preparedness Support (ODP): ODP administers grants to assist state and local public safety personnel in acquiring the specialized equipment and training necessary to safely respond to and manage domestic terrorist activities, especially those dealing with chemical and biological agents, and nuclear, radio-logical and explosive devices.

The Grantsmanship Center TGCI was founded in 1972 to offer grantsmanship training and low-cost pub-lications to nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Tips for Getting the Grant: This page from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting contains some general guidelines for grantwriting.

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Melanie Basich 2012 Headshot
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