Put foundation grants to work for your law enforcement agency

Many of the same community “partners” that show up and provide some sort of sponsorship for your neighborhood block party are also giving out cash throughout your community

Since the early 1980s, law enforcement agencies from across the country have been leveraging resources within their community to solve problems related to criminal activity.

We have heard many success stories of how these partnerships have benefited law enforcement agencies in various ways. What would we do without our annual National Night Out block parties anyway?

Well, since it is the time of year to start making plans for those events, this is also a great time to remind you that you have some projects just sitting there waiting to get off the ground. Oh, and you have no money as well.

So how exactly do these relate to each other? Well, since you are reading an article about grant writing, you can probably guess but I’ll tell you anyway. You see, many of those same community “partners” that show up and provide some sort of sponsorship for your neighborhood block party are also giving something else throughout your community. It’s called cash and, last time I checked, you could use some.

Traditionally, law enforcement funding has come from very limited sources. Outside of the bundles of cash we get in our annual budget (sarcasm), there are only a few law enforcement specific programs available. How can we possibly fit all of our projects into JAG, COPS, Homeland Security and Traffic Safety grants? And if that’s what you’re trying to do, then you’ve got some waiting around in your future. So it’s time to take that community-police partnership thing to the next level, step out of our comfort zone and become a champion fundraiser for your department (please stop laughing).

No, I don’t expect you take some nasty SWAT boot and stand at the street corner collecting change. The words we would be looking for in this situation would be foundation grants. You see, all those companies that operate within your community are there for one reason, to make money.

Those same companies also have a federal agency called the IRS hanging over their head watching their profits so they need some type of tax break. In order to get that break on their taxes, and as a way to build their own community partnerships, they form foundations that provide grants within their community.

The same goes with individuals that are wealthy. We call them philanthropists and their act of giving within the community is called philanthropy. You’ve probably heard of these terms when it comes to the art community or the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, etc., so why can’t we tap into those same resources as well?

Many times we set up our own barriers to funding by using the excuse that we are a publicly funded organization and it looks bad if we go out and ask for money. Both of those points are true.

Law enforcement agencies are publicly funded so the public expects us to use their money wisely and they expect to get top notch police protection for that money. Additionally, it would look bad if we were running around asking people for money all of the time. But that is not what we are doing here.
When working with foundation grants, you are simply applying for money that has been made available to the community through these foundations; they are the ones seeking out organizations to give money to. The main difference between these funders and the usual state and federal grants are the source of the funds.

The side benefit to working with foundation grants is the partnership you will form with the foundation itself. They often are full of resources and connections and it could eventually lead to them contacting you one day and asking if they can give you some more money. What a concept.

As a side note, I first realized the power of foundation funding when one of our local corporations, who had given us grant money before, called me one day and asked if I could use $10,000 for something; true story.

One of the biggest advantages of working with foundation grants is the grant process itself. Many times a foundation will simply ask for a brief letter from your organization outlining the project and how much money you are requesting. This is called a letter of inquiry and is generally about one page long.

Once the foundation determines they are interested in your project, they could either request a face-to-face meeting with you or simply ask for additional information in the form of a formal grant application. Sometimes those applications are provided and sometimes they suggest using a common grant application format.

If the foundation’s board decides to fund your project, they may ask that you attend a board meeting or some type of presentation ceremony to receive the check or they simply could mail it to you.

Now, here comes the easy part. Once you fund your project, there is little, if any, follow-up required. Hooray! No quarterly or annual reports to mess with. Of course, a thank you letter would certainly be a nice gesture and maybe even some media attention from a press release. But other than that, you’re good to go.

Now, this is a great opportunity for you to build relationships within your community however you deem appropriate. Just remember, the more organizations know about you and your needs, the more likely they are to think of you when they have some extra funding to give out. Good luck in your quest for funding.

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