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Grant season is just around the corner! Here’s how to justify the need in your grant application

Research your grant type and write a strong narrative

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A grant assistance program can help connect your agency to funding. (image/Getty)

Sponsored by Tyler Technologies

By Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Imagine, a Midwestern police department is struggling with failing hardware and out-of-date Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software. The city has reviewed the data and realizes that their ability to respond is significantly impeded by failing systems. Additionally, aging processes and the inability to continuously upgrade and repair the current equipment only add to the stressors faced by the department.

Since addressing the department’s hardware and software needs was not the focus of the City’s budget for the new fiscal year, the Emergency Manager is assigned the task of researching funding resource opportunities, which includes the support of grant programs.

This is a familiar story for many who are pursuing funding in a year of budget shortfalls. In this case the department has already identified the problem (failing and aging hardware and software systems) and pooled together data to demonstrate their need (a delay in response). The next step is for the Emergency Manager to locate grant programs that address the identified need.

Research: Equipment vs. Program Grants

When locating application opportunities, it is important for the department to first consider whether they are applying to an Equipment Grant or a Programmatic Grant program. Equipment grants tend to focus on providing funding for departments with equipment needs. They focus on solving the problem of not having equipment and supplies available to respond to a crisis or to provide safety to first responders. When describing the need and developing a justification, the emphasis is typically on describing difficulties with aging equipment and demonstrating financial need in the application. This is common for public safety agencies like fire departments and law enforcement agencies, as well as an ideal funding solution for the department above.

Programmatic grants focus on providing funding to develop or expand programs or services to a targeted population in order to solve an identified problem. The benefit of this grant program is that the applicant can identify what to include in the budget, with some restrictions, as long as the budget request is an allowable cost, justified within the project narrative, and shown to be an essential request that addresses solving the problem. This can be hiring personnel to equipment and software needs. Most criminal justice grant programs are programmatic. Many departments, like the one above, may find themselves developing and implementing a project as a response to the identified problem and describing this in the application.

Application Narratives: Developing the Justification

The Emergency Manager identified a grant that focused on program implementation as opposed to solely focusing on equipment needs.

Most narrative portions of a programmatic grant application, with exceptions, consists of the main components below:

  • Project Summary
  • Project Narratives
    • Problem Statement
    • Program Implementation/Description
    • Goals and Objectives
    • Capabilities and Competencies
    • Sustainability
  • Budget Worksheet/Narratives

The justification for the project is developed throughout the narrative sections and begins with describing the department’s need within the problem statement. When developing a problem statement to justify the need, the following should be considered:

  • Data collection: The department began collecting data to identify problems or gaps in service to the community. For instance, program leaders determined that there is a delay in response times. In turn, this information is utilized to present their need within the application.
    • Start collecting data now! The department began collecting data before the grant program was identified.
    • Data can be qualitative (personal stories of those impacted by the problem) or quantitative (an identified increase in response times).
  • Predictions based on data trends: Be sure to describe what will happen if the project is not implemented. Will response times continue to increase? How will this impact the community?
  • Begin creating the justification now!

Once data collection and the description of need is complete, the project implementation section serves to connect the need to the solution. For instance, the department above will describe how the project is implemented, such as including a timeline of procuring services, when to expect installation of any equipment/software, and check-in meetings with stakeholders, as well as the expected results, such as improved response times. All-in-all the project narratives section is the applicant’s opportunity to present the need and justify the request through a planned project implementation.

Application Narratives: The Budget’s Role in Developing a Justification

Considered by many as the last step in compiling a grant application, the budget and the budget narrative is the most important component of a grant application. Many reviewers will even shuffle to the budget section first before reviewing any other applicant component.

Any budget requests must directly tie into the project to be implemented and be utilized to address the identified need. For example, the department requests CAD software and hardware in response to delayed response times. They may also request personnel salary to ensure the project is implemented and sufficient time is allocated to the project.

Noteworthy: Items to Consider and Final Thoughts

Finally, below are a few key points to also consider when justifying the need in your grant application:

  • Goals and Objectives: In the narrative sections, creating project goals and objectives will also be required and must coincide with the need and the project’s implementation. One key to creating goals and objectives, is to utilize the acronym SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.
  • Post-award reporting requirements: A grant application, once awarded is a binding contract, the applicant is held to implementing the project described in the application. The project description, along with reported goals and objectives, will coincide with post-award reporting requirements. Again, when developing goals and objectives, be sure they are SMART.

When the Midwestern police department began their search, they were open to exploring both equipment and programmatic grant opportunities. By expanding their criteria, they opened doors to additional funding opportunities. Of course, before creating their justification, they collected data and gathered information to demonstrate their need.

For free customized grant help, including grant research, grant alert notices and grant application reviews, has partnered with companies like Tyler Technologies to provide access to a team of grant experts. Whether an agency is just starting a project or needs to add the final touches to an application, these experts can help agencies in submitting a successful grant application.

Learn more about Tyler Technologies’ grant assistance program.