How to Begin Laying the Foundation for a Successful Grant-Application Process
Whether your agency has an urgent need to replace obsolete scene documentation and mapping technology or you simply know you should take your capabilities to the next level, the good news is that plenty of grant funding is available for 3D laser scanning and other digital scene documentation and mapping technology. Increasingly, federal, state and private grant makers are recognizing that digitizing crime and crash scenes not only ensures objective and comprehensive documentation of crime, collision and officer-involved incidents but also provides full disclosure for the communities you serve.
Grants are all about forward planning, and there’s no better time than now to begin. You can start laying the foundation for a successful grant-application process with the following internal steps.
No. 1: Identify Internal Procedures for Grant Applications
Identify your agency’s internal permissions for grant applications. Do you have access to a grant manager either in your department or at the city level? Police departments often need to get approval from a local city governments—such as the mayor’s office, the city council or the chief of police—so find out what that process is for your organization.
If there is no internal grant structure in place, which is often the case in suburban and rural areas, your agency might be able to apply by committee. Keep in mind that the person who raises their hand or really champions a project typically ends up being the one who has to write and submit the grant. However, resources are available through the U.S. Department of Justice, Grant Writing USA, PoliceGrantsHelp.com, and other organizations to assist you through the process.
No. 2: Develop an Internal Structure for Post-Award Management
You should also have an internal structure in place to oversee award monies since these awards are legally binding contracts. Be sure to submit reports according to the terms of the grant maker and demonstrate that the money is being used as the grant intended. A standard best practice is to appoint a dedicated person to manage the money and submit reports after the funding is received.
No. 3: Begin Budgeting for Supplemental Funds
Grants fund a significant portion of a project’s budget, but they don’t typically fund 100 percent. Most require some sort of cash or in-kind match for the total project costs. Additionally, even though grants are a good way to get programs up and running, they’re not permanent solutions. For this reason, you’ll want to spend some time determining how your agency will continue to maintain that project, program or equipment when the grant ends.
Begin early to identify additional sources of funds. For example, by lowering operating costs, your department may be able to free up monies already available within your current operating budget. Guarantees, donations, contributions and asset-forfeiture funds may be options, as well.
No. 4: Complete Federal Pre-Registration Requirements
Determine whether your agency has met federal grant pre-registration requirements. If not, you’ll need to make sure it’s done before grant programs open for application. Agencies must have an active System for Award Management (SAM) account in order to do business with the federal government and a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, which tracks how federal money is allocated. While pre-registration is free, these accounts can take up to eight weeks to set up, so don’t wait until the last minute or you may not get your pre-registration done in time to apply for certain grants. It’s a good idea to start early with pre-registration so you can be ready to apply for grants as soon as the grant programs open.
No. 5: Have Backup Plans
With a typical grant cycle ranging from nine to 12 months, it’s advisable to have backup plans. For example, if your agency’s grant manager is transferred, promoted or unable to continue the application, consider outsourcing the process to keep the grant application moving forward.
Technology leases are another financing option that makes good business sense for public safety agencies. Leica Geosystems’ strong partnership with GreatAmerica Financial Services gives agencies access to the best financing rates on leases with flexible terms. A lease can deliver the latest technology in a matter of weeks but also provides built-in obsolescence protection that will keep you on the cutting-edge for years to come.
No. 6: Start Now
While the grant application process takes time and dedication, grants can be a viable way to bring your agency’s forensic mapping capabilities into the 21st century. The good news is that plenty of grant funding is available for scene documentation and mapping technology, and you don’t have to go it alone.