What Is a Grant?
Grants. You have likely heard of them. You may have even heard of someone getting a grant or submitting a proposal yourself. But do you know what a grant really is? Let’s dive down and learn a little about them.
In simplest terms, a grant is a contractual giving of money from one organization to another without an expectation of any repayment. A grant is a gift of money. An organization (funding organization) has some interest in providing funding to a receiving organization. This interest could result from passion for the area of funding (e.g. ocean research) to an experience (e.g. funding a college grant due to not being able to go to college) and everything in between.
The amount of grants given out in the United States every year easily goes in the billions of dollars. There are all kinds of interests for grants. In 2017, the federal government gave out a grant for close to $75,000 to digitize puppets (Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/james-lankford-federal-fumbles-report-of-government-waste-2017-11#a-30000-recreation-of-hamlet-with-a-cast-of-dogs-1).
Most, if not all, grants are project based. This means that you must have a project in mind to fund. For example, you may want new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) due to yours being out of date and compliance. We must also have a justification (such as out-of-date SCBAs) for our grant proposal. The days of requesting funding for a new shiny widget are long gone. We must show why we need the money and how we will maintain the project for the long term.
There are two main sources for grants in the United States. First, the government provides a variety of grants (Assistance to Firefighter Grant or AFG). There is more funding at the federal level than at the state and local levels so there are more grants at the federal level than the state and local levels. However, each level normally has grants available. These grants through the government are either done through legislation (e.g. AFG) or through budgeting legislation (meaning they provide funding in the budget and when the budget passes then the grant passes).
The second source for grants is from businesses or their foundations. There are many of these and they have a large variety of interests as well. One of the more well-known ones for the Fire Service is the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant. Firehouse Subs has an interest in the fire service and thus they provide grants for fire departments. Other agencies that have such grants are Wal-Mart, Costco, and many electrical utilities agencies.
So now that we have talked a little about what grants are, we need to understand how we get them. Every grant, no matter the source, requires some sort of application. This could be as simple as a one-page document that takes a few minutes to fill out with demographic information, an amount you are requesting, and why. However, there are grants that require tens to even hundreds of pages to request. Luckily for us, most of the grants we are looking at do not require such applications. There will be some paperwork or online proposal required to be considered for this funding.