12 Common Mistakes Campuses Make When Applying for Grants
School districts, universities and hospitals that avoid the following pitfalls will be more likely to have winning grant applications.
1. Not Applying: The grant application process can seem daunting. Smaller institutions may not have the personnel or resources to devote toward writing a grant. Grant writers and consultants, however, can assist with these issues. In the long run, a good grant writer will far out pay in grant awards what he or she charges in fees. For agencies that prefer to keep their grant writing in-house, many community colleges provide courses on this topic.
Campuses that are smaller or in areas that are at lesser risk may believe they don’t have a chance at winning a grant. But if their needs are compelling, there is a good chance they’ll get an award.
2. Not Preparing: Because most grant application periods are short in duration, a campus should have its assessments and agreements with other stakeholders ready before the application period begins.
3. Not Following Instructions: Some applicants don’t keep their requests within the scope of the specific grant. They include equipment, programs or personnel that clearly are not allowed. This could lead the review panel to disqualify the application.
According to DHS Preparedness Directorate, Office of Grants & Training (G&T) Director, Training Division Sandra Webb Ph.D., “The Competitive Training Grants Program (CTGP) is highly competitive, and we make no allowances for applications that are too long, don’t address the questions, fail to include a budget or are incomplete.”
4. No Evaluation Component Is Included: Grantors want to measure whether or not a project is successful. An application should clearly and quantifiably state how the proposed program will be evaluated.
5. Not Enough Specifics Are Included: Grantors don’t want generalities. They want to know exactly how the grant will be applied, who will participate and who will be affected.
6. The Proposed Solution Relies Too Heavily on Technology and Equipment: Although technology is important, many grantors, particularly the DOE, want a broad approach that involves training and the community, including local law enforcement, fire, Hazmat, local government and others. Often, grants require signatures from these various agencies.
Additionally, some campuses recycle old grant applications without doing the research on the goals and needs of the funding agency. According to Webb, “We have very specific requirements to match our programs to issues identified in the National Preparedness Goal and cannot fund even good ideas that don’t meet our mission.”
7. Not Understanding the Impact of Soft Money: Although the initial purchase of equipment is often covered by a grant, after the grant money is gone, that equipment may require ongoing maintenance or yearly licensing fees (especially for communications equipment). Campuses must determine how they will continue to pay these costs in the future.
According to Patrick Fiel, ADT’s public safety advisor for education, “Remember, these really are pilot programs to get you started until you become creative with your own budget.”
8. Getting Discouraged When Not Receiving an Award: Even the best application can be turned down. If this occurs, campus officials should ask the review panel to provide comments on why the application was not approved. This information should help the applicant learn from its mistakes and provide better proposals in the future.
9. Using Boilerplate Templates: Grantors are now aware that there are templates available, and some agencies are wary of them. Although these templates can be helpful, a cookie-cutter approach might not be credible with the review panel.
“Ultimately, they’re not going to want something that looks great and is shiny,” says Paul Timm, president of RETA Security in Chicago. “They want something that is real.”
10. Not Telling Others About the Grant Application: There are many other internal and external stakeholders who may want to help a campus with its grant application. According to Timm, “Many business owners are looking for ways to support their local schools and colleges. I’m talking everything from dentists to car dealerships. You can ask them, ‘Would you be willing to match the $1,500 we applied for from the XYZ foundation?’”
11. Not Checking Lesser-Known Sources for Funding: There are a lot of grants available that have unique requirements, but college, district and hospital officials may not be aware of them.
12. Only Going After Large Sums of Money: Campuses often overlook grants that are smaller in size. Generally, it is easier to apply for and get this type of funding. “For smaller agencies, every dollar counts,” says Russell Bentley, chief of police for the Bibb County (Ga.,) public schools. “Two thousand dollars to $4,000 for a small agency or college would cover some major expenses.”