There’s a lot that goes into writing a great grant proposal for a fire agency, but at the end of the day, it’s the compelling stories that stand out and get the funding. According to GrantFundingExpert.com, “To the extent you can, you should make your grant proposal tell a story. Grant writing, at its essence, really is just storytelling, and your story should give the facts in a compelling manner.”
It’s important to dedicate time and effort toward this aspect of the grant application process. Here’s a step-by-step process for strengthening your next fire and EMS grant application by telling your department’s story.
Step #1: Use Data to Illustrate Your Station or Department’s Needs
Most grant applications require you to provide proof of your need, which means you’ll need to provide solid data. According to Bret K. Crawford, Grant Specialist and Owner of Grant Writing Consultants, “The more diversified and accurate data you have, the easier it should be to justify your needs and make an informed decision. Sub-par data simply will not make the cut. Remember, great data in will yield great information coming out.”
If your department uses a Records Management System (RMS) to provide fire and EMS data, it will make things a lot easier for you. Use your RMS to pull relevant data that supports your story. For example, Emergency Reporting fire and EMS software enables you to pull specific reports to support your case, such as report #1501 – Equipment Replacement Date for Category for Subcategory for Date Range, report #553 – Breakdown by Major Incident Types for Date Range, or report #1696 – Apparatus Replacement Year by NFIRS Apparatus Type. If permitted (be sure to check the rules!), you could add colorful graphs and images to support the data and help make your grant proposal stand out even more. Providing quantitative data as evidence to support your narrative and demonstrate need can greatly improve your credibility.
You can use that data to help you tell your story to funders. According to FireGrantsHelp.com, “Use your data to paint a picture of how you and your community are being impacted by the outdated gear or equipment. Has anyone been injured because they didn’t have the training, equipment, or additional support personnel on site? Were there any recent incidents where lives or property could have been saved if your department had the requested equipment?”
Step #2: Interview Appropriate Stakeholders
In order to better describe the impact that the grant funding would have on your fire and EMS agency, you should identify and interview appropriate stakeholders so that you can add their valuable input to your story. “Appropriate stakeholders” might be:
- Team members
- Community leadership
- Community members
- Individuals served in the past
Ask questions to understand how their experience could be improved with grant funding. For example, if your department is seeking funding to continue a preschool fire education safety program, you may be able to interview the parents of past participants to understand what it means to them to know that their children are better prepared for potential fire situations.
The goal of interviewing is to capture emotionally poignant quotes that present the human impact associated with the need identified by your data. Be sure to conduct interviews in a thoughtful, appropriate, and confidential manner.
Step #3: Use Storytelling Best Practices to Craft a Compelling Application
Once you’ve gathered your data and quotes from interviews, you can put everything together to craft your narrative using some storytelling and grant writing best practices:
- Get creative: Don’t just stick to the cold, hard numbers. You’ll have to do a little bit of creative writing and use some emotional appeal so that you don’t bore your reader with straight data. “This is vital to paint the picture of your department and needs,” Crawford says. However, he says, avoid the fluff – “The information should be relevant to your request.”
- Identify the 3 W’s: Who are you? What is your department’s need? Why should you receive the funds?
- Be sure to include what all great stories have: a plot, setting, characters, conflict.
- Follow the 3 principles of writing a good story: According to GrantsEdge.com, the three foundational principles for storytelling in a grant writing context are:
- Know your audience (who will be reading what you’ve written?)
- Make yourself the “sidekick”, not the hero in the story
- Articulate the transformation (problem + solution = transformation)
Incorporating strong storytelling in your grant application isn’t a guarantee that your application will be selected for the grant, but it will certainly make yours stand out from the pack and give you a better chance at it. Once you’ve put together a draft of your grant application, be sure to have multiple people (ideally some outside of your agency) proofread it and give you feedback.
For more information about fire and EMS grant applications, visit Emergency Reporting’s Grant Resources page, and download ER’s free guide, “How to Get More Grant Funding.” Here are some other useful resources for grant writing tips:
- IAFC: “Write Successful Grant Applications: Ten Steps for Fire-Service Grant Funding”
- FireGrantsHelp.com: “Grant Writing Steps”
- Emergency Reporting blog: “7 Tips for Successful Grant Writing”
- GrantFundingExpert.com: “How to Tell a Story Effectively for a Powerful Grant Proposal”
- National Volunteer Fire Council: “Fire and Emergency Services Grant Writing Guide”
- FireRescue1.com: “5 Grant Writing Tips for Fire, EMS Agencies”
- 1832communications.com: “Storytelling in Grant Writing”