Grant Information

Tips for Snaring Grant Money

It’s a way of life at police agencies across the country – they’re strapped for cash.  Unbalanced budgets often lead to under-equipped and understaffed departments.  Morale suffers and can result in a backlash of rising crime in the community.

Grants can help overcome these deficits.  A grant can bring law enforcement some extra money sorely needed to hire officers, pay overtime, purchase equipment like night vision or vests, or follow through on a social program in the community.

Grants come in two basic flavors: discretionary grants, which are competitive in nature and formula, and block grants, which are awarded based on population and crime rates.  Literally billions of dollars worth of grants are available for police departments.  In fact, the people we spoke with were united in saying that they are limited more by a lack of grant writing personnel than of grants available.

Many of the Grants come from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP).  Under this banner are the huge Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, which include COPS More, the Universal Hiring Program and school based partnerships.  OJP grants are also available from other governmental branches, including the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention (OJJDP), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Office of Violent Crime (OVC) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), each with its own focus.

More departments are getting into the act, especially because of the ease with which grants can be found on the Internet.  For example, in 2000 the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) placed the application for its State Criminal Alien Assistance Program online and saw nearly 100 more agencies apply – a 25 percent increase over 1999.  The BJA just reopened the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act (it will be open until April 14).  The program is designed to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of a NIJ-approved vest.

Typically you’ll find these federal grants on the Web site of the agency offering the grant (the grantor) under “funding opportunities” or a “grants, programs, activities” section.  Click on one of these buttons, then go to Grants Management Systems (GMS) to apply online.  Most files are in PDF format, so it helps to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader before you begin.  If that’s not possible, some grant applications are available via fax-on-demand, and of course you can call.  (Many numbers are toll-free.)

An article on a similar topic (“Getting a Slice of the Pie,” March 2000) described several of these governmental grants in-depth.  There are also numerous state, foundation and private grants out there.  Whatever your grant's requirements and needs, the following experts and police practitioners will tell you how they were able to successfully secure funds for their departments and how you can too - whatever the size of your jurisdiction.

The hunt

The way one goes about the grant-writing process varies from department to department.  The Jersey City (New Jersey) Police Department often learns about many opportunities through solicitations they receive from funding agencies.  “If you’re not on their mailing lists, get signed up with BJA, COPS and your state agency,” recommends Emmanuel Barthe, head of the Jersey City Planning and Research Bureau.

You also should be searching for grants.  “DOJ is increasingly using the Internet,” says Jim Jordan, director of strategic planning and resource development with the Boston (Massachusetts) Police Department.  “Enter that into your list of favorites.  The DOJ is increasingly using online applications for both discretionary and formula grants.

[“Also try] Associated Grantmakers.  It’s a resource library into the funding world,” Jordan says.  Additionally, if you’re seeding private funding, a good resource is “The Chronicle of Philanthropy,” a newspaper for the nonprofit world.  However, he cautions, some private benefactors prefer not to give to a government agency, so it’s best in the private world to pair up with a social organization.

Remember that grants typically don’t pay for existing services, only for supplemental programs.  “Develop ideas in writing, ready to submit,” Jordan says.  “Then do the hunting to link up with appropriate funding.”

Margaret Stark, the law enforcement grant specialist for a new Grant Service program offered by ITT Industries in Roanoke, Virginia, advises having a program or goal in place before beginning the search.  Stark, who has authored many successful grants for a local department in Virginia and is a certified grant writer, will help law enforcement agencies seeking funding opportunities for night vision equipment.  If you don’t feel quite sure of your abilities, Stark will offer advice and feedback, including a complete review of your application.  “I will do whatever I can to help – short of writing the grant for them,” she says.

The ITT Grant Service program is free and can be a boon to agencies, especially those that lack the resources for full-time grant personnel.

ITT’s Web site, at, contains a list of open grants, a Grant Writing Guide and 10 Tips to Effective Grant Writing.  A secure forum where law enforcement can exchange ideas also is available.  In the near future, agencies logging onto ITT’s site will be able to view other successful grants.  This will help them generate ideas based on what others have done, which will provide them a leg up in receiving funds.

Stark will research any viable grants for your agency including foundation, corporate or government grants, and post them to a password-protected Web site.  You can register to receive alerts by e-mail or fax.  Stark will even do custom research for your particular need.  These are grants that incorporate night vision equipment, but the possibilities are varied.  “These include drug interdiction and surveillance, tactical response teams, bomb squads, search and rescue, building entry, [any situation] where the dark puts them at a disadvantage,” Stark says.  “It’s all about officer safety.”

Programs in practice

The Boston (Massachusetts) Police Department, which has six full-time grant personnel on staff, receives on average $14 million per year in grant monies, spread over 35 or 40 ongoing programs.

Two of the department’s larger awards recently were from a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant, for its municipal domestic violence court, and an Officer of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program, for an area hard hit by heroin use.

While a vast percentage of a department’s dollars go to fighting street-level criminals, Jordan notes that many times it’s youngsters acting out.  In response, the Boston Police Department has found the best way to deal with this is to partner with the local Boys and Girls Clubs of America - and raise money jointly.  That way, social workers, employed by clubs whose personnel have 100-plus years working with youth, directly administer to the young people.  The social workers, in turn, work in conjunction with police district commanders.

While it is a smaller department, the Jersey City PD has pulled in a lot of funding over the past few years.  Two full-time staff members (a grant writer and a crime analyst) and one support person research, write and administer the department’s grants.  The grants fall into two basic categories: hiring for police officers, call-takers, etc., and programmatic for programs that intervene in a particular problem.  The department’s programmatic grants target anti-gang, pedestrian safety, domestic violence initiatives, and school partnerships.

One of the Jersey City PD’s largest grants currently is the Police Community Partners program, funded by a multi-year grant renewable through New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice and last approved for $800,000 (for one year).

Targeting an area that historically had problems with drugs, poor quality of life and social disorder, the police department teamed with the Department of Public Works and the Prosecutor’s Office.  Nine officers were assigned to help rebuild community ties, Barthe says.  It also encompasses the creation of an after-school program for youth; special treatment by the prosecutor’s office to help those arrested get back on track; and city services to help re-beautify the area by planting trees, fixing potholes, etc.  It seems to be working - it has been funded three years in a row.

Clear communications

The requirements in writing a grant can differ.  In some cases a proposal consists of an application form, other times it must be supplemented by a more in-depth plan.  Have you ever wondered why your grant does not get approval when someone else’s does?  Or do you not find out about grants soon enough?  The International Association of Chiefs of Police has published an extensive tool on its Web site (under Information Resources, Publications), called “Grant Writing: A Best Practice Guide,” written by Bridget Newell, Ph.D., that provides pointers in researching, writing and formatting a grant.

To identify additional funding agencies, the guide recommends using the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Justice Information center Web site (, The Grantsmanship Center’s Web site ( and The Foundation Center’s Web site (  Writers also can use a search engine like HotBot, Yahoo! or Infoseek.  Another resource for government funding is the Federal Register system, which consists of two publications, the Federal Register, published daily and used to announce new grant programs, and the Code of Federal Regulations, an annual compendium of all government regulations, programs and announcements.

Tips and travails

While there are some potholes in the road to securing grant funding, Barthe says overall it’s pretty straightforward.  The guidelines are usually detailed in step-by-step instructions.

“You need to demonstrate a problem and to support ideas with data,” he says.  “As a rule, partner with a local university or college.  A problem is that “police departments too often remain insular.”  A well-known professor recognized in the field garners more clout than Lt. So-and-so, even though he may be quite smart, Barthe says.

In keeping with that tenet, the Jersey City PD has been tied for years to a professor at Rutgers University.  The department has been very successful receiving the grants they applied for.  In fact, Barthe says 99.9 percent of the grants they apply for get approved.

He points to these working relationships as the reason for their success.  The university provides invaluable research background and theory, bringing guidance with writing, evaluation and a scientific aspect.  “Academia gives a perspective on a broader level,” he says.  “Graduate students can help create a scientifically valid survey.  And they get real data.  The police department brings that practical side - how to go about solving the problem.  Therefore everyone benefits.”

Barthe says grantors always look favorably on partnerships, such as a police department and Children’s Services.  Nonetheless this isn’t always practical.  If you reach out too much, it becomes a bigger animal.  “With three or four agencies, you have all these actors and it’s hard to implement,” he says.  “It looks good on paper but you have to remain realistic.”

Boston has also received some assistance.  While many of its proposals get funded, they, like everyone else, have also been turned down – but have learned through the process.  “We have gotten some good, insightful comments from reviewers, which we have taken to heart,” Jordan says.  Occasionally, here or there, you find yourself with a bad fit that just doesn’t’ work, and the grantor provides some helpful criticism.  On the whole, however, funding is readily available, he adds. “Basically, there’s not enough time or personnel to go after all the grants out there,” he says.

Stark recommends several basic techniques for successful grant writing.  “Be precise,” she says.  The funding entities have staff whose job is to screen and eliminate applications based on technicalities.  “Try to make personal contact,” she recommends.  “And make sure the grant falls into [the scope of] what they’re looking for.”

Grant openings come and go quickly – often it’s a very short window, like 30 or 60 days, comments Stark.  To overcome this compressed timeframe, she recommends being prepared to respond immediately when the grant finally becomes available.  Have a team in place that can help with technology and information gathering and have an outline ready with demographics, statistics, etc.

“Not a cure-all”

Funding from grants produces an outside impetus to improve things in a community, Barthe points out.  “Without the grant, there is little push to get the community involved in police work,” he says.

However, he quickly adds, grants shouldn’t be depended upon as a fix-all for adversity in a community.  “Grants don’t fix problems, but they give [the department and the community] and idea how to do it,” he says.  “They show an alternate way of doing things.  They’re not a cure-all that lasts forever, that’s [the kind of thinking that] becomes dangerous. It’s just a push in the right direction.”

As anyone who has ever applied knows, it’s a waiting game.  Receiving the funds from a grant takes a long time, Barthe says.  From the time you submit the grant, to the time you can draw on the funds, “it averages a good year.”  Of course, he echoes, if you’re starting from scratch, it will take quite some time to put the paperwork in order.  The New Jersey agency tries to stay on top of statistics, updating their records management periodically, and can download statistics from the computer straight into the report.  “Just organize,” Barthe says.  “Staying informed and up-to-date on current problems helps.”

Frequently, expertise is found simply by gaining experience, Jordan believes.  “Get to know how the game is played,” he concludes.  “We took our baby steps in ‘92-93.  We were lucky to get into it when the Crime Act made a variety of grants available for hiring, equipment, etc.  You just have to be patient.  It may not be instantaneous.”

Donna Rogers is the communications editor of this publication.  She can be reached at [email protected].

Call the following organizations for more information on funding programs.

U.S. Department of Justice Call Response Center, 800-421-6770

Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), 202-514-2058

OJP Grants Management System hotline, 888-549-9901

ITT Industries, Margaret Stark, 540-994-0790 or e-mail at [email protected]

Helpful Sources

Log onto the following Web sites to obtain grant information. (The Foundation Center) (The Grantsmanship Center) (Associated Grantmakers of Massachusetts)  (The Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper) (ITT Industries)