It seems to happen every year, fire and EMS personnel across the country know that there is going to be an AFG application opening, but they just don’t know when. So what do most of us do? We spend day after day asking if anyone knows when AFG will open.
My entire grant writing career, I have preached that the most important element in grant funding is planning. Planning helps you to look at your project objectively, gather data, get cost estimates and prepare an outline for your narratives. You can tell those departments that have followed my suggestion for pre-planning, because their grant proposal is already submitted or is in its final stages of review.
With only about two weeks left, is there still time to develop and complete a competitive grant? The answer to that question depends on your answer to these six questions:
1. Does your department have a current, active SAM registration?
If yes, proceed to the next question. If not, at this point in the process, you probably don’t have enough time to get registered with SAM. One final point on the subject: don’t spend time looking for your SAM number. There is no such thing; it is simply a registration.
2. Does your department have a DUNS number?
If you have a DUNS number, proceed to the next question. If not, there isn’t enough time to get one. Spend your time getting ready for AFG 2018.
3. Have you read the 2017 AFG NOFO?
If yes, proceed to the next question. If not, take the time to do so before you do anything else. Basically, the NOFO are the instructions for the grant. Reading them will let you know if your project is eligible, what ranking FEMA has assigned to it and what changes have been made to the application for this year.
4. Do you have a cost estimate for your project?
This will help you to know how much of a grant you are requesting.
5. Do you have your department’s call data for the past three years?
You will be asked for this breakdown in the application. If you report to NFIRS, all this data is available through your reporting software.
6. Do you have your department’s financial data, such as income and expenses?
You will need this information to help with your narrative development.
Expect last-minute AFG delays
If you have been able to answer these questions affirmatively, then you still have time to get your AFG application finished, reviewed and submitted. However, you need to start the process today. If not, my suggestion is to begin planning for the 2018 AFG and forget about this year.
For those of you who procrastinate to the last minute, currently less than 10 percent of the usual application volume has been submitted to FEMA. If you are applying the last week, expect the system to be slow and bogged down with last-minute submissions. Expect the data that you enter to disappear by the time you reach the bottom of the page. Prepare for your screen to freeze. Prepare to stare at that plain white screen.
My suggestion: if you’re in this conundrum, set your alarm for 3 a.m. and work on your application before you go to work. Better yet, next year, plan, start early and then you don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. Good luck!