Ready to apply for a tactical gear grant? No matter how many times you've done it, applying for grant funding can be an overwhelming process.
What is a Tactical Gear Grant?
Grants are a form of financial assistance intended to support a specific purpose. They can be awarded for a wide variety of activities and purposes; tactical gear grants are intended to support the ongoing work of police officers, security personnel, military members, and more. There are thousands of tactical grant programs in the United States and awards range from a few hundred dollars to many millions.
Who Offers Grants?
Grants are either publicly or privately funded. Publicly funded grants are typically administered by state or federal agencies. They tend to be larger in scope and scale than privately funded grants and most public grants are cyclical, meaning they are awarded on an annual or semi-annual basis.
Privately funded grants are typically administered by private organizations, corporations, or individuals. They tend to have shorter turnaround times than public grants and applicants usually face fewer regulatory hurdles. Private grants are often awarded on an as-needed basis.
Who Can Apply for Grants?
Every grant has a different set of rules and qualifications. Tactical gear grants are often reserved for active service professionals and/or organizations such as police departments or security services.
While some grants are relatively open in term of who can apply for funding, others provide a narrower scope of availability based on need, size, location, and even prior grant awards.
What Can Grants be Used for?
Grants aren’t usually awarded for general purposes. Most grants, particularly “tactical gear grants,” are designed to serve a highly specific need such as the purchase of new tactical protection vests or the upgrading of police vehicles.
Every grant gives detailed parameters of the ways funding can and must be used. The grant application process is complex, in part to ensure that grant funds are used for their intended purposes. Grants can be used for anything from departmental needs (NIJ-certified tactical vests, weapons retention straps, K9 training) to individual needs (tuition assistance, medical care, mental health training.)
The Grant Process Lifecycle
The actual timeframe of the grant lifecycle changes from grant to grant but a few core components always remain the same. Whether a grant is awarded annually, bi-annually, or even as individual needs arise, the lifecycle process typically includes:
Application Phase: Funding opportunities are identified and information is gathered for the application(s). Applications are completed in full then submitted prior to each application’s predetermined deadline.
Award Phase: Awards are handed out according to a previously stated timeline after careful consideration. Applicants are notified of their status and given details about how and when to expect funding (when applicable.)
Post-Award Phase: Grant funding is allocated and implemented as was specified in the grant application. Recipients of grant funds are often required to – and always should – submit detailed reports regarding the funding, its use, and its overall impact on the department. Once this process is complete the grant is considered “closed out.”
How to Apply for Tactical Gear Grants
Understanding exactly how to apply for tactical gear grants is one of the biggest hurdles for police departments and other interested parties. The process can feel daunting and there is a significant amount of red tape involved.
Applying for grants is a process not to be undertaken lightly. The grant application process should have a point-person within each department and consideration should be given to the many hours that will be spent on each and every application. For some departments, grant writing and submission necessitates a full-time staff member dedicated to that purpose alone.
Here are the general steps in applying for a tactical gear grant.
Step #1: Identify Your Need
The first step in applying for a tactical gear grant is to understand your inherent need(s). Grant applications require more than a simple “lack of funding” explanation so it’s important to spend a good deal of time articulating what your department most desperately needs. If these needs can be met through traditional sources of funding such as federal tax programs or general budget allocation, they may not be the right choice for a grant application.
Some of the most common needs specified within tactical gear grants are for specialized equipment. NIJ-certified tactical vests and other protection gear top the list; many police departments operate with substandard or out-of-date gear to the detriment of their officers.
Other needs might include miscellaneous gear like utility pouches, magazine carriers, or even a K9 officer. Tactical gear grants for training aren’t uncommon, nor are grants designed to help improve the technological capabilities of a department through the use of software, hardware, or even portable devices.
Once the need has been identified, work to make the specifics as concrete as possible. Calculate the actual cost (in hours, dollars, or even lives) of operating without the necessary gear. The more times within your application you can cite statistics and data, the better.
Step #2: How to Find Grants
After you’ve identified a clear and pressing need for tactical grant funding, it’s time to identify the best potential sources of grant monies. There are literally thousands of grants available for tactical purposes at any given time.
There are several different ways to look for grant opportunities. Perhaps the easiest and most comprehensive is to search online. Excellent resources aggregate a number of well-known grant opportunities. A few of the most popular resources for identifying public grants include:
Since public grants are funded by taxpayer dollars, they are typically easy to identify and widely publicized. When in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to talk to your city or state grant liaison about available opportunities.
At the private level, opportunities for grant funding abound. Private tactical gear grants can be a bit more difficult to find because they can’t rely on a network of interrelated governmental websites to help them advertise. A few of the best online resources for private grant funding opportunities include:
Remember that many private grants are administered by businesses. Thousands of successful businesses offer branded grant opportunities; if there are any large businesses headquartered in your area, check to see if they run a grant program. A few good examples of corporate-run grant foundations include the Allstate Foundation, the MetLife Community-Police Partnership Awards, and the Wal-Mart Community Grants Program.
It’s also a good idea to talk to other agencies and departments in your area and around the state about which grant programs they’ve had success with. If competing interests are a concern, spend some time reaching out to similar departments in other states that have recently received grant awards.
Step #3: Perform Due Diligence
The grant application process is necessarily complex. It takes weeks and sometimes months to accurately and completely fill out a grant application; the larger the grant, the more extensive the application process tends to be.
Before submitting an application, it is critical to perform all required due diligence. Grant applications that are incomplete or otherwise incorrect are often rejected on those criteria alone. Be sure to allocate plenty of time to gather all the necessary information and materials before the grant deadline expires.
As a general rule, each federal grant application
takes between 40-100 hours and state/private
grant applications take anywhere from 10-40 hours.
Know that when applying for a federal grant, the regulatory requirements are significant. There are actually six registration requirements only applicable to these kinds of grants. They include obtaining a Data Universal Numbering System number, registration with the System for Award Management, application for an EIN, creation of a grants.gov account, approval as an Authorized Organization Representative, and completion of the Agency Grant Portal registration requirements.
The due diligence process for any grant can be divided into two parts: grant preparation and grant writing. The preparation phase is actually the most time-consuming.
The grant preparation process includes but is not limited to:
- Identification and quantification of the need
- Data collection to justify the need including historical trends and interviews
- Collection of financial information and, in some cases, completion of a financial capability questionnaire
- Obtaining administrative approval and buy-in
- Execution of written agreements with stakeholders
- Sourcing of quotations from one or more tactical gear vendors
The grant writing process is less time-consuming and may include:
- Review and approval of all materials
- Writing and editing of the actual grant request (per instructions provided by the grantor)
- Application assembly and processing
The parts of the grant application process that tend to take the longest are the ones that involve outside parties. For example, be sure to allow plenty of time to obtain tactical equipment quotes from approved vendors or to have data analyzed by a third-party.
Step #4: Submission & Award
Once the application has been completed in full it can be submitted to the grantor. Most grants provide incredibly detailed instructions regarding the manner in which a grant can (or must) be submitted. More and more, the grant application process is moving online.
If you choose to submit a grant by mail, be sure to save backups of all information submitted and to send the package by Certified Mail. Do not wait until the day before to mail your grant! While some grant processors check the postage date on applications that arrive after the deadline, some do not.
The same rule applies when submitting online. Submit your application as early as possible within the application window to avoid any unforeseen technical issues.
All grants provide a window within which you should expect to hear about the status of your award. If your application for funding has been approved, you’ll be provided with detailed instructions regarding next-steps including how the funds must be transferred and how closely administration must be tracked.
Step #5: Allocation & Reporting
After receiving grant funding, allocation becomes the priority. Ideally, you’ll already be working with trusted tactical gear vendors who will be expecting your order. In some cases, tactical gear suppliers will offer special bulk pricing for grant funded-items.
When allocating grant funds, it’s imperative your department keeps thorough and accurate records of every part of the transaction. After the transaction itself has been closed, it’s also a good idea to keep records on the gear itself – how it was allocated within the department, steps being taken to maintain it, and/or notes on how it is being used – as some grantors request follow-up data after a grant has been awarded.
As a courtesy, ask the grant source what your department can do to show its gratitude. This might mean being interviewed for a press release, sending in a photo of the new gear, or even serving as a case study. This experience can be useful for both the grant source and your department.
Oftentimes, grant providers like to use “success stories” to help publicize their grant program; this can be used to your department’s advantage. Increased exposure after the award of a grant can give your department the opportunity to speak out on additional needs it might have.
Don’t be intimidated by the notoriously difficult grant application process for tactical grants. Although successful grant applications do require significant time and coordination, they’re well worth it in the end when police departments, security personnel, and military members end up with the gear they need to perform their jobs well.
Vel Tye is a leader in American-made tactical gear for police, military, and security personnel. We often work with grant applicants to provide detailed quotes and/or bulk pricing for large orders. We’re happy to walk you through our process and help you with your grant efforts in any way we can.