Writing a successful EMS grants narrative

It is important to be concise and positive, well spoken, not too short, not too long, and to address all of the required points

For many grant processes, this is the only area where your agency actually gets the opportunity to convey how well you are doing, how hard you are working, and how much you could benefit from a little bit of help.

Grants can also open up doors that may not have been an option before an award because the funding allows your agency to reallocate dollars to another project.

Sometimes the narrative is not even reviewed and the application is determined ineligible in the first or second screening phases. As frustrating as this is, it is important to be concise and positive, well spoken, not too short, not too long, and to address all of the required points.

Much like a job interview, this is your chance to show that your agency is professional, progressive, and well organized.

Prioritizing your needs
The first step in any grant process is determining your needs. Of course your agency will have already done this before you get to the narrative writing phase of the process, but it is still worth mentioning.

There are many times that efforts, for lack of a better word, have been wasted due to asking for too much or asking for equipment that was not practical for that agency.

For EMS agencies, the "need list" can be much different than a fire departments list. In my agency, for example, we are quickly approaching a desperate need for new monitors. Ours are rapidly becoming outdated and are unable to do some things that are becoming the standard for most EKG machines.

I believe that, for us, monitors are a priority this year over pulse oximeters, cots, or even vehicles, but each agency is different with different equipment in different stages of repair. Two years ago our needs were different.

All of this is to encourage you to get the biggest bang for your buck when applying for a grant. You can apply next year (in some cases) if you don't get funding, but there also may be another grant opportunity for a separate item on your priority list.

Format of the narrative
For many applications, there will be instructions for how to apply. It is very important to follow these! The instructions may specify a format in which they would like the narrative to be organized. This will allow reviewers to go over the numerous applications in an efficient and timely manner.

The different sections may include a background description of your agency and the area that is served, the benefit of receiving the award, the financial need for the award, or a description of the project that is being funded.

It is important to keep the narrative in the order that is asked for (if any), and to be descriptive and detailed without overdoing it. Try to remember that they have many applications to review, and just like with a job interview, a radio patch to the hospital, or someone sitting next to you on the airplane, there comes a point when you have just said enough.

Most narratives that I've had experience with were about 4 to 5 pages long. I don’t think your narrative should be any shorter unless otherwise specified in the instructions.

Benefit of the award
This is very important! There can be many reasons that an organization is offering assistance, but most of the time it will include either: assistance to first responders or aid to the local community and public served.

There should be a very clear, positive, and organized description of the plan for the award money. If equipment is being requested, depending on the item, this section could include: benefits to patient care, safety of your first responders, consistent emergency response, effectiveness of care, keeping up with a minimum standard, or even increasing the efficiency of your paramedics and EMT’s with their patient care.

For other requests, the list will be more specific to that request. For example, if an agency needed funding to start up a car seat program, there could be a large description of how this will not only provide car seats to needy families, but also keep children of all ages more safe throughout your community for many years. Grants like this also give a great public relations image to the awarding entity.

Key points to remember
Any time funding being awarded, the awarding entity usually likes to know that the money will not be abused or wasted. The narrative should include a few important areas to address this.

First, provide a plan for proper training on the project that is being funded. In the AFG, applications that do not have a training plan or state that they already have trained personnel will receive the lowest or no consideration.

For many equipment items, such as EKG machines, the manufacturer will provide training on the use of the machine. For other areas, the cost of training can also be part of the request and be funded by the grant. In either case, an acknowledgement of the need for training and a plan to implement it should be stated.

Another area to mention is the credentials of your agency's staff. For many awarders, like the Department of Homeland Security, being NIMS and ICS compliant and having a minimum standard of first responder or EMT-Basic is important. If your agency is not at a minimum level, it is acceptable to have goals of working toward those certifications. It is acceptable to state that the majority of your agency is certified to a certain level with a goal of bringing the rest up to the required level.

Lastly, a description of your agency and the area covered should be detailed. Population numbers, average annual incomes in the district, call volume, critical infrastructure protected including major highways, schools, or utilities, etc. For many awards, these numbers could increase your level of consideration. Also, many rural grant opportunities require population details.

While composing any narrative, it is important to keep a positive tone and be concise, detailed, and organized. The narrative should remain positive and portray your organization as a progressive and professional agency.

For more on narrative writing and to see a sample narrative, go to EMSgrantshelp.com and look at "Grants 101."

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