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    The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) should be released any day now and it’s time to start thinking about your application for this year.  
    In a previous issue of FUNDED I covered the basics of AFG, so if you’re unfamiliar with this funding opportunity, you may want to refer back to the aforementioned article before proceeding.  
    In this issue we will focus on best practices and tactics for making your department’s application more competitive.
    First, you’ll want to ready the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) as soon as it becomes available.  The NOFO contains valuable information and tools for constructing a compliant and competitive application.  
    Failure to follow the directions in the NOFO could result in a less competitive, and possibly incomplete application that doesn’t make it to the review stage.  
    Also, take the opportunity to attend an AFG Workshop or Webinar, these sessions provide tremendous insight beyond what the NOFO offers and provides attendees with vital instruction.
    Next, think about the project(s) and needs you’re looking to have funded through the program.  
    If possible, it’s advisable to conduct a Risk Assessment to determine the needs of your department.
    Take the projects and match them with the funding priorities in the NOFO.  Funding priorities are: High (H) Medium (M) and Low (L).  
    Only focus on those one or two projects that are high priority, since AFG is intended to address the most pressing needs of fire departments and the program office receives far more requests for funding than it has to award.   
    Gather as much information as possible in advance.  The application calls for quite a bit of information and it can be time consuming to assemble, as it requires departmental, financial, equipment/vehicle, and regional information.  
    You can begin advanced preparation by accessing the 2015 AFG Grant Application Get Ready Guide in the FY 2015 Application Assistance Tools: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/110252 .
    Often time vendors will provide applicants narrative templates.  I suggest avoiding these at all costs.  
    Narrative templates typically don’t reflect what’s happening at your department and they usually don’t offer the kind of customized information that reviewers are looking for.    
    It may be tempting to utilize such a template, however, it’s not worth jeopardizing your department’s opportunity to have its important project funded.
    Grants Office always suggests having your proposal reviewed and edited by at least one or, ideally, two people.  
    Having someone who’s not involved in the development of the proposal edit and review the proposal with a “fresh set of eyes” ensures that you haven’t missed any details and/or written a confusing/misleading narrative.
    Since the funding period for AFG is one year, it’s vital to ensure that your project, likewise, can be completed within that one year time frame.  
    Also, be sure to confirm that your department can meet the matching requirements.  The aforementioned FY 2015 Application Assistance Tools link contains a Cost Share Calculator that can help you figure out exactly what your matching requirement will be.
    If you haven’t, confirm that you have the support of your department’s executives and local governmental leaders.  
    If you don’t have this support there’s a chance you may not be able to meet the match requirement and/or will not be authorized to submit the application.  
    I’d suggest solidifying this support as soon as possible and before constructing your application. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting all this time and effort into an application, only to not have it submitted.
    If you’re concerned that you lack the time or ability to write an AFG proposal, feel free to reach out to us at Grants Office.  We’d be happy to discuss how we may be able to help you in your quest for AFG funding.  
    Whether you’re doing it yourself or with the help of others, now’s the time get moving on this opportunity, the more time you have to spend on your application, the more competitive it will be!