How to get school safety grants funded

Dr. Judy Riffle breaks down the anatomy of funded school safety grants with tips and tactics that will sharpen your grant writing efforts and make your application highly competitive.

It’s summer and school leaders across the nation are working on plans to keep their students safe this coming school year, but there is a common problem; they simply need more money to be able to do so. Not surprisingly, the demand for school safety funding far exceeds the available supply of grant dollars.

The purpose of school safety funding is to enable schools to secure the needed equipment, services and technology to protect students from violence, weapons, threats, bullying and harassment. The physical protection is only part of the school safety puzzle; the emotional effect of a threat can be as strong, if not stronger, than that of the physical threat. If students or staff do not feel safe coming to school, they are placed in an environment that does not support learning.

Some school districts do not have the opportunity to apply for state and/or federal funding. However, it’s important to carefully plan for upcoming grant opportunities through a grant calendar, planning meetings and research before the actual grant competition starts. Often, there is a short window to complete the entire grant application. Competition is strong since school safety is such a priority for schools and school districts. What are grant funders looking for? How do you get the funding? How do you stand out in the crowd? Below I explore tasks, tips and best practices for getting these important programs funded by school safety grants.

Do These 2 Things Ahead of Writing

Before you begin your grant application, it is important for you to read about past funded grant projects. Noting common qualities among previously funded projects can offer hidden insights into the funder’s mindset in determining which applicants are likely to be awarded.

It is also important for you to do your research about school safety vocabulary. There is a big difference between a planned attack at a school versus a violent act in the community that spills over into the school environment, such as those requiring a lock down or “shelter in place.” Make sure you understand terms such as hardened schools, active shooter, targeted violence, mass casualty incident, armed assault, intrusion, larceny, burglary and robbery to ensure you use them correctly in grant proposals.

Follow These 5 Persuasive Writing Tips

As you start writing, you must be compelling. The needs section must grab the reader’s attention immediately.

  • Aim for the reviewer to feel compelled to fund your project without any lingering doubts. Answer all the basic questions: who, what, where, when, why, how. Address potential shortfalls the grant team may have discussed during planning sessions.
  • Tell a story about the people you serve; include valid and reliable statistics.
  • Use research three years old or less, unless its classic research accepted over time or there is no current evidence available.
  • Ensure all community or organizational needs you include in the grant narrative are addressed in the project design.
  • Gut check it: Can someone who knows nothing about your organization or topic pick up the proposal and run the same project on their own based on the information you provide?

Include Key School Safety Topics

Here are some important topics to include in your grant application to help your school get the funding it needs for school safety.

  • Include the characteristics of your school - personal student stories if available, discipline data, police report summaries, local crime statistics, etc.
    • According to Campus Safety Magazine’s article on School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) grants, successful applicants included the characteristics of their student body and surrounding neighborhoods to their benefit.
  • Collaborate and coordinate with project partners such as police, fire departments, hospitals, military bases, FEMA, Homeland Security, airports, businesses and other emergency responders.
    • The DOJ 2019 solicitation for the SVPP grant encourages applicants to “demonstrate a comprehensive approach to school safety,” which includes coordination between multiple schools, local law enforcement and other first responders.
    • Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent school violence against others and self (based on specific SVPP grant solicitation)
    • Acquisition and installation of technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency (based on specific SVPP grant solicitation)
  • Hire School Resource Officers (SROs)
  • Hire campus safety monitors
  • Consider forming an Emergency Response Advisory Team if you don’t have one
  • Evaluate & update your current emergency response plan
    • Conduct comprehensive school threat assessments annually and find hazards and threats; don’t forget your assessment should include all buildings, schools, buses, students, teachers, staff and visitors.
    • Security assessment checklist
    • Classroom and district site emergency tool kits
  • Prepare students, families and staff for crisis incidents
  • Use the FEMA National Incident Management System (NIMS) proactive approach to planning for emergencies
    • Use this to plan for emergencies including the following components: command and management, resource management, communications and information management, preparedness, and continual management and maintenance. Describe how you will use these tools to plan and manage staff in the grant proposal.
  • Anonymous reporting online or phone systems (i.e. Sandy Hook Promise free online system)
  • Equipment
    • Metal detectors
    • Locks
    • Lighting
    • Security cameras
    • Emergency public address systems
    • Emergency call boxes (aka Knox boxes)
    • Bullet resistant glass
    • Sally ports
    • Fencing
    • In place impenetrable shelters for classrooms
    • Access card readers

Following the tips above will position you to better compete for limited funding and deliver a quality grant proposal. It is our duty as educators and grant professionals to support learning in every way possible, especially safety.

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