As a law enforcement professional who may be new to grant seeking, you may find yourself bombarded by a seemingly endless assortment of law enforcement grants.
There are actually just four main types of grant funding. This publication provides descriptions and examples of competitive, formula, continuation, and pass-through grants to give you a basic understanding of funding structures as you conduct your search for possible sources of support.
The Four Main Types of Grant Funding
- Competitive Funding
Also known as discretionary funding, competitive funding is a process of proposal selection based on the evaluation of a reviewer or team of reviewers. Funding is based on the merits of the application, and recipients are not pre-determined.
Example: Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program
Under this program, the U.S. Department of Justice holds an open solicitation for states, units of local government, and Indian tribal organizations to compete for grant funding to improve access to services for offenders with mental illnesses. Applications are scored on how well the project proposal addresses the program’s six objectives, based on five evaluation criteria worth a total of 100 points. Approximately 20 to 30 awards are granted annually to the highest-ranking projects.
- Formula Funding
In contrast to competitive funding, formula grants are given to pre-determined recipients. Non-competitive awards are usually allocated to eligible entities according to population and/or other census criteria, and all applicants who meet the minimum requirements of the application process are entitled to receive money. In many instances, formula funds are distributed from the federal level to states. States then determine the process to be used to award funds to local jurisdictions.
Example: Byrne Memorial Fund
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) makes formula grants to states from the Byrne Memorial Fund. This fund is a partnership between federal, state, and local governments to create safer communities. BJA is authorized to award grants to states for use by states and units of local government to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on violent crime and serious offenders.
Grants may be used to provide personnel, equipment, training, technical assistance, and information systems for more widespread apprehension, prosecution, adjudication, detention, and rehabilitation of offenders who violate such state and local laws. Grants may also be used to provide assistance (other than compensation) to victims of these offenders. Twenty-nine legislatively authorized purpose areas were established to define the nature and scope of programs and projects that may be funded under the Byrne Formula Grant Program.
- Continuation Funding
Continuation funding grant programs offer current award recipients the option of renewing grants for the following year. Some programs are restricted to existing grantees only, while others invite applications from current grantees and new applicants. Often, current grantees are awarded extra points during the review process for being a current grant recipient. Since priority is often given to continuing applicants, if you are a new applicant, you should consider entering into a partnership with a currently funded entity.
Example: Drug-Free Communities Support Program
This funding opportunity offers both continuation and new grants for the purpose of strengthening community anti-drug coalitions and reducing substance abuse among the youth population. Typically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services makes a total of around 725 awards every year, with approximately 550 continuation grants and 175 new awards. Application materials vary slightly for continuing and new applicants.
- Pass-Through Funding
Pass-through grants are funds given by the federal government to the states for further distribution to local governments. Under this funding structure, states may disburse federal funds to eligible local jurisdictions through formula allocations or open competitions.
Example: Federal Safe Routes to School Program
Through this program, federal funds available from the Federal Highway Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, are directly allocated to state Departments of Transportation, which administer the “passing through” of federal funds within their states via multiple state-level programs. Successful local applicants then use the federal funds to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that improve pedestrian safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in areas near primary and middle schools.
Understanding the four main types of grant funding will guide where you should concentrate your energy during the application process. If you are applying for a competitive program, it is best to target your efforts toward preparing a compelling narrative. Non-competitive formula and continuation programs usually only require you to submit reports or updated documents; for these programs, be certain to return all the requested materials. When applying for pass-through funding, which may be either competitive or non-competitive, read the funding announcement carefully to determine what type of grant you are applying for, so that you can proceed accordingly.