Grant funding can provide great assistance to help a community complete a project. Before applying for grant funding, make sure that you assess your business capacity. Different grants require varying levels of financial capabilities and staffing hours to manage funds in varying levels of detail. Some grants, especially federal grants, require that you maintain a non-profit organization to be eligible to receive funds. Forming a non-profit organization requires filing yearly federal and oftentimes state tax paperwork for the non-profit organization. It is a good idea to contact a local attorney or accountant -- perhaps a community member who could assist pro bono -- to discuss exactly what resources and time would be required to manage not only the grant funds but your paperwork, including yearly tax paperwork requirements.
Some grants do not require that the organization receiving them is a nonprofit entity. However, it is still a good idea to keep the grant funding in a separate bank account to ensure that there is no commingling of money. These small grants from businesses or organizations that partner with you will require some grant reporting so that they can share with others how their donation made a difference in your community. Take some good before and after pictures to include as part of your report. Some grantors also like to receive video of the work being completed with some before and after shots included. Ask your grant funder how they would like to receive the success story you are going to share with them.
One easy and timely way to get funds for your community without writing a formal grant proposal is to submit a simple application for a $500 project award for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. There are 125 such awards available, but make sure you apply by February 28! Firewise communities can use the May 7 "Prep Day" to complete their annual requirements for the Firewise Day.
Another new online opportunity to obtain funding for Firewise work to be completed in your community is to explore crowdfunding sources such as Gofundme.com, Kickstarter.com and others. Do some research to make sure that the site is reputable and that you follow all of the guidelines established by the website. It is also a good idea to check to see if your community or you as an individual would have tax liabilities for funding received.
There are many other ways to find help for wildfire safety work, short of a formal grant application. Some stores will share gift cards with your community that can be used to purchase tools, gloves, trash cans and more for your community clean-up day. One community secured the
donation dumpsters for green waste and solid waste that encouraged the community to clean up what some call trash and others call “human treasures," those items that can become ember catchers around the home in the event of a wildfire.
Don't forget to look to volunteers for help. Some organizations have groups of volunteers that are willing to donate their time to assist with projects. These may include faith-based groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, veterans' organizations and others. Some large companies also have volunteer pools where you can request assistance. Creating Firewise community organized volunteer work days can also be a sense of community where neighbors help neighbors. Helping someone in need in your community to tidy up their home and or landscape actually helps you be safer from loss in the event of a wildfire.
Some agency partners such as local foresters, parks, and other groups might be able to supply chipping services or other assistance such as road grading depending upon the resources they have available and the goals of the organization. Sometimes it is good to have a designated member or members from the community attend public project planning discussions that agency partners host because perhaps there is a need addressed for their community that their project can be expanded to assist with.
There are limitless opportunities to get assistance - monetary and otherwise - for fire prevention and mitigation efforts in your community. If you can think outside of the box, there is a way to accomplish changes in your community that can make a difference.