On April 27, 2019, a gunman armed with an AR-15 fired shots inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three others.
This is but one of many recent incidents of violence against churches, synagogues and mosques in the United States.
Eleven people lost their lives in the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting; 26 people died in the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting; nine were killed in the Charleston, S.C., church shooting; and six died and four were wounded at the Sikh Temple shooting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The same scenario is occurring internationally. On April 21, a coordinated terrorist attack on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killed 250 people and injured more than 500; and 50 people died in the New Zealand mosque massacre.
As the need for church and mosque security plays out on both the national and international stages, the federal government is offering grants for church video surveillance systems and other security systems.
In April, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to accept grant applications to upgrade the security of nonprofits, such as churches and religious schools, to address the growing threat of violence against houses of worship because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.
These grants are part of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and are authorized in Sections 2003 and 2004 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
Congress has allocated $60 million in security grants for the Fiscal Year 2019 program, which covers security systems for all types of houses of worship including synagogues and mosques.
Because funds are limited, houses of worship are encouraged to submit their grant applications as soon as possible. Even if applications come in too late to receive funding in 2019, it does give houses of worship a leg up on 2020 funds.
The grants are available for houses of worship that can demonstrate that their organization is at high risk for a terrorist attack.
Where to Apply
Houses of worship can apply for a grant through their specific State Administrative Agency (SAA). They may also apply through the grants.gov portal at www.grants.gov. If support is needed, applicants can call (800) 518-4726.
Eligible applications will be notified by FEMA and asked to proceed with submitting their complete application package in the Non Disaster (ND) Grants System. Support is available by contacting the ND Grants System at email@example.com or calling (800) 865-4076.
Grantees are permitted to use the funds they receive to pay for church security camera systems, access control systems, church alarm systems and church security monitoring systems.
Funds also can be applied to cyber security training, target hardening, terrorism awareness or employee security training.
Documents To Prepare When Submitting Your Homeland Security Grant Proposal
When submitting a grant proposal, houses of worship should supply the following documents:
1. Their IRS 501(3)(c) letter of tax exemption determination.
2. Annual report and operating budget.
3. A list of those who serve on their board of directors or board of trustees as well as contact information for everyone.
4. Their most recent Form 990 and financial statement.
5. A list of donors supporting the house of worship as well as their names, addresses, donation amounts and dates.
6. A list of personnel, staff positions, work duties, qualifications, numbers of hours worked and programs.
7. Letters of support from community leaders and politicians.
The most successful applications will document a plan that identifies and addresses security risks at the house of worship and shows how they will implement that plan to harden security.
Security Grant Proposal Writing Tips
Successful grants need to be well thought out and should adhere to the requirements of the specific grant application. It is also helpful to stay away from the top five common grant writing mistakes, as reported by Marvin Teitel in his book “Winning Foundation Grants: A foundation CEO Reveals the Secrets You Need to Know.” The mistakes listed by Teitel include:
8. Talking more about problems than solutions. The best proposals show that you are familiar with the issue you’re dealing with (in this case violence at houses of worship), but then they should focus on what the church, synagogue or mosque plans to do with the problem or need.
9. Address specific problems with general solutions. A successful proposal instead provides a clear picture of what the house of worship will do to address security within its facility.
10. Uses buzzwords and jargon. Avoid vague claims, trendy language and obscure terms, he says, and instead use simple prose that tells a story.
11. Budgets that don’t add up. Teitel reports many grant approvals arrive with math errors. This, he says, undermines the credibility of the organization. All numbers must add up and support the proposal’s narrative.
12. Repeat phrases from the grant guidelines. Putting key phrases into the application does not guarantee funding. While all proposals should fit the grant guidelines, they should also tell how and why their church deserves funding for a security system.
Freedom of religion means more than just the right to practice it. It also means the right to do so safely. The good news is that funding is available to better protect houses of worship with surveillance systems and monitoring solutions. All it takes is an application.