A Guide to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program

by | Administration, Leadership, Security

Securing your church can be expensive. From cameras to fire suppression systems, a strong security system requires a significant financial investment. However, did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides up to $150,000 in funding to enhance the physical security of non-profit organizations, including churches?

My organization, Kingswood Security, has helped non-profits obtain more than $600,000 in federal funding through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). I can tell you that this grant is a game-changer for organizations at high-risk. In 2021, 45% of non-profits who applied for this grant were successful, and your church could be next.

If you’re wondering how to keep up with the expense of security systems and technology, this federal grant could be the solution you need. In this article, I’ll provide you with key information to get started on the application process.

History of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP)

Established in 2005 in response to the growing threat of terrorism on US soil, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) provides eligible organizations with millions of dollars in grant money to enhance their physical security. While the program was initially designed to address potential terrorist attacks, the focus has shifted towards explaining why non-profits are vulnerable to crime, including mass shootings and active violence. Churches, as houses of brokenness with high-risk programs like divorce care and prisoner rehabilitation programs, are eligible to apply for up to $150,000 per location, with a maximum total award of $450,000.

Who Can Apply for the Program and Conditions

Any registered non-profit organization, including religious institutions, schools, community centers, and educational institutions, can apply for the NSGP. It’s important to note that this program is a reimbursement program, which means you have to spend your own money to be reimbursed. However, as long as you use the funds for what you stated in your grant application, you shouldn’t have any issues. I’ve only seen issues where a church said they would spend it on X, and some technician had a bright idea to spend it on Y being a new worship streaming camera and the reimbursement was refused!

The NSGP is a Federal program issued at the state level, which can make the application process easier as you only have to work with you local state through the process as if you reach the criteria they make the application on your behalf. 

It’s also important to understand the term “Supplanting.” This means you cannot use the grant funds to replace security measures that you already have or are in the process of changing. For example, if you have 20 cameras in your church, you can’t replace them all with new ones like for like. However, you can add to the existing 20 cameras by placing 10 new ones in the room.

Requirement for Having a Security Risk Assessment Completed

A security risk assessment is a critical component of the NSGP application process, and I refer to it as the heartbeat. The simple fact is you need one to apply as this is what has your vulnerabilities recorded. The risk assessment helps identify potential vulnerabilities in an organization’s physical security and recommends measures to address them. To be eligible for the NSGP, organizations must have had a security risk assessment completed within the last three years.

There are several ways to complete a security risk assessment, including completing it yourself, hiring a professional organization like my organization, Kingswood Security, or having your local police complete a crime prevention survey. The decision on whether to invest in a professional risk assessment is subjective to your church. However, with a success rate of 45% of those who applied receiving federal funding for security enhancements up to $150,000 per church location in 2021, it’s crucial to start with the end goal in mind when deciding to engage a consultant or have a police officer walk through your building.

What You Can Apply for

The NSGP grant funds can be used for various physical improvements, planning and exercises, and training related to enhancing the security of your church. Remember, it’s up to $150,000 per location with a maximum award of $450,000 for multi-site churches.

Examples of physical improvements include installing cameras, access control systems, window film, bullet-resistant glass, panic alarms, and mass notification systems. Planning and exercise-related activities may include developing emergency action plans, security plans, future risk assessments, and evacuation plans. The grant can also cover training for active shooter prevention, threat detection/behavior assessment, and physical and cyber security. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive – it changes year upon year, and you can use the funds for other security-enhancing measures as well.

Let’s Talk About How you Apply

When it comes to applying for the NSGP grant, each state has an appointed State Administrative Agency (SAA) that serves as the gatekeeper. It’s essential to establish a good relationship with your SAA as they can offer valuable insights and advice on the application process. Additionally, they can connect you with other resources to help your application be successful. To find out who your SAA is, you just need to visit this link below and reach out to them, though I’m hesitant to say these words. They are overrun state employees, so you might need to chase them a little, don’t just email. I would advise that you pick up the phone and introduce yourself.

https://www.fema.gov/grants/preparedness/about/state-administrative-agency-contacts

Let’s talk now about when you apply

Although the rewards are high applying for the NSGP, the grant can be a lengthy process due to the federal funding involved. So, if you are looking for a quick fix at your church then this may not be it. The bill must first pass on the funding, and then the funds will be released. As each state has the authority to create its own application process, timings can vary greatly on when to apply, which is why my prior step on reaching out to your SAA is so crucial to establish a good relationship with them. Historically though, state programs tend to open around March/April and close in May/June with successful grants notified towards the end of that same year. 

Here’s the application page https://www.fema.gov/grants/preparedness/nonprofit-security/apply

Summary 

In summary, the NSGP is a great opportunity for nonprofit organizations to enhance their physical security, and the grant can provide up to $150,000 per location with a maximum award of $450,000. The program is open to all registered nonprofit organizations, including religious institutions and schools. A critical component of the NSGP application process is having a security risk assessment completed within the last three years. The State Administrative Agency (SAA) is the gatekeeper to this grant, and they can provide valuable insights into the grant process and offer advice on how to complete the application successfully. 

Historically, state programs open around March/April and close in around May/June. Your SAA is the best resource for guidance on the application process. Finally, with close to a 50/50 chance of being successful based on the last few years’ data, taking advantage of the NSGP could greatly enhance your organization’s physical security.

Simon Osamoh is one of the country’s leading experts in securing houses of worship. He is a British American and founder of Kingswood Security Consulting and the Worship Security Academy. Simon spent 14 years as a Detective in England working serious and organized crime. He moved to the United States to Head Counter Terrorism at Mall of America, Minnesota. Simon is a Christian and has spent over two decades helping non-profits stay safe and secure. He is the author of two bestselling books 10 Powerful Strategies for Conflict De-escalation and Securing Church Operations. He is the host of the Church Security Made Simple Podcast and a member of the Worship Facility Editorial Advisory Board and has served Westwood Community Church as Security Advisor since 2014. 

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