Finding funds to support implementation and maintenance of AED (automated external defibrillation) programs in the community is easier than many people realize. The first step is to estimate projected program costs. Annual costs can include the following:
- Devices (about $1,000-1,500 per unit; remember to divide initial cost by the projected life of the device, usually five years)
- Peripheral equipment costs (about $75 per device)
- Maintenance (about $100 per device)
- Insurance (variable)
- Training costs (variable: includes personnel and equipment)
- Program management costs (variable)
- Event documentation costs (variable)
- Quality assurance tools (variable)
- Community-wide CPR training (variable)
The next step is to determine whether costs can be funded directly through community or agency budgets. This is the simplest, most direct approach and it may be all you will need to do. For example, a city council that has been educated about the serious public health problem of sudden cardiac arrest and the need for prompt universal access to defibrillation may simply vote to include AED program implementation costs in the next budget cycle.
If AED program costs cannot be funded directly, it is necessary to explore alternative funding sources, such as:
- Local corporations and industry
- Local civic organizations
- Private foundations
- Public charities
- Government grants
- Traditional fund-raisers
Local Corporations and Industry
Local corporations and industry provide funding through corporate giving programs and company-sponsored foundations. Companies with a national headquarters in the local community frequently are one of the best sources of funds. Other potential targets are companies that provide healthcare products and services.
Corporate giving programs are usually directed to programs that benefit employees and communities where they live. They enable businesses to deduct up to 10 percent of pretax income for charitable donations. Often, all it takes to find funds is to write a one-page concept letter to key decision-makers, follow up with phone calls and offer to meet personally with potential corporate donors. For potential corporate funding sources, see Corporate Grantmakers at www.fdncenter.org
Company-sponsored foundations are dedicated to community service projects. An example of a company foundation with a specific interest in early defibrillation is the Medtronic Foundation HeartRescue Program, which provides grants for AED training projects (www.medtronic.com)
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If you are approaching a local company for funding, consider following this basic checklist:
- Identify potential corporate and industrial donors.
- Find out the names, titles and contact information for those in charge of corporate and industrial funding.
- Send a one-page concept letter that outlines the name of your organization, the current status of cardiac arrest survival in your community, the importance of early defibrillation for victims of sudden cardiac arrest, the estimated number of lives that could be saved in your community if AEDs were available, how much money you will need to fund the AED program in total and how much you are requesting from this organization.
- Be sure to personalize your appeal, referring not only to community-wide benefits of an AED program, but also the specific benefits that the business itself could experience, such as improved health and safety for employees both at work and at home.
- Cite other funding sources that have already been identified, if any, to demonstrate existing support for the project.
- Inquire whether the corporate funding program has any requirements, such as completion of a formal application. Some companies do not have their own applications, but may require a detailed proposal.
- Find out whether there are any restrictions.
- Follow up your letters with phone calls to discuss the proposed AED program in greater detail and answer any questions the potential corporate or industrial donor may have.
- Offer to meet with corporate funding decision-makers, if their time permits, to make a personal appeal. Be prepared to make a brief presentation. Bring advocacy materials along. If possible, bring an AED to your meeting and be prepared to demonstrate how easy it is to use.
- If feasible, consider offering a service to the potential corporate donor, in appreciation for their donation. Be creative. Think of ways to make this a win-win situation for everyone.
- Always remember to say thank you for all contributions. Send a letter acknowledging every donation you receive.
- If the donor does not object, be sure to let the local community know about the generosity and civic-mindedness of the donor. Publicity about donations not only gives well-deserved public recognition to contributors, but also may inspire others to give. Be sure to get permission before publicizing donations.
Local Civic Organizations
Many civic organizations have giving programs dedicated to community service and health projects. Examples include:
Typically, the most effective approach is to identify the local chapter of the national organization.
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Private foundations are non-governmental, non-profit organizations with a principal fund maintained to serve the common good. Private foundations typically award grants to tax-exempt, non-profit organizations. This permits contributions to be tax deductible.
There are literally thousands of private foundations interested in funding community service projects. To find a private foundation likely to support your community AED program, contact the Foundation Center. The Foundation Center is an information clearinghouse that has established cooperating centers throughout the United States, usually located in public libraries in major cities (www.fdncenter.org).
Hospital foundations are another source of funding that should be considered. Most hospitals have a foundation interested in funding local projects designed to enhance the health and well-being of local residents. For information, contact area hospitals.
Public charities are philanthropic organizations that derive their funds from contributions from the general public. Public charities generally provide grants to non-profit organizations. For potential targets, see The National Directory of Grantmaking Public Charities, available through the Foundation Center (www.fdncenter.org).
People who have survived sudden cardiac arrest-and their friends and relatives-have been known to become generous benefactors of community AED programs. You may be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of local citizens once the need for an AED program is publicized in your community.
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Some government agencies have dedicated funds set aside for community health projects and are poised to fund worthy projects with clear benefits.
For example, at a federal level, the Rural Access to Emergency Devices Act, or Rural AED Act, section 413(a) of the Public Health Improvement Act (Public Law 106-505) awards grants to community partnerships in rural areas for the purchase of AEDs and for AED training (http://ruralhealth.hrsa.gov/funding/aedact.htm). Community partnerships are defined as a consortium of first responders (e.g., EMS, law enforcement and fire departments) and local non-profit entities such as long-term care facilities, rural health clinics, community health centers, post offices, libraries and other civic centers, athletic facilities, senior citizen and day care facilities, faith-based organizations and schools without AEDs.
At the state level, dedicated health funds sometimes are generated through taxes and fees from vehicle registration and drivers' licenses and speeding tickets. Contact your state EMS agency, state public health department and state congressional offices to determine whether such funds are available.
Many AED programs have been readily funded through town, city and county governments. Community health advocates have secured local government funds simply by making presentations at town, city or county council meetings that describe how an AED program could help save lives in the community and why such a program would be a fiscally sound investment. Political leaders are unlikely to oppose cost-effective programs that voters consider fundamental to community health and well-being. One community AED program was funded solely
through proceeds from the county jail commissary.
Many communities have been effective in raising funds for AED programs through traditional fund-raisers. While such efforts can be time-consuming and require a concerted team effort, they do work. Here are some suggestions:
- Sponsor a CPR marathon and get pledges
- Sponsor a CPR mass-training event and use registration fees to fund AED purchases
- Sponsor a walkathon
- Sponsor a home and garden tour
- Sell something (e.g., first aid kits, baked goods, used books)
- Raffle donated items from area businesses
- Hold a group garage or rummage sale
- Sponsor a holiday or seasonal event
- Sponsor a pancake breakfast or spaghetti supper
- Sponsor a refreshment stand at a local sports event or concert
- Sponsor a golf tournament
- Sponsor bingo games
- Conduct direct mail, telephone or door-to-door campaigns requesting community donations
- Hold an AED telethon
- Write letters to the editor, addressing the need for a community AED program, citing recent local events in which an AED saved a life or could have saved a life, and appealing for community donations
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Fundamentals of Fundraising
Regardless of the funding option(s) you pursue, consider the following tips:
- Investigate funding prospects thoroughly. Many funding opportunities go untapped each year because no one has taken the initiative to ask.
- Do not project an image of being a needy organization, but instead emphasize that you are proposing a partnership between your organization, other collaborating organizations and the funder (and perhaps other funders) designed to benefit the community as a whole.
- Recognize that funders may be motivated by a combination of altruism and self-interest. Put yourself in the potential funders' shoes, ask yourself how the proposed AED program might benefit them directly (e.g., by projecting a positive image or increasing visibility in the community), and emphasize these added benefits.
- Seek funding from multiple sources. Never rely on a sole source of support.
- If you do receive funding, express your gratitude. If you do not, find out why. You may be able to strengthen your appeal before approaching other potential sources.
- Be patient, persistent and positive. Funding decisions can sometimes take months. More often than not, it is well worth the wait.
It Helps To Be Nonprofit
If your organization does not have tax-exempt nonprofit status, it may be advantageous to become affiliated with a nonprofit organization or consider forming one. This status provides a stronger incentive for potential donors, since donations to nonprofit organizations are tax deductible.
Resources for creating non-profit organizations are available through:
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How to Write a Proposal for a CPR-AED Program
Some potential funding sources will require you to write a formal proposal. The proposal should be designed to convince reviewers not only that the proposed AED program is vitally important for your community, but also that it would make the best use of charitable dollars. (Remember, you are competing with other grant applicants.) Your proposal should be accompanied by a brief cover letter and should include the sections listed below:
- Executive summary: Present an overview of the entire proposal. This is the most important section. It must be well-written and succinct so that reviewers feel compelled to read on. It should never exceed one page.
- Statement of need: The statement of need should describe the problem of sudden cardiac arrest and how it plays out in your community. Make sure your facts are accurate. Avoid making overstatements and excessively emotional appeals. Explain why the proposed AED program is necessary. Explain why your agency is well-suited to implement the AED program. Present a picture of hope, pointing out the positive impact of other AED programs, especially those in similar or neighboring communities. If you think your program could become a model for others to emulate, say so, especially if you think the funder may be interested in its applicability elsewhere.
- Program description: Describe exactly how the program would be implemented. This section should list objectives, or measurable outcomes. For example, you might say, "Through the proposed AED program, we expect to respond to victims of cardiac arrest an average of four minutes sooner than current response times and we expect to save (x) additional lives each year." Describe the methods you will use to achieve your objectives. Introduce the personnel who will implement the program and their qualifications. If you plan to partner with other community agencies or groups, highlight your plans for collaboration. Describe your plans to evaluate the impact of the proposed AED program and report periodically on progress to funders. Reports may not be required, but they will be
appreciated. Provide a timetable for implementation.
- Budget: Estimate projected costs for the proposed AED program and how much you are seeking from this funder. If you have secured (or expect to secure) funding from other sources, refer to these resources. Be sure to state how your AED program will be sustained after the funding period.
- Organizational information: Briefly describe your organization or agency, its mission, structure, programs, accomplishments and expertise.
- Conclusion: In one or two paragraphs, summarize what you want to accomplish and why it is important. End the proposal with a strong statement designed to make a memorable impact.
- Attachments: Attach letters of support from program partners and community leaders (optional).
As you develop your proposal, bear in mind that grantmakers will evaluate applications based on several key criteria:
- Does the proposed program fits into the scope of the foundation?
- Is there is a need for the program in the community?
- Is the program is unique and creative?
- Is the budget realistic?
- Is the timetable reasonable?
- Can program concepts can be applied in other locations?
- Will the program will continue after the funding period is up?
- Is the organization committed to the program?
- Is there evidence of collaboration and support for the program?
- Is the organization likely to "take the money and run" or keep in touch with the funder on how things are progressing?
- How likely it is that the program will make a difference in the community?
It is essential to find financial support to get your AED program up and running. Many communities are able to obtain sufficient funds through agency or community budgets. Others must seek additional sources of funding. There are several sources to consider for additional funding: local corporations and industries, local civic organizations, private foundations, public charities, government grants and traditional fund-raisers. Many times, simple appeals, such as letters or presentations to community groups, may be all that is needed to generate funds. Other times, more extensive efforts may be required. Communities need not be intimidated by the funding process. Educational resources to help communities raise funds abound. And, there are plentiful financial resources available to support community service projects such as AED programs. Communities should be patient, persistent and positive in the pursuit of funding for AED programs.
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From "Challenging Sudden Death: A Community Guide to Help Save Lives," by Mary Newman and Jim Christenson, MD