Form a non-profit to bridge the gap for law enforcement funding needs

Police foundations raise millions of dollars each year for the purchase of new equipment and development of officer wellness and community policing initiatives


Welcome to a new year and a new decade. For those in law enforcement, corrections and other public safety careers, the advances in technology, equipment and training over the last 10 years to assist in fulfilling your mission have been no less than amazing. Virtual reality simulation training, body-worn cameras, data-analytic software and mobile communication devices are just a few of these tools.

Acquiring the latest gear can be a challenge for agencies as they struggle to keep pace with rising personnel costs, insurance premiums or inmate housing expenses. Little may remain in budgets to purchase the new tools and training available to improve operational efficiency and personnel safety.

Consequently, more communities across the country are forming nonprofit foundations to bridge funding gaps and assist law enforcement in acquiring the tools not covered in the regular budget. While certain corporate or private funding sources are restricted from awarding grants to government agencies due to tax laws, they can award those grants to nonprofit entities.

These police foundations are run by a Board of Trustees comprised of local business leaders, community members, faith and other nonprofit community representatives, legal and financial professionals. They are legally recognized tax-exempt charitable organizations that can accept donations and fundraise through grant applications and sponsored events. In turn, the funds are used to support a variety of areas above what is covered in the jurisdiction’s budget.

Here are a few examples:

New York City Police Foundation: Formed in the 1970s, this organization raises funds for NYPD public safety programs. The Foundation raises millions of dollars each year to support areas such as counterterrorism, neighborhood policing, officer wellness and advanced training.

Great Falls Police Community Foundation: Funding is dedicated to helping this Montana community keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, public safety strategies and training. Videos (see below) created with the funding highlight the risks and challenges officers face daily.

Redondo Beach Police Foundation: Not only has this Foundation raised funds to support advanced equipment and training for officers, but it has also supported youth programs, department morale and team-building efforts, and emergency preparedness tools to keep this California community safe.

Albemarle County Police Foundation: This foundation has been instrumental in funding educational scholarships and housing assistance for officers, the expansion of the Department’s K-9 unit, and various police/community outreach efforts across the area.

Redmond Police Foundation: Formed in 2017, this Foundation has already made a significant impact on the community by supporting officer wellness and post-trauma support, hotel vouchers for victims of domestic violence, and law enforcement equipment and training.

Atlantic City Police Foundation: Funds raised by this foundation have not only equipped the department with such items as surveillance camera systems, K-9 dogs and vest-mounted tourniquets but also supported community policing initiatives throughout the city.

How to form a foundation in your community

Establishing the nonprofit as a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization takes a few steps. There are a few really good websites that can guide you through this process.

The steps include:

  • Filing Articles of Incorporation, which is most often done through your state treasury department;
  • Forming a Board of Trustees;
  • Drafting by-laws to guide your nonprofit operations and duties;
  • Obtaining a Federal Tax ID number;
  • Applying to the Internal Revenue Service to be recognized as a tax-exempt organization;
  • Registering as a charitable organization within your state, which is required in 40 states.

The forms can be complicated so it is best to seek advice from an attorney and an accountant familiar with the establishment of a nonprofit. Ideally, seek out a community volunteer with legal or financial experience in this area. These individuals can also be great assets once your nonprofit is established and perhaps serve on the Board of trustees.

Most states also provide guidance on the required steps of forming a nonprofit within their jurisdiction. New York, Massachusetts, Texas, South Dakota and New Jersey are just a few of the states that provide this assistance.

Once your community has established such a foundation, it can begin to raise funds and apply for the multitude of outside grant funding available to support your police, corrections and other law enforcement needs not covered under your regular budget.

The team at PoliceGrantsHelp is always ready to help. Our grant assistance program includes a number of options including grant research, grant writing and grant application review. Best of luck!

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