Mining The Money: Do you know what it takes to prepare to write grants?
Dr. Shuster’s Claim
Getting funded is EASY ---
getting prepared to be funded is HARD.
Steps you must do before writing one word of a grant.
Step 1: Needs assessment
What are the needs of your clients? (List)
How did you determine those needs? (Inclusive, comprehensive process)
Show evidence of needs. Prove it. (Facts and stats)
School factors for a needs assessment
Demographics on entire school population
Free and reduced lunch rates AND poverty rates (not the same)
Perceptions about schools from parents, students, teachers, community
Student learning with emphasis on NCLB sub-groups
Student learning as compared to other districts in state and state averages
Teacher quality (degrees, out-of-area teaching, years experience, etc.)
Attendance and Truancy
Evidence of gangs in schools
Awareness of post-secondary educational options
Enrollment in post secondary education after graduation
Community factors for a needs assessment
Demographics of the community (U.S. Census)
Poverty rates (U.S. Census)
Teen pregnancy rates (Health Department Statistics)
Disease rates (diabetes, heart disease, STDs)
Drug use (Police Department)
Community educational attainment (U.S. Census)
Parent involvement (school reports)
Income disparities (U.S. Census)
Crime rates for adults and juveniles (FBI statistics)
Look at all the factors with particular emphasis on looking for disparities between sub-populations. This identifies target populations for grants.
Data sources for needs assessments
School academic databases
State academic databases
NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics)
FBI crime statistics
Other state and federal data sources
Existing needs assessments by local organizations
Prior needs assessments by schools or district
Methods for needs assessment
There are many methods and tools for conducting a needs assessment. A quick search of the Internet will confirm this.
Familiarize yourself with these methods and pick and choose the methods that best answer your questions.
Consider hiring an outside consultant or organization to assist you. You can choose from a range of services from advice and guidance to performing the entire task. The GrantLab will do this for you.
DO A NEEDS ASSESSMENT IF YOU WANT TO GET GRANTS. IT IS AN INVESTMENT THAT WILL RETURN ITSELF MANY TIMES. IF YOUR ORGANIZATION WILL NOT DO THIS, THEY ARE NOT SERIOUS.
Step 2: Current efforts and programs to address needs
What have you done to address the current needs of your clients? (Description)
What are the results of your efforts? Prove it. (Facts and stats)
Step 3: Partnerships
Who are your Partners? (List)
What do you do together and how long have you done it? (Description)
Do you have partnership agreements or memos of understanding? (Files of memos or agreements)
What are the results of your Partnerships? Prove it. (Facts and stats)
If you do not have Partners, develop them now! (Partners)
Plan to get letters of commitment from Partners
Readers want to see that your partners are really going to help when the grant is funded.
Traditional letters of support and NOT adequate.
Letters of commitment should outline EXACTLY what that partner will do when the grant is funded and cost to perform tasks.
A proper Letter of Commitment should serve as a pre-contract.
Should be signed by the highest official in the organization.
Prepare a sample letter and ask if the Partner can or would sign it. Who would sign it? This is a trial run to see that the Partner will come through.
Step 4: Organizational structure, capability, and qualifications of personnel
1. When you are funded, how will the grant be overseen? What are the lines of authority and responsibility? (Organizational chart)
2. Are the Board, Superintendent, and other administrators aware and supportive of grant efforts? (Letters of commitment)
3. Has the organization handled outside grant funding from the state, feds, and other sources? Describe your accounting system. What is your yearly budget? (Description)
4. Gather vita and resumes from personnel likely to be involved in grants. Choose staff that have relevant experience and education. (File)
Step 5: Budget preparation
Determine who will approve final budget, preferably the Superintendent. (Letter)
Get to know your organization’s budget development process. Who is involved? What is their authority? (Letters of commitment)
Make sure that the budget staff is aware when budgets are due. Budget approval has to be done relatively early to move through the required channels.(Letter or email notifying them of upcoming work)
Make sure budget staff knows how to complete federal budgets. If not, plan to get them training.
They will need to know salaries, benefit rates, allowable expenses, approved overhead rates, etc. Involve them early. Should be the first people you inform.
Plan to prepare matching budgets, if needed.
Budget misconceptions and hints
Do not skimp on budgets. Ask for what you need to accomplish the project.
Do not overpromise. Be realistic.
Many grants do not get funded because they do not ask for enough.
It is a misconception that you will be funded if you ask for an amount well below the allowed amounts listed in the RFP. The critical element is the quality of your application. They will FULLY fund a quality application.
I usually ask for the entire amount. For example, if allowed $1,000,000, we ask for $999,999,997. I tell the clients I will make up the difference to take the grant to the million dollar level!
Keep equipment requests to a minimum. Request only the equipment that is directly needed for the project. Use existing infrastructure, if possible.
Plan to prepare matching budgets, if needed.
Make sure the budget office is properly tracking funds. Your expenditures need to withstand an audit.
Step 6: Contract with an evaluator
Use your local procurement procedures to contract with a competent, well-qualified, experienced evaluator.
Programmatic grants versus discretionary grants.
With the establishment of the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) under Bush, the Department of Education has increased rigor of research and evaluation.
The Agency wants solid evaluation results. Discretionary grants are used to explore approaches that might be taken to scale or the have the potential for dissemination of best practice. The agency “get” is the evidence.
Spend 15% on evaluation, data collection, and reporting. The Dr. Zork approach has sunk many projects.
Timely, quality reports with solid data lead to more money! It’s a small world!
What an evaluator should do for you
Help you write clear, concise project goals, objectives, and evaluative questions that can be evaluated.
Plan and conduct all data collection.
Organize, store, and report results on all goals, objectives, and evaluative questions.
Give advice on project management and other project issues.
Provide reports to stakeholders.
Attend local project meetings.
Attend required federal project meetings. This helps you interpret what the feds are talking about.
Help the Project Director keep the Project on track. Truism: Projects wander!
Point out what is working and what is hindering the project and provide evidence and rationale for change. This save wasted effort and saves money.
Write timely, quality reports. These reports form the reputation of your organization. A good reputation leads to more funding.
Step 7: Get started now!!!
Obtain organizational support for your efforts. You will need staff time and a budget to accomplish the tasks we have outlined. We suggest that the Board of Education and the Superintendent be fully informed and supportive.
Set realistic expectations about timelines. You will not get funded for at least one year, maybe two.
Who will administer the grant writing process? Do you have a district grant development staff? Can you hire staff? Can you outsource all or part of the process?