Grants: Proactive vs Reactive

I created the grant/initiative steps below to help educators to thoughtfully plan the needs, strategies, objectives, and budgets so that most of the information is compiled to create a larger plan (e.g., grant request for proposal, state-mandated planning forms, etc.). Given the demand for grant funding to support a wide array of student-centered initiatives, the steps and accompanying prompts are particularly helpful for this purpose because it allows institutions to be proactive as opposed to reactive in terms of integrating proposed externally-funded activities into existing services, programs, and projects. The steps have a higher education focus but K12 educators can also benefit from the process.

STEP 1: Identify Student Needs
Identify and clarify specific student needs

1.1 Brainstorm possible student needs. Based on the collective experience of the grant/initiative team members, make a list of the specific students needs. Sources to consider for this information include student learning outcomes, internal reviews, program evaluations, institutional research data or other sources of data.

1.2 Choose 3-5 student needs from Step 1.1. From your notes above, identify 3-5 student needs that serve as the foundation for the proposed grant/initiative and, if known, are aligned with the priorities and vision of an external funder. Consider the following:
Have the needs proved to be a major obstacle to student success?
Is it a critical student skill or concept?
Is it an essential component of academics and/or student services?
Are the needs already being addressed through existing initiatives?

1.3 Define the need. Take as much time as needed for the grant/initiative team members to define and clarify the student needs identified in Step 1.2. Share your ideas as a team and work to finalize a definition. Be sure to use specific language to explain exactly what it means. Establishing common language now avoids future communication challenges.

1.4 If needed, collect additional data to support the student needs identified in 1.3. Work with the research office.

1.5 If applicable, match the student needs with the priorities of the external funder.

STEP 2: Choosing Research-Based Strategies
Identify research-based strategies related to address the student needs

2.1 Brainstorm possible strategies. What strategies might help address the student needs? As you brainstorm, consider using:
What the institution already has that could be strengthened;
Something about which someone in the grant/initiative team has expertise;
Something about which you can get published information (preferably peer-reviewed); and
Something about which you can secure outside assistance (such as technology, workshops, etc.)

2.2 Finalize strategies from Step 2.1 and provide your rationale. When gauging the promise of a strategy, consider:
a. What is the strategy? (Describe.)
b. What aspects of the student needs will the institution need to address with the proposed strategies? (Explain.)
c. Can the institution fit the strategies into existing program(s)? Does the institution have the time and capacity for this? (Decide.)
d. If applicable, are the strategies allowable per the external funder? (Decide.)

STEP 3: Draft the Implementation Plan 
Plan and prepare the components of the implementation plan

Implementation Plan Draft
3.1 List the major components of implementation plan. Decide on an approximate number of components and the title for each.

3.2 Align the strategies and what division/department would have oversight. Align each set of details with the major component it supports. Note: Think through the question, “Is this doable?”

STEP 4: Identify Personnel
Identify personnel with the implementation plan as a guide

Personnel is typically the largest category in the budget. Identification of personnel allows for more specific salary and benefits calculations, AND early buy-in/ownership from the people willing to do the work.

4.1   Common key personnel:
Project Director/Faculty Member
Project Coordinator (If applicable)

4.2   Components with Strategies:
If possible, list personnel responsible for each component/strategy of the implementation plan

STEP 5: Formulate ambitious but realistic objectives
Formulate clear objectives and identify related data to be collected and analyzed.

5.1 Prepare to write an objective.
Generally speaking, what does the team want the grant/initiative to accomplish that could be measured for the first objective?

5.2   The date by which the objective should be met; e.g., by the end of the year and/or by the end of the multi-year initiative

5.3   The quantitative aspect of the objective based on baseline data; e.g., there will be a 30% increase in student persistence in developmental mathematics sequence

5.4   Specifically, what will the institution be looking for as evidence of success for the objective? 

5.5   Write the objective. Combine and revise the information above as needed to draft the first objective.
Note: This objective is only a draft to provide initial direction; it will evolve with the planning process. 

5.6  Repeat steps  5.1-5.5 for all the objectives

5.7. If applicable, secure an external evaluator to work with Institutional Research to help design the evaluation. The evaluation should be informed by sections 1, 2, 3, and 5. 

STEP 6: Formulate a Budget
The purpose of the exercise is to gauge totals in order to make adjustments to the implementation plan. 

Line Item Amount
Description (Include names and approximate totals, including your organization’s fringe. Travel, Equipment, Supplies (the federal government defines supplies less than $5,000), Contractual, Construction, and Other)








If you want to avoid waiting until the request for proposal is released (which typically only provides 30 days to complete the proposal), consider using the grant/initiative planning steps in order to give yourself and other members of the institution more time to brainstorm the initiative. When the RFP is released, you don't have to scramble and start from scratch. 


Recent Wins: 
2018 NSF HSI STEM (1 of only 5 community college awarded nationally)
2018 Title V HSI Institutional (2) in STEM and in Career Pathways (community colleges)
2017 Title III HSI STEM (four-year university)
2017 NSF ATE (community college)

If interested in workshops, pre and/or post-award support, use the contact form to the right of the page.
Pre-award: training, grant writing, project design, facilitation, editing
Post-award: evaluation, Project Director/Principal Investigator coaching

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